Wales’ Tesni Evans edged closer to a second consecutive British Nationals title after overcoming Laura Massaro in the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships semi-finals in Nottingham.
The defending champion, seeded third resisted a dominant start from top seed Massaro and set up a final showdown against England’s fourth seed Emily Whitlock.
The 26-year-old bounced back from an early scare inflicted by the English stalwart to close out proceedings in emphatic fashion at 8-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-8 in a match which lasted 50 minutes – despite nearly losing her nerve at 4-8 down in the fourth.
Speaking after the match, Evans said:
“Laura is one of the toughest players you can meet, it’s always a right battle and today was no different.
“At 4-8 in the fourth, I was thinking about the fifth, but managed to push through.
“I’m just happy to be in the final and looking forward to another great match.”
Whitlock defied her seeding to oust second seed Alison Waters from the competition as the 25-year-old completed a 3-1 victory over her compatriot lasting 46 minutes.
Whitlock enjoyed the brighter start, mounting an 11-8 lead to take the first game, before Waters resisted a brief fight back at 7-2 up to claim the second.
But the Cheshire hitter – who’s ranked 20 in the world – took control in the third, quashing Waters 11-3, before closing out the fourth in impressive style at 11-2.
The result signals Whitlock’s best ever run in the competition, having bettered her semi-final finish in 2017 when she lost to Laura Massaro.
“I’ve been playing like that in training for a while, but haven’t been able to translate it into matches, it just doesn’t work out for some reason,” said an emotional Emily.
“So I’m not surprised that I played like that, I knew I had it in me.
On a day when both of the top two female seeds were sent crashing out of the tournament – the men’s draw favoured a different narrative – with James Willstrop and Daryl Selby setting up a repeat of last year’s semi-final, where Willstrop prevailed.
But their latest chapter en route to sealing a spot in the last round of the tournament couldn’t have been scripted any more different.
Two-time champion Willstrop fought back from a game down to overpower Scotland’s Greg Lobban 9-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-3 in just under an hour to reach his tenth national final.
It means the Pontefract player will have the chance to claim his third tournament title – having come up short on six previous occasions as a finalist – the most recent against former England No.1 Nick Matthew last year.
“Greg played really well in the first two,” said Willstrop. “I couldn’t break him down and he stopped me from getting chances to attack. It opened up later and I managed to get myself in front, but I had to stay with it in that period and stay alert to the end.
“It’s a big title to win, so to have another chance, and to be playing well at this crucial time of the season is a bonus. Daryl has had a hard route through but he’s always a tough opponent and I’m sure we’ll both be giving everything we have tomorrow.”
Second seed Daryl Selby, however, endured a third successive five-game slog in as many days after being forced to come from behind to oust Adrian Waller and rack up a total of 262 minutes – or over four and half hours – of on-court action in the competition so far.
Selby slipped to 8-11, 6-11 early on, but capitalised on a wave of momentum after claiming the third 11-7.
It heralded another memorable comeback for the 2011 champion, who went on to clinch the remaining two games 11-5, 11-6 in an entertaining 77 minutes.
Speaking after coming through another intense battle, Selby said:
“I’m very happy to get through, it’s not been an easy route!
“Adrian outplayed me in the first two, I managed to see a few cracks in the third and rolled with the momentum.”
 Tesni Evans (Wal) 3-1  Laura Massaro (Eng) 8-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-8 (50m)
 Emily Whitlock (Eng) 3-1  Alison Waters (Eng) 11-8, 9-11, 11-3, 11-2 (42m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) 3-1  Greg Lobban (Sco) 9-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-3 (56m)
 Daryl Selby (Eng) 3-2  Adrian Waller (Eng) 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6 (77m)