George Parker ended James Willstrop’s British National Championships title defence after beating the former World No.1 in the quarter-finals of this year’s event at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.
Parker, who lost to Willstrop in the last four in 2020, got revenge for that defeat, but he had to work hard for it, as he saw the event’s top seed come back from two games down to send the match into a deciding game, in the final contest of the evening’s action.
The man from Leicester, ranked twenty places below Willstrop, went out to a commanding two-game lead in their quarter-final clash, but the 37-year-old fought his way back into the contest, even saving match balls in the fourth to tie the match at two games apiece.
Parker flew out of the blocks in the deciding game, winning the first ten points to put himself on the brink of a second consecutive semi-final at this event. Willstrop saved seven match balls, but the World No.39 eventually got over the line, taking the win to move into the last four after 80 minutes.
“With James, it’s difficult because his squash is always so good,” Parker said.
“You have to be moving so well from the start. I started warming up from around 6pm because I got here early and it was on late. I felt a bit sluggish, but when I got into the game I thought it was probably 50/50 all the way through.
“We were both playing attacking squash and it was quite short and sharp. As it went on I started to break him down physically, but I always had it in the back of my mind that he was never going to go away. He’s so tough and I had a bit of doubt in my mind from losing the fourth when I was up and it was getting edgy in the end.
“I needed that and I think if he won that last point it would have gone to a tie-break because he is so tough mentally. I struggled a bit during the lockdown, we were playing in Egypt a lot and I was losing the first round every time. It knocks your confidence every time because you’re not playing for six weeks off the back of a bad loss and all you’re thinking about is how you played last time.
“In the past few weeks I did quite well at the Worlds and I’m playing more. I’m doing exhibitions with Joel [Makin] and I feel more confident and match sharp. It’s nice to get to the semi-finals two years in a row because it’s nice to play home players on home soil.”
Parker will now play No.3 seed Adrian Waller in the semi-finals, after Waller came through a five-game contest against Patrick Rooney. The other semi-final will see top seed Joel Makin take on Declan James, after the Englishman knocked out No.4 seed Greg Lobban in the quarter-finals.
In the women’s event, World No.74 Georgina Kennedy continued her amazing form as she recorded a 3-1 victory over compatriot Lucy Turmel to gatecrash the semi-finals at the British Nationals Championships at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.
Kennedy, who has won five out of her last six events on the Challenger Tour and is making her first appearance at the British National Championships since 2016, came up against the tournament’s No.4 seed, Lucy Turmel, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday evening.
Turmel took the lead after winning a tense first game 12-10 and she then had her chance to go two games ahead, but Kennedy was able to fight back and take it 14-12. The Harvard graduate was able to maintain the momentum and secure victory over the next two games, allowing Turmel just nine points, as she booked her place in the semi-finals of the British Nationals for the first time.
“That match was tough. Lucy was giving me nothing today. I had to fight so hard for every single point and I really struggled today. Well done to her, that could have gone either way and that second game was crucial. I feel lucky to be standing here, it could have been either one of us,” Kennedy said.
“Going 2-0 down would have been a challenge. The first two games were very physical and I felt in the third that I started to get on top of her a bit more. And in the first two she had me all over the shop, I was so lucky to win that.
“If I had gone 2-0 down it would have been a completely different story. I felt like I had to speed things up a bit and the pace I was playing in the first two games was just too comfortable for her. She’s so accurate, and I could barely get it off the wall most of the time.”
She will now face World No.11, and two-time British Nationals Champion, Tesni Evans, in the last four, after the Welshwoman defeated England’s Jasmine Hutton, last year’s runner-up, in straight games.
Top seed and reigning champion Sarah-Jane Perry will face 2019 runner-up Emily Whitlock in the other women’s semi-final after the pair came through their last eight clashes against England’s Rachael Chadwick and Alicia Mead.
Men’s Quarter-Final Results:
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (45m)
Declan James (ENG) bt  Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (73m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-2: 11-6, 12-14, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10 (76m)
George Parker (ENG) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 13-11, 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7 (80m)
Women’s Quarter-Finals Results:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Rachael Chadwick (ENG) 3-0: 11-1, 11-6, 11-7 (20m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Alicia Mead (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 (37m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt  Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-1: 10-12, 14-12, 11-4, 11-5 (54m Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Jasmine Hutton (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)
Men’s Semi-Final Draw: To be played Thursday, August 5
 Joel Makin (WAL) v Declan James (ENG)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) v George Parker (ENG)
Women’s Semi-Final Draw: To be played Thursday, August 5
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Emily Whitlock (WAL)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
The semi-finals of the 2021 British National Championships take place tomorrow (Thursday, August 5) with play starting at 17:30 (GMT+1). Action from the glass court inside Manchester’s National Squash Centre will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook pages of the PSA World Tour and England Squash.