Willstrop wins title, to be World No 1 next month

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2011, 22:58 PM IST

New Delhi: It was double delight for James Willstrop as the Englishman secured the world number one rank for the first time in his career after making a hat-trick of World Series titles by clinching the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters squash tourney on Sunday.

Gregory Gaultier from France conceded the summit clash against Willstrop in the fourth game owing to an injury.

Third seed Willstrop, who will be officially crowned the World No 1 in January PSA charts, came back from a game down to lead the summit clash 19-21 11-8 11-4 when fourth seed Gaultier called it quits due to a hip flexor injury.

He suffered leg cramps on both the sides and could not finish the match he fought so fiercely against his long-term rival since British Junior Open days leading way back to 1999.

Not only does Willstrop made it an unprecedented 15 matches and three major titles in a row ? after victories in Hong Kong and Kuwait ? he will also be the new world number one come January 1, 2012, taking over from fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew, who had to sit this tournament out through injury.

Two opponents, who were no strangers to each other, contested the summit clash of the USD 1,65,000 final PSA World Series event of the year played at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.

Sunday`s face-off was their sixth meeting of 2011, all of them at later stages in World Series events. Gaultier won the first three while Willstrop the last two.

Willstrop also went one step ahead of Gaultier in the head to head record, now leading the 28-year-old 8-7 in World Series meetings.

The first game witnessed some 59 minutes of intense squash as both the players were not ready to give an inch.

The first game was the longest serving in the history of modern squash in terms of its duration.

It was settled on extra points but not before around an hour of play. Gaultier won it on his famous dead drop for winners.

The tall Englishman, undeterred, made a strong start in the second game and as he took the final point to level the scoreline, the Frenchman looked to be the one suffering physically.

In fact, Gaultier was in pain and despite receiving treatment in the interval after the third game, he could hardly move in the fourth and it was no surprise when he conceded the title clash at 1-6.

"It’s a third in a row for me and coming January, I will be World No 1, so it’s a double delight for me. It’s a very emotional moment for me. It was not just a final but a lot more to me. A very special achievement for me," said an emotional Willstrop who straight hugged his father and coach Malcolm after the title triumph.

"It`s been just amazing quality of squash that I played over the week here. I really wanted to win this tournament and I am just thankful to all for their kind support,? Said Willstrop, who won approximately USD 25,000 in prize money.

A dejected Gaultier said he wanted to complete the match and it was sad that injury struck him.

"I was feeling the pain (spasm) for the last two days. I felt something very painful (both legs). It`s been a long season for me and I am disappointed that I could not finish the game. I just wish I can come back here again and play next year also," said Gaultier, who took home USD 16,388 in prize money.

"It`s a shame that I could not complete the match. I could not bend my right leg and was limping. It`s the hardest game I have ever played in my life," said Gaultier, who will turn 29 after four days.

PTI