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Channel VAS RD1: James Battles Past Wildcard Lee

England’s World No.22 Declan James sent out wildcard Joe Lee in the opening round of the Channel VAS Championship at St. George’s Hill to secure a place in the last 16 of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament.

Lee, a former World No.29, has been out of action from the PSA World Tour for over two years due to a serious back injury and produced a stellar performance in his first big match back at his childhood club.

30-year-old Lee gave a good account of himself in the first game as he saved four game balls and eventual held a game ball himself before James was able to regain his focus to convert on the tie-break, 13-11.

The second proved to be more straightforward for the higher seeded Englishman as he doubled his advantage by an 11-4 scoreline, with World No.610 Joe Lee showing signs of fatigue.

However, he came back strongly once again in the third to put James under some pressure and once again saved game balls. However, James ensured it was not a repeat of the first game as he maintained a level head to close out 13-11, 11-4, 11-7 in 53 minutes.

James will face Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar in the second round.

“It’s all about small percentages, I have worked a lot on the mental side and the intensity,” said James afterwards.

“I try to make sure that I’m not having patches in matches where I’m wavering for two or three rallies, that’s what happened in the Worlds, against the top level players like Simon Rosner – just 80-90% good quality and then one or two points in each game where you have that mental dip and they take advantage.

“It doesn’t matter that Joe has had time out, I saw him play on this court in the Surrey Cup about a month ago and it was a 3-2 so I have huge respect for Joe. Today, I knew that anything less than my best or 100% mental concentration then he would lap it up because it’s his home court and there is no pressure on him. I put pressure on myself and I expect a lot from myself so I’m very happy to win a match like this and be intense for the whole time. It was very hard, even though it was 3-0.”

Lee added: “It was good fun. I knew getting into it that everything had to be pretty perfect considering where I am at. But I think I played pretty well today, although I’m not where I want to be yet.

“It’s nice to see the things I changed and what I worked on getting implemented into my game, as it’s a different thing to train on a few things and then perform on the glass court with all eyes onto you.

“As for the injury, it’s been two and a half years. First year was a step forward, a step back and trying to avoid surgery. Then after a year, we realise it was actually the best route to go.

“It took two surgeries with the same surgeon, after that, my body was wasted away so I needed to get strong and healthy again. and it’s only in the last six months that I actually focused on my squash and performance.”

Declan James (ENG) bt [WC] Joe Lee (ENG) 3-0: 13-11, 11-4, 11-7 (53m)

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