This week’s National Squash Championships is set to be the most exciting in recent history and one man who cannot wait for them to begin is England coach David Campion.
The Manchester competition presents an opportunity for Camps, as he is called by the players, to take a close look at not only the country’s top stars but also some of its emerging talent.
Former world champions Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro both top the draws as favourites to retain the titles they have won eight and three times respectively. Matthew, 36, comes into the tournament fresh from a first loss in 10 years to James Willstrop , who beat him at the Tournament of Champions last month after a run of 19 straight defeats.
England Squash’s national senior coach Camps will feature himself in the over-45 category, having won the British Open over-35s in 2008. He played down the surprise victory that World No.9 Willstrop, 33, enjoyed against his rival in New York and claimed the upset would make the men’s draw more exciting.
“Nick’s still hot favourite to win the title but James is on a good run of form. The amount of times they’ve played over the years – they’ve had so many tough battles – James was always going to get a result at some stage.
World No.5 Massaro, 33, also returns in fine form, having reached the final of the Tournament of Champions where she lost to Camille Serme, of France, 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7. Camps believes she is the favourite to win the trophy for a fourth time but he also singled out Sarah-Jane Perry [3/4] and second seed Alison Waters as potential winners.
“Alison Waters has got huge experience – she’s a four-time winner at this event. If she gets the opportunity she knows how to take her chances. They’re obviously the top three favourites and based on current form, I imagine the winner is going to come from one of those three.
“But closely behind that you’ve got World No.15 Emily Whitlock [3/4], who is capable of an upset, Tesni Evans [5/8] and Victoria Lust [5/8]. And Jenny Duncalf [3/4] has won the event twice. These are all top 16 players and they’re capable of getting a result.”
Camps revealed he talked his old friend and former World No.2 Peter Marshall into entering the over-45s category with him to add excitement to the draw.
“We played in the British under-10 championship final together and have been close friends ever since, so I convinced him to play,” he said. “I’m a coach, so I tend to care more about what other people are doing. But once I start playing, the competitive instincts will probably kick in. Although, I’m a bit out of practice in terms of competing but it will be nice to play.”
The National Squash Championships take place from Tuesday to Sunday at the National Squash Centre in Manchester. Qualifying at the tournament begins on Tuesday, with the main draws starting on Thursday. Finals are due to take place on Sunday.