Pontefract's James Willstrop captures fourth British National squash title

Second seed James Willstrop secured his fourth title at the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships after edging past Joel Makin in a riveting final at the University of Nottingham Sport.

Both players struggled to get a stranglehold on the match, but it was world number 18 Willstrop – appearing in his 11th National final – who triumphed in 76 minutes.

James Willstrop celebrates winning his fourth British National Squash Championship.

James Willstrop celebrates winning his fourth British National Squash Championship.

World number 11 Makin started the brighter of the two, capitalising on a flurry of errors from Willstrop to race into a 10-4 lead. However, the defending champion soon got his eye in, saving six game balls to take the first game 12-10.

The Welshman quickly banished the disappointment of the previous game, winning 11 unanswered points to level the match at 1-1.

Momentum changed hands again at the start of the third as Willstrop cruised into a 6-1 lead. Makin pulled it back to 8-all but it was the Yorkshireman who came out on top, taking another marathon game 12-10.

Willstrop had one hand on the trophy leading 8-5 in the fourth game, but Makin won four of the next five points to level at 9-9 in an increasingly physical game. The number one seed saved two championship points, but it was Willstrop who ultimately emerged victorious, winning 12-10, 0-11, 12-10, 14-12.

Describing his latest triumph, Willstrop, who trains at Pontefract Squash Club, said: “The British Nationals has prestige and history. Some of the greats have played it and to play and compete with someone like Joel who’s one of the top players at the moment is great.

“He’s incredibly hard to break down. The bagel in the second sums it up. That’s how hard it is to win a rally. He goes for everything and once I got 6-nil behind it seemed impossible.

“I came back, though, and it’s great to be able to compete at that level and win. It’s special anytime to win the Nationals but especially against a field like this!”