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Declan James

Channel VAS Champs: Day One - As It Happens

The Channel VAS Championships at St George's Hill begins in Weybridge today with eight matches in store at the PSA World Tour Gold tournament.

There are no less than eight local players in action – including former World No.1 James Willstrop and World No.20 Declan James – as they vie for a place in round two.

You can watch LIVE coverage on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player or follow our live scoring page.

Alternatively, we'll have reports and reaction from all the matches here.

Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local BST)

Welshman Makin Downs Kandra to Set Up ElShorbagy Test

Joel Makin (red) takes on Raphael Kandra

Welsh World No.33 Joel Makin kicked off the 2018 Channel VAS Championships after he beat Germany’s Raphael Kandra in four games to set up a second round meeting with World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.

The pair’s only previous meeting on the PSA Tour went the way of Makin last year at the DPD Open, with the 23-year-old coming through to beat Kandra 3-2 in 72 minutes.

Makin had to be just as good today to oust his tenacious opponent as both players put in a lot of running during some hard-fought rallies which saw them battle in all four corners of the court.

They shared the honours in the opening two games as they took it in turns to play their best squash, before Makin pulled away in the third to open up a 2-1 lead.

The duo traded errors out the outset of the fourth, but Makin was soon able to sneak ahead to hold match ball.

Kandra, who cut a frustrated figure on court after some disagreements with the referee, fought back to force a tie-break and saved a further match ball, but Makin was finally able to convert at the third attempt to book his place in round two.

“I didn’t feel good at the start and after the first game, I really had to push myself to get back,” said Makin.

“I was trying not to speak because that’s when I play my best squash. He was saying that I was doing things, I was looking at the video refereeing but I sincerely didn’t see what he meant.

“The thing is, with that fast front court, if you hold the ball and drive it, you can really get somebody behind you and I think that was where the problem was.

“Rafi is a very tricky and skilful player, his game is pretty different from anybody else on the tour, and it takes a specific mind to play someone like him.

“Next round, [it’s] Mohamed. I played him in Manchester at the Worlds [PSA World Championships] last December. It was a tight three games, but he managed to close it nicely and that’s what he does. I’m looking forward to playing the World No.1 and World Champion, it doesn’t get any faster than that.”

Joel Makin (WAL) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 7-11, 11-3, 11-7, 14-12 (64m)

Selby Books Second Round Berth

Daryl Selby (left) v Ben Coleman (right)

2015 runner-up Daryl Selby earned his place in the second round of this year’s edition of the Channel VAS Championships courtesy of a 3-1 victory against close friend and fellow Englishman Ben Coleman.

Colchester-based Selby, the World No.21, and Coleman, the World No.43 from Chelmsford, were meeting for the first time in almost two years and Selby came into the fixture having won both of their previous matches on the PSA Tour.

Selby’s attacking skills were in full flow at St George’s Hill Lawn & Tennis Club as he hit an array of winners at the front of the court and moved Coleman out of position with regularity to take a two-game lead.

A loss of concentration from the 35-year-old let Coleman back into the match in the third game, and the younger Englishman was more consistent with his hitting and cut out the errors to halve the deficit.

However, Selby was back on top in the fourth and he powered into an 8-3 lead. Coleman came back to within a point after profiting off some errors from his opponent, but Selby had enough left in the tank to see out the win by an 11-9, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8 margin.

“On one hand [playing a good friend] is quite a comforting feeling because you go on court knowing what to expect, you know how the other guy plays and you know their strengths and weaknesses,” said Selby, who will play Peru’s Diego Elias in the next round.

“I’m glad to win, it’s never an easy match with Ben, he’s improving all the time and he’s at his highest World Ranking at No.43. I played pretty well in the first two games then got a good start in the third.

“For some reason I either relaxed or maybe felt a little bit for him because the second game was 11-2, I was 4-1 up in the third and he looked a bit demoralised.

“Maybe the softness in me relaxed, plus he started playing better and started finding the back corners to put me under a lot more pressure in the third. Luckily, I got a decent start in the fourth, regrouped, and just about managed to sneak it in the end, although he came back really well in the fourth as well.

“I’m disappointed to lose the third because Diego [Elias] is fresh and whoever you play in the next round with this new format will be fresh, so you need to be as fresh as possible for the next round. I’m looking forward to playing Diego again, he played really well last year and beat me 3-0 [in round one], but hopefully I can do a little bit better this time.”

Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8 (64m)

Willstrop Takes Out Meguid

James Willstrop (left) v Omar Abdel Meguid (right)

Former World No.1 James Willstrop advanced to the last 16 after taking out Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid in straight games.

Willstrop, known on tour as ‘The Marksman’, is making his return to the tournament after missing out last year and he edged the opening game 11-9 after Meguid retrieved well and rattled off some winners of his own.

But Willstrop was just too clinical for his opponent in the final two games as he hit consistent length and dropped well to record the win in straight games.

35-year-old Willstrop will play World No.8 Paul Coll in the next round, and the Kiwi will be looking to replicate the kind of form that saw him win this tournament in 2016.

“He fires the ball in, takes it short well and he has presence around the middle, which as I mentioned in the first I thought it could get us both into a bit of trouble,” said the Commonwealth Games gold medalist.

“But we had a bit of a chat in the first game and everything was perfect after that. We sorted it out and played pretty clean from that point onwards.

“He's not easy to play, so I had to be ready and play well. Those shots [Meguid was hitting], I didn't see a thing there, I'm not sure what was going on, so I'll be getting my notebook out later to see if I can get any tips.

“I am a bit short on matches, you’ve got to get your eye in, start seeing the ball better and I miss specific match practice. After the first game I got used to it and I think I played pretty well after that, I was quite fluid.”

James Willstrop (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (32m)

Clinical Pilley Axes Simpson

Cameron Pilley (left) takes on Chris Simpson (right)

World No.23 Cameron Pilley put in a clinical display to dispatch World No.39 Chris Simpson – claiming his first win of the season in the process.

Pilley had ankle surgery during the summer and only returned to action two weeks ago at the U.S. Open, where his lack of match practice caught up with him as he surrendered a two-game advantage against United States’ Todd Harrity.

The affable Aussie looks to have taken a step forward in his recovery after a fine display against Simpson in which he controlled the court and dictated the play to complete a 3-0 win.

Pilley picked Simpson off in the opening game to take a 1-0 lead and went 4-0 up in the second, before the player from England fought back to force a tie-break.

Both players held game balls but it was Pilley who converted, and a coming together at the beginning of the third saw Simpson come off worse as his movement slowed considerably, with Pilley taking full advantage to close out the win in 50 minutes.

“I'm very happy with my performance,” Pilley said.

“I had my ankle surgery at the end of June and although it's [recovery] ahead of schedule, I'm so impatient and I just want to be back to full fitness as soon as I can.

“There's been zero off-season training, so my focus has been on improving my shot selection and improving the quality of my shots. That's been my whole focus for the last month.

“Chris is one of the best straight hitters in the game. If he has any kind of time he hits such a nice line, so my focus today was to outdo him with the straight line hitting.

“I think I executed my game plan pretty well. There were moments when I wasn't too confident on my ankle and it's still not quite there yet, but it's getting better and I hope to be back to 100 per cent for the second half of the season.”

Pilley will meet 2016 runner-up Tarek Momen for a place in the quarter-finals and will look to end a four-match losing streak to the World No.3, who prevailed when they played in the opening round of this tournament last year.

Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 14-12, 11-6 (50m)

Lobban Halts Wildcard Lee

Greg Lobban (right) v Charlie Lee (left)

A captivating 62-minute encounter between Scotland’s Greg Lobban and England’s Charlie Lee went the way of the former as the World No.34 prevailed in four games to set up a second round clash with former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.

World No.87 Lee, playing on his home court, tested Lobban throughout the match and was cheered on by a partizan crowd as he made his third appearance at this tournament.

The 20-year-old sent Lobban scrambling around the court at times and, after going a game behind, was rewarded for his hard work in the second as he finally converted the third of his game balls to take a game for the first time here.

Lee, the son of tournament promoter Danny, couldn’t quite match that performance in the third as Lobban restored his lead but a dogged showing from the wildcard saw him save three match balls in the fourth.

However he then hit the tin to hand the match to Lobban, who will look to improve on a 3-0 defeat to Gawad at the U.S. Open a fortnight ago.

“It was a really tough game and I was expecting that from Charlie with it being his home court,” Lobban said afterwards.

“The court down here is different, it’s really quick and it takes a bit of time to get used to. If I got that second then I was hoping that I would get off in three and hopefully save a bit of energy.

“But he’s a really good player, all credit to him, he kept me on longer and almost took it to five.

“I have a rest day tomorrow, I’ll have another hit and I’ll be ready for my second round. I played him [Gawad] at the U.S. Open last week, so I know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from me. He’s still in the top 10, he’s a former World Champion and it doesn’t get much tougher than playing Karim.

“It’s good to test myself against these guys and I’m looking forward to it.”

Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [WC] Charlie Lee (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 13-15, 11-5, 11-9 (62m)

Castagnet Comes Through to Beat Compatriot Serme

Mathieu Castagnet shapes up for a shot against Lucas Serme

World No.26 Mathieu Castagnet prevailed in a brutal all-French battle with World No.32 Lucas Serme to reach the last 16.

The duo contested an enthralling 103-minute affair, with some gut-busting rallies taking their toll on Castagnet in particular, who came into the match aiming to preserve his five-match unbeaten run over his compatriot.

Castagnet prevailed in the first and third games – both of which totalled 19 minutes – and they sandwiched an 11-5 victory for Serme in the second.

The attritional rallies continued to sap the energy from Castagnet’s legs and it looked like the 31-year-old was succumbing to fatigue as he squandered two match balls in the fourth, but he battled on to hold two further match balls.

However, at that point a yes let decision was controversially overturned by the video referee and that handed Serme a lifeline as he came back to level the scores.

The battle continued into a tense fifth game where a herculean effort from Castagnet saw him edge his fellow Frenchman 11-9 to earn his place in the next round.

“It was amazing to play over an hour and a half against Lucas,” said Castagnet.

“He’s such a great guy with a really nice attitude on court and he’s really fair. I would like to see more matches like that.

“This sport is such a difficult game and we showed you today how hard it is to be on the court.

“Even if I lost today against Lucas it wouldn’t matter, the most important thing is it was such a great match.”

Castagnet will play Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in the last 16 – and the World No.11 will go into that match with fresh legs having received a bye into round two.

Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 12-10, 5-11, 11-7, 12-14, 11-9 (103m)

Richards Downs Golan

Tom Richards (right) v Borja Golan (left)

England’s Tom Richards ended a five-match losing streak to Spain’s former World No.5 Borja Golan to ensure that he will face 2015 World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad in the next round.

Richards had only ever taken more than a game on one occasion against Golan, but the Spaniard was still struggling for fitness after retiring from his U.S. Open match against Adrian Waller two weeks ago.

As such, the 35-year-old was never able to move freely in his match with Richards but did manage to take the second game.

However, Richards had enough quality about him to close out the win in four and he will now play Mosaad for the first time since 2012.

“I feel for Borja, he’s a very competitive player and he couldn’t compete like he normally does,” Richards said.

“It’s tough, I’m thinking about him, I’m thinking about my squash and probably getting a bit muddled between the two. When you get into you just have to think about your own game.”

Tom Richards (ENG) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 11-2, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5 (35m)

James Edges Waller to Set Up Farag Clash

Declan James (right) v Adrian Waller (left)

World No.20 Declan James overcame compatriot and World No.37 Adrian Waller to ensure that he will go up against last year’s runner-up Ali Farag for a place in the quarter-finals.

James and Waller contested a 101-minute epic two weeks ago at the U.S. Open, with James prevailing 16-14 in a dramatic tie-break.

Their fixture in Weybridge today wasn’t quite as lengthy but it was an evenly-matched affair between the pair as they went head-to-head in some attritional rallies and Waller opened up a one-game lead, just as he did in Philadelphia.

James responded well though as he upped the pace of his hitting and, despite coming close to surrendering leads of 7-1 and then 7-3 in the second and third games, respectively, the 25-year-old managed to hold his nerve to go 2-1 up heading into the fourth.

It was then Waller’s turn to almost let a lead slip in the fourth as he played some consistent squash to build up a 7-3 advantage, but he kept James at bay to force a decider.

The fifth game was nip and tuck between the pair, but a succession of errors from Waller towards the midway point handed the initiative back to James, who closed out the win to progress to round two.

“I can feel the pressure, I wanted to do well so badly,” said World No.20 James.

“[Because of] the rise in the ranking, the fact I won my biggest tournament [the Open International de Nantes in September], plus the U.S. [Open] match we just played was tense and controversial at times. We are from the same country, we are team mates, and we both wanted to win very badly.

“I think I put too much pressure on myself. I wanted to play well so badly, I ended up with the opposite result and a real tussle yet again.

“I think I can only free myself against the top 10 guys. Against Tarek I did ok, then he was just too good in the end, and against Ali I’m just going to go on and do my best. But it’s much harder against somebody with a similar ranking.”

Declan James (ENG) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (73m)

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