The climax to an incredible end-of-year run by James Willstrop on the international squash circuit saw the Englishman clinch his 3rd successive PSA World Series title today at the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in India in a victory which will ensure his status as World No1 in the January rankings.
The 28-year-old, whose title triumphs in the Hong Kong Open and Kuwait PSA Cup in November catapulted him to 2nd place in the world rankings, faced French rival Greg Gaultier in the climax of the 9th and final PSA World Series event of the year in the Indian capital New Delhi.
Willstrop went into the match with 14 successive Tour match wins under his belt since November – but was lining up against the last player who beat him, in the World Open semi-finals in Rotterdam.
The opening game was a classic. The battle lasted almost an hour, with rarely more than a point separating the pair until the Frenchman emerged the winner 21-19 after one of the highest-scoring games in the history of the ‘PAR to 11’ scoring system.
But Willstrop fought back in the 2nd game to draw level and was in control in the 3rd as it became clear that all was not well with his opponent.
After treatment in the break, world No3 Gaultier returned to the court – but was clearly suffering from cramp. After a few points, the Frenchman conceded the match to give Willstrop the title, and much more!
“Winning the PSA Masters is a massive big deal,” said the new champion at the trophy presentations after his historic 19-21, 11-8, 11-4, 4-1 (ret.) triumph in 99 minutes.
It was in India that Willstrop won his first major title – the World Junior Championship – in 2002, and at the same venue in New Delhi eight years later that he contested the Commonwealth Games final. But it required victory in today’s final for Willstrop to overtake the ranking points average of fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew, thereby succeeding his England team-mate at the top of the first world rankings of the New Year.
“It’s a very special day for me. I can’t really believe I’ve played and won this match – and I’d like to thank Greg for the great spirit in which it was played,” continued the new PSA Masters champion, now winner of 15 career PSA World Tour titles.
The success also means that Willstrop heads the 2011 Dunlop PSA World Series Standings, and that the line-up for January’s ATCO PSA World Series Finals – which features the top eight players in the list – is now finalised.
2011 Dunlop PSA World Series Standings:
Position (Prev) Total
1 (1) James Willstrop (ENG) 525
2 (1) Nick Matthew (ENG) 425
3 (3) Ramy Ashour (EGY) 400
4 (4) Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 335
5 (6) Karim Darwish (EGY) 270
6 (5) Amr Shabana (EGY) 265
7 (7) Peter Barker (ENG) 240
8 (8) Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 170
9 (9) Stewart Boswell (AUS) 150
10 (12) Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 145
11 (11) Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 135
12 (10) David Palmer (AUS) 120
12 (12) Tom Richards (ENG) 120
14 (12) Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 115
14 (16) Cameron Pilley (AUS) 115
16 (17) Daryl Selby (ENG) 110