James Willstrop beats Zahed Salem to reach final of Open International de Squash de Nantes

James Willstrop defeated Zahed Salem of Egypt 11-6 11-13 9-11 12-10 11-5 to reach the final of the Open International de Squash de Nantes.

The top seeded Englishman looked to be in control in the early stages of the match as he took the opening game and led the second, but the powerful Egyptian struck back, edging the second and third games to take the lead.

Willstrop fought hard to earn a 10-7 lead in the fourth, but Zahed saved games balls before the top seed eventually closed-out the game to draw level in the match and eventually earn a much deserved 78-minute victory.

“I wanted the chance to come back here tomorrow and play in this stunning venue so I think that gave us both a big lift,” said Willstrop. “We were both reaching into every corner of the court and you saw what it did to both of us. Luckily in the fifth I just edged ahead early on and he had a long break and I had done a lot of movements to keep going and I think that helped me.

“I’ve seen him play before and he’s troubled a lot of players and obviously he’s in good shape. I just tried to concentrate as much as I can on what I’m doing and my own game. It’s not ideal sat in the corner for seven or eight minutes and after playing for that long you’ve been going at such an intensity. I was very conscious of what I was doing at that point to keep my body moving because then it’s not such a shock to the system. He got moving again but then I was able to turn the screw.

“The crowd here is so great, they give you so much back – it’s such a pleasure. They enjoy the squash and that’s what I’m playing the game for right now, I love occasions like that and I feel very happy that I am able to do it. The real motivation is right in front of you with that crowd.

“I’ve had some nice time in the theatre and it fascinates me. It’s one of my favourite venues I’ve got to play in. There are some amazing places that we get to play in and you have to pinch yourself sometimes and this is right up there.”

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James Willstrop uses the UNSQUASHABLE JAMES WILLSTROP AUTOGRAPH racket which is available exclusively from www.unsquashable.com & www.pdhsports.com

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