TODAY at the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic

Fri 14th March 2008, Final:
Nicol David (Mas) bt Alison Waters (Eng)                            11/9, 4/11, 11/4, 7/11, 11/1 (41m)

[2] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [7] Cameron Pilley (Aus)        9/11, 11/9, 8/11, 11/6, 11/3 (78m)

       Views on the final:       Malcolm Willstrop    Alan Thatcher

Canary Wharf
Hat-trick for James

Steve Cubbins reports

As a prelude o the final we had an entertaining match between world number one Nicol David and British Champion Alison Waters, with the 'favourite' winning in five games, a prelude to the ISS Canary Wharf Classic Grand Final which followed.

And what a match it was. Any thoughts that Cameron Pilley would be overawed in his first 5-star final were soon dispelled as he took the first game - not the 1//1 he recorded in his previous three matches, but impressive nonetheless as he pulled back from 7/4 down to take the lead.

Defending champion James Willstrop bounced back to level, but the tall Australian wasn't finished, really taking the game to James to win the third, then pushing hard to pull back the Englishman's early lead in the fourth.

When Cameron reached 6/5 in that fourth his fist-pump was probably his most demonstrative of the week. However the way his head sagged when he tinned on the next point gave us a clue as to how he was feeling.

Sure enough, Willstrop started to take control, levelling the match with six unanswered points, getting on top early in the decider and finishing it off with a couple of demoralising backwall nicks and a dropshot that was just too tight for a now very tired Cameron.

So it's five titles in six weeks for James and a third win here at Canary Wharf. He deserves a rest, for sure, and Cameron deserves praise for some great performances this week, a week which will surely see him continue his upward surge ...

"I'm incredibly happy to win this tournament again, but I'm hurting a lot now.

"I knew going into the match I could lose it - if I'm fresh I know I can outplay a lot of players, but it was always going to be a question of mental strength tonight, all week I've been pushing my self to one more game, one more game ..."

"Cameron was playing really well, but when I went 2/1 down I didn't think I was doing much wrong, I nearly got back level in the third and made a couple of errors, so I just needed to have faith in my game and hang in there.

"I just tried to negate what he was doing at the front, and could feel that he was getting a bit tired. I felt that I was in control from the middle of the fourth and pushed on from there.

"If anything I'm more proud of this win than the others this year because it's the end of a really hard period. The games I've played in tournaments over the last few weeks haven't been too hard in themselves, but the buildup of matches over the weeks, all the travelling and staying in hotels, it catches up with you. I

" haven't had a real rest for a long time so I'm looking forward to putting the rackets away for a while and having a complete rest."

Finals Gallery

"I thought I was playing pretty well, but you don't really think about that when you're on there, I was happy to be 2/1 up and was trying to take it point by point.

"I really pushed to get into the lead in the fourth, and it caught up with me. I really needed to just maintain a steady rhythm and establish some control, but in the heat of the battle events take over and I probably pushed too hard - then he took control rather than me.

"I'm happy with how I played though, I stuck in there, gave it a go, and I'm very pleased with my week."

Chit Chat

Malcolm Willstrop on the Final

There may often be a problem on finals night with tired players and imbalanced semi-finals. A sellout crowd at Canary Wharf certainly deserved a final to match the occasion, and they got one.

James Willstrop, looking for his fifth successive tournament win, was at the end of a testing schedule and there were certainly signs in earlier rounds that he was fraying at the edges, understandably enough. Nor did a demanding semi-final with Lee Beachill help. Meanwhile Cameron Pilley, ranked 20 in the world but better than that, comfortably saw off Peter Barker and Alister Walker, who had deposed of top-seeded Gregory Gaultier, a major surprise.

Early exchanges indicated that it was not going to be easy for either, and although Willstrop settled well, Pilley recovered and eventually took the first. The world number four must have known how crucial the second was and he battled hard to get level. Both players were attacking wherever possible and retrieving spectacularly. Pilley, looking confident, took a 2/1 lead after another punishing game, but Willstrop held firm, dug into his diminished reserves and from halfway in the fourth took control and levelled again.

It seemed unlikely that he would be stopped now, and gathering impetus he won the decider comfortably 11/3 to continue his winning run.

Both players can be happy with their efforts and there was no doubt that the crowd went home happy, too.

Alan Thatcher reports

James Willstrop won the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic for a third time with a battling performance to win a gruelling final against Australian Cameron Pilley.

Willstrop fought back from the brink of collapse to overturn a 2-1 deficit in games as Pilley came close to a shock result.

The Reading-based Pilley played fast, controlled and aggressive squash to establish a 2-1 lead against the world No.4 from Pontefract, who was exhausted following a punishing tournament schedule in which he has collected five titles already this year.

The No.7 seed from New South Wales began solidly and fought back from 7-4 down to win the opening game 11-9 before a capacity audience at the superb East Wintergarden venue.

Willstrop heeded the words of advice from his father Malcolm between games and resumed with a more focused approach.

However, he still had resist some ferocious competition from Pilley before clinching the game with a stunning kill shot after Pilley had played an amazing shot with the racket behind his back.

Pilley grew in confidence and when he took the third game, after leading throughout, a major upset was on the cards. But Willstrop dug deep into his physical reserves and at 6-6 in the fourth the match swung his way.

Pilley was in uncharted territory and visibly wilted as Willstrop reeled off the next five points. He maintained the momentum throughout the fifth game and  clinched victory after 78 minutes of brutal combat.

Willstrop paid tribute to his opponent, saying: “Cameron may be ranked 20 in the world but he clearly has the game to be up there with the best. He has shown that this week in every game he has played.

“I am just delighted and relieved to have won the tournament. I am looking forward to a complete rest and forgetting about squash for a few days to let my body heal and recover.

“I love playing squash but the travelling takes a toll on the mind and the body and that match hurt. That was painful, extremely painful.

“Winning this tournament is special. It gets bigger and better every year. The Canary Wharf venue is fantastic. It's right up there with the best venues in the world and the audiences are brilliant. The London crowds are very knowledgeable and love to get involved, which the players appreciate. Any event that sells out every night is obviously good for the game and the players love coming here.”