New Delhi: England`s world number one James Willstrop weathered a phenomenal fightback from his training partner and ace Indian racqueter Saurav Ghosal before clinching a place in the quarterfinals of the Canary Wharf Classic squash tournament here.
The two players practice together at Pontefract and are neighbours in Leeds, but there was no room for friendship or sentiment on court as they engaged in a battle of enormous skill and brutal physical commitment in the PSA World Tour International 50 event in its ninth year.
Willstrop`s superior quality ultimately delivered victory in 84 minutes of high-quality entertainment, but the Indian number one earned repeated bursts of applause from the packed crowd at Canary Wharf`s spectacular East Wintergarden venue for his never-say-die approach.
After winning 11-7, 7-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5, Yorkshireman Willstrop paid tribute to his 25-year-old opponent, saying: "I have repeatedly warned people in pre-tournament interviews that there are no easy matches at this level. If you step off the pace by the tiniest amount, players like Saurav will jump on the ball and punish you."
"He is so fast around the court and kept getting the ball back. His retrieving was so amazing that I could sense the crowd were getting on his side," said Willstrop.
Ghosal, who has yet to beat Willstrop in a PSA tournament, held match ball against him in the WSF World Cup last year. "That match was very close but this is certainly the best I have played against him in a PSA event," said the Kolkata-born world number 25.
"James is playing so well at the moment, and his straight game is so immaculate that he hardly gives you anything to hit. He is the best in the world at that because he is so good at holding the ball. With some players you know where the ball is going, but James keeps you guessing," he added.