James Willstrop makes light work of opening doubles match

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·3 min read
James Willstrop makes light work of opening doubles match
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There is still enough fuel left in James Willstrop’s tank as the squash legend and Declan James made easy work of their men’s doubles opener at the Commonwealth Games.

Willstrop suffered a punishing defeat to close friend Saurav Ghosal on Wednesday in his men’s singles bronze medal match, losing in straight games to the Indian number one.

But the 38-year-old showed no signs of fatigue alongside James in their round of 16 contest, with the reigning world champions beating Malta pair Kijan Sultana and Niall Engerer 2-0.

And after admitting that his body let him down in the play-off for third, Willstrop insisted that he still has what it takes to go all the way with James at the University of Birmingham.

“Nothing (left in the tank) was probably an over exaggeration but for the type of squash I needed to play to beat Saurav there wasn’t the right amount of petrol - or whatever it was,” he said.

“On the other hand of that, the body was moving well I just didn’t quite have the muscles, the endurance really and it’s a different physical system in doubles.

“I have had 48 hours and another light day to keep recovering so I’m not worried about all that. Singles takes it out of you, but you must do the right things to keep the body happy.”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

Willstrop, England’s all-time most capped player, is competing in his fifth Commonwealth Games and is looking to add to the doubles bronze he won with James on the Gold Coast.

But the Yorkshireman, who also won men’s singles gold in 2018, has warned against complacency after watching England teammates Patrick Rooney and Gina Kennedy lose in the mixed doubles.

“We can’t not think about it (winning gold), but I just think we’re so respectful. I feel like you learn more with this doubles journey than you do in singles,” said The Marksman.

“Watching Patrick and Gina yesterday taught me the levels are just ridiculous. They have gone out in the quarters, and they are a great pair, they play good doubles and have gone out. That can happen, the lines are fine, we just respect it. I think that’s the experience we’ve got.”

Willstrop also admitted the Commonwealth Games is a completely different beast to any other competition, despite taking confidence from their WSF World Doubles Championship title.

“It was important, wasn’t it? World champions, a big confidence boost, but on the other side of it we know how close it is. The semi and the final were both unbelievably tight matches,” he said.

“There are pairs that are slightly unknown in this, it’s just a different league. It’s a lovely confidence boost but you can turn it on its head as well and respect that nothing means nothing really.

“This is what really matters now, and the lines are so fine from tomorrow, it will be so fine. I don’t think we can think about winning, almost, just take each moment each rally.

“If we can put the squash together, we will have a chance.”

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