WILLSTROPíS LOVE AFFAIR
WITH CANARY WHARF
By ALAN THATCHER
world number one James Willstrop returns to the Canary
Wharf Classic looking forward to entertaining the crowds at one
of his favourite venues.
Willstrop, 33, is almost back to his dominant best after a long
spell out of the game following a hip operation.
The high point of his recent renaissance came when he produced a
display of squash that was close to sublime perfection when he
beat world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy in the third round of
the World Championship in Seattle.
A four-time champion at Canary Wharf, Willstrop is seeded
five this year and meets New Zealander Paul Coll in what
should be a entertaining first round tie. Coll came into the
main draw and avoided the qualifying competition after the
withdrawl of Pakistanís Nasir Iqbal.
Coll, the 23-year-old world No.41, is a supremely fit athlete,
is renowned for some spectacular dives around court, and enters
the fray at the East Wintergarden having won five PSA titles in
2015, the last being the London Open in November.
Willstrop lost in the first round of the Windy City Open in
Chicago last week to Omar Mosaad, the world No.4 and top seed at
revealed: "The way the seedings work now mean that if you are
in the 9-16 group you can face the top guys in the first round.
It means that you have to be ready to play from day one.
"There are no easy first round draws any more. You have
to enter every tournament well prepared, mentally and physically,
and ready to play if you want to go further in any event.
"The strength in the game is phenomenal these days and luckily
for me I enjoy playing the big matches. I have had certainly had
some tough first round draws since my return from the
Willstrop is looking forward to maintaining his unique record of
playing in every single edition of the Canary Wharf Classic,
now entering its 13th year.
He added: "I have an awful lot of affection for two major
tournaments on the world circuit. They are the Tournament of
Champions, which is held at Grand Central Station in New York,
and the Canary Wharf Classic.
"Canary Wharf has always been a genuine favourite of mine. It
has a wonderful venue, brilliant sell-out crowds, and a
top-class team working hard behind the scenes to make everything
run so smoothly.
"The players really appreciate it. And thatís why they love
working for a team of people who are just very supportive and
look after the players.
"The whole event, with the arena and the crowd, is a wonderful
package. I certainly hope to enjoy one or two more in my career.
"Canary Wharf has given me some great experiences over the years
and the feeling when you arrive on the Sunday night, getting
ready to play in front of one of the best audiences anywhere in
the world, still gives me a great feeling.
"I feel very privileged to have had those sort of occasions in
my career. As players, we donít have many bad experiences on
tour, and I am very sincere in my feelings about it."
a reflective mood ahead of his return to London, Willstrop was
happy to discuss his performance in the World Championship.
Unseeded, he beat top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy and number five
seed Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia to reach the semi-finals,
where he succumbed to the eventual champion, Gregory Gaultier of
I asked him what moments he particularly recalled from his
victory against world number one Elshorbagy, who has dominated
this season so far.
"Beating Mohamed was one of those special days in my career,Ē
he said. ďI canít remember particular moments from the match,
but it was up there alongside playing the double-fake shot
against Ramy Ashour in the North American Open, playing John
White in the 2007 Canary Wharf final, and playing Ramy in New
result was wonderful for me, of course, but the important thing
was how well I played, which in a strange way was a better
feeling than the result, if that makes sense.
"I have been thinking about what happened and I guess it was one
of those days when everything just came together.
"In training, we work hard, we put the hours in and
somehow it just clicked against one of the worldís best players.
"When I look back I canít remember specific things but I can
remember being 10-7 up in the third game and being one point
away from victory. All credit to him for the way he fought back.
His championís attitude meant that he played well for a
five-minute period to win that game but it was then up to me how
I handled it.
"To be honest, much of it I put down to one of the best
performances as a coaching from David Campion. Normally my
father Malcom is in my corner but he did not travel to America
for this one.
made such a big difference was Davidís tone of voice. There was
zero negativity in the things he said when I came off court and
into my corner.
"He told me that there was no need to panic, my squash had not
deteriorated, and that I was still 2-1 up.
"Losing a game from match ball up can cause immense
psychological trauma and all sorts of things can go through your
brain but Davidís words meant that I did not change my mental
state as I went back on court for the fourth game.
"That was the key. He was judging me on my performance and not
the result. People may not understand that kind of attitude but
David deserves credit for the way he handled it so well.
"There was no magic formula, but the tone of his voice told me
that things were good. He helped me to keep that level of
confidence when I went back on court."
also had some encouraging words for fellow Harrogate resident
Chris Simpson, who has been drawn against top seed Mosaad in the
first round at Canary Wharf.
He said: "Chris has been playing well and showing a big rise
in his performance level. He beat the great Egyptian Amr Shabana
last year and has shown great form. He can challenge anyone in
the world right now.
"So, at Canary Wharf, with the crowd right behind him, he is
more than capable of doing well."
2013 CW Champion
2008 CW Champion
2007 CW Champion
2004 CW Champion