By Sam France
Two-time champion James Willstrop is looking forward to pitting himself against the best of the new generation at the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships in Nottingham from 14-17 February.
The former world no.1 won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008, and has finished runner-up in four of the last six tournaments.
With Nick Matthew having retired, this year’s tournament is the most open in recent memory, and Willstrop is relishing the challenge.
“You’ve got all these English players coming through who I’m really excited about, as an older player who’s looking at what’s coming up for England Squash.
“Some of these players are becoming really strong, it’s pleased me as I know how hard they’re all working with the coaches, and with England Squash in particular putting the effort into them.
Previously held in Manchester, the championships are moving to their new home in Nottingham this year.
“It’s a positive thing with taking the event to a new part of the country where squash is thriving. Nottingham University is putting an awful lot of effort into the sport and squash is really benefiting,” he said.
“I recently played on the glasscourt there, where I won British Universities Championships, and also the European Individual Championship in 2017. It’s nice and compact, and a good atmosphere.”
Having played in each edition of the tournament since 1999, Willstrop is well-versed in its significance.
“It has such a prestige associated with it, I’ve played it for so many years,” he said.
“So many great players in the world have won it because of the strength of the home nations over the years.
“It’s a big title to be British champion, it’s no mean feat.”