ISS Canary Wharf Classic 2008
WILLSTROP BIDS FOR A HAT-TRICK
BUT GAULTIER MAY HAVE HIS SAY
By ALAN THATCHER
England’s James Willstrop will be bidding for a hat-trick of
titles when the world’s leading squash stars return to London to show
off their dazzling skills in the 2008 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.
Willstrop, 24, won the inaugural event in 2004 by beating France’s
Thierry Lincou in the final, and triumphed against Scotland’s John White
Pontefract-based Willstrop is the No.2 seed behind French star
Gregory Gaultier. The stylish 25-year-old from Aix-en-Provence is
currently ranked No.3 in the world and is the reigning British Open
Gaultier has been runner-up in the last two World Open finals, losing to
Australia’s David Palmer at the spectacular open-air amphitheatre at the
foot of the Great Pyramids, and to Egypt’s Amr Shabana in Bermuda.
Peter Nicol, the former world No.1 (who is co-promoter at Canary
Wharf), said: “We are delighted to have a potential final featuring
James and Greg. They are two of the most entertaining players in the
“It was great to see James triumph at Canary Wharf last year. He has
worked so hard since turning professional that he deserves every success
that comes his way, and he was a very popular winner. The crowds really
got behind him and all the British players and we are expecting a
fantastic atmosphere again this time.”
Willstrop prepared for the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic in stunning
fashion by overcoming French rival Gregory Gaultier to win a major
tournament final in America.
Willstrop beat Gaultier 11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4 to clinch the
Davenport Professional Championship at Richmond University,
Virginia, in a marathon match lasting 83 minutes.
It was Willstrop’s third victory in his last four tournaments following
successes in the Swedish Open and the National Championships
in Manchester. The win was Willstrop’s tenth PSA World Tour title and
his third Super Series success.
The reigning Canary Wharf champion, Willstrop also won the Mamut English
Open in 2007. His success in Richmond will give him a massive confidence
boost ahead of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic, in which he is
seeded to meet Gaultier in the final once again. The Frenchman, from
Aix-en-Provence, is seeded one and Willstrop two.
Willstrop puts much of his remarkable run down to signing to use Prince
rackets. Since doing so last August he has claimed five major titles
over the seven-month period.
Gaultier was a thorn in Willstrop's side throughout their junior days.
Willstrop lost to Gaultier in countless British, European and World
clashes - most of which were finals. But the Englishman finally stopped
the rot in the Super Series Finals last year - in his first match
with a Prince racket in his hand! Since then, Willstrop has won three of
four further Gaultier encounters.
The Virginia triumph caps a sensational 12 months for the 24-year-old
who failed to reach a single PSA final in 2006! Within weeks of adopting
the Prince O3 Black racquet, the England number one won the Prince
English Grand Prix in Birmingham, then the Mamut English Open
in Sheffield, and also reached the final of the US Open in New
After leading England to a successful defence of the World Team
Championship title in India in December, Willstrop switched to the new
Speedport Black racquet - the latest advance in the brand's
revolutionary new O3 technology - at the turn of the New Year.
He immediately progressed beyond his seeding to reach the final of the
prestigious Tournament of Champions in New York in January, before
heading back to Europe where lifted the Case Swedish Open crown last
It was also in February that Willstrop fought through a world-class
field at the National Squash Centre in Manchester to win his second
British National Championship title - becoming only the second player in
history to retain the men's title.
"James's new level of excellence and consistency since joining Prince is
something quite outstanding," commented Prince's recently-appointed
Global Tour Manager Peter Nicol, also a former England team-mate of
Willstrop and co-promoter of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.
"James is showing the sort of consistency that is seeing him move from
being a world top ten player to challenging at the very highest level."
Nicol was in Boston last week to see Willstrop win the final of the
Players Cup, where Willstrop admitted in his own online blog that
his relationship with French rival Gaultier has all the rivalry of
Anglo-French sporting contests.
is as French as they come, gestures, accent and all.
"And even in the States the Six Nations rugby union match was mentioned
in interviews. They are aware of the intense rivalry that exists between
the two countries and that is evident whenever we play them at squash.
"Gregory and I played against each other in many matches as juniors and
our relationship has never been straightforward. The last couple of
matches we played were niggly to say the least."
The two have been rivals since junior days
and there is clearly no love lost between them. Before beating him in
Richmond, Willstrop was fired up by the England rugby team's win over
France in Paris.
Willstrop has won four of their last five clashes and is clearly in hot
form building up to the Canary Wharf tournament, which begins today.
Friday's final is clearly going to be a battle royal if the top two
seeds make it through but reigning champion Willstrop is guaranteed the
support of a noisy home crowd.