Former World No.1 James Willstrop led a trio of fellow Englishmen into the second round of the Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill after he beat Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid on day one of the PSA World Tour Gold event taking place in Weybridge.
Willstrop, the 35-year-old from Harrogate, is making his return to St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club after missing out last year and he was too clinical for his opponent today as he hit consistent length and dropped well to record the win in straight games by an 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 scoreline.
“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 World No.18 Willstrop.
“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.”
Willstrop will clash with New Zealand’s World No.8 Paul Coll in the next round. It will be their first meeting since Willstrop beat the Kiwi in the men’s Commonwealth Games singles final on the Gold Coast in April.
Declan James, the second-highest ranked English male, will join his compatriot in the last 16 after he got the better of fellow Englishman Adrian Waller by a 3-2 margin after a 73-minute battle.
James beat Waller in a 101-minute epic two weeks ago at the U.S. Open and he once again prevailed in an attritional affair, winning 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 to ensure that he will play last year’s runner-up Ali Farag in 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. “
World No.21 Daryl Selby and home favourite Tom Richards were the other Englishmen to claim wins on the opening day, with Selby defeating close friend Ben Coleman, while Richards overcame Spain’s former World No.5 Borja Golan.
The longest match of the day saw French duo Mathieu Castagnet and Lucas Serme play out a brutal 103-minute fixture. Castagnet came into the match boasting a five-match unbeaten run against Serme, but he looked spent after squandering four match balls in the fourth to send the match into a decider.
But a herculean effort from World No.26 Castagnet saw him edge his fellow Frenchman to record an 12-10, 5-11, 11-7, 12-14, 11-9 victory which will see him play Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in the next round.
“It was amazing to play over an hour and a half against Lucas,” Castagnet said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Cameron Pilley claimed his first win on the PSA Tour since undergoing ankle surgery after he downed England’s Chris Simpson in straight games to set up a round two fixture with 2016 runner-up Tarek Momen.
“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.”
Elsewhere, tournament wildcard Charlie Lee saw his tournament come to an end at the hands of Scotland’s Greg Lobban, while Welshman Joel Makin scored an upset win over World No.19 Raphael Kandra.
The second round of the Channel VAS Championships begins tomorrow (Wednesday October 17) at 17:30 local time (BST) as the top eight seeds – including World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, World No.2 Farag and 2016 champion Paul Coll – begin their tournaments.
The action will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
Results – First Round: 2018 Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill
Joel Makin (WAL) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 7-11, 11-3, 11-7, 14-12 (64m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8 (64m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (32m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 14-12, 11-6 (50m)
Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [WC] Charlie Lee (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 13-15, 11-5, 11-9 (62m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 12-10, 5-11, 11-7, 12-14, 11-9 (103m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 11-2, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5 (35m)
Declan James (ENG) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5 (73m)
Draw – Second Round (Top Half): To Be Played October 17
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Joel Makin (WAL)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Diego Elias (PER)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v James Willstrop (ENG)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Draw – Second Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played October 18
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Greg Lobban (SCO)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v  Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Tom Richards (ENG)
Declan James (ENG) v  Ali Farag (EGY)