Willstrop delighted to be back in Hull

Willstrop delighted to be back in Hull

Yorkshire’s James Willstrop is thrilled to be back on home ground for the Allam British Open in Hull next week.

The world no.6 thoroughly enjoyed last year’s first staging of the $150k World Series tournament in the East Yorkshire city.

SH5433“Everything is positive about playing in Hull,” he said. “It’s just down the road, which is excellent, and it’s a great thing to play one of the sport’s biggest events in my home region.

“There’s a comfort to the whole thing. It makes you feel good. I like playing at home, as it’s natural. There are no things to unsettle you and you’re in a comfortable environment. The atmosphere was fantastic last year. We got big crowd and I’m looking forward to it.”

However, Willstrop, who reached the semi-finals last year before succumbing 3/0 to eventual champion Ramy Ashour, will not be commuting to Hull from his home in Harrogate.

SH5429“It’s not close enough to do that,” he reasoned. “I find 40 minutes’ drive is a bit too much, as you worry about the traffic. It’s nice to be at home, but then you get involved in the home routine.

“I’ve done it both ways – travelling back and staying in a hotel – and on the whole it’s slightly better staying in a hotel, as you’re more geared towards the squash. It can be a nice diversion being at home, but Hull is just a bit too far.”

The three-time finalist knows he needs to be at his freshest for his first-round match against Simon Rosner, even though he has never lost to the German champion and beat him in straight games at the recent Grasshopper Cup in Switzerland.

“He’s a good guy,” Willstrop commented. “I get on well with him and I have a lot of respect for him. We play for the same Bundesliga team in Germany and he’s a very good player. It’s a tough draw, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The fifth seed is relatively content with his recent performances, but acknowledges there is room for improvement in his results, with his world ranking having dropped from third in the past 12 months.

SH5431“I feel as though I’m playing ok, but I’m not doing anything special,” he said. “My ranking has slipped a few places recently and my winnings have not been massive.

“In my head, though, the way I’m hitting the ball is there; I’ve just not been that successful. But I’m playing well and I know the results will come.”

The former world no.1 is not looking beyond his opening match against Rosner, though, as he bids for his first British Open title.

“More than ever you have to take one match at a time,” Willstrop stressed. “Everyone says it in every sport, but you can’t really get away from it. People don’t understand. They see the rankings, but they mean very little, as the gaps are so fine in the top 50. People don’t realise how fine they are sometimes.

“Each time you go on court against a player in the top 50 you have to show an immense amount of respect in each game. The way the draws are done now, I’m not even thinking beyond the first round. To give myself the best chance I have to bring everything to the table.”