By Max Chesterton
Defending champion and top seed Laura Massaro was knocked out of the Dunlop National Squash Championships at the semi-final stage for the first time in four years after being overpowered by Wales’ Tesni Evans in three games: 11-3, 11-8, 11-9 (36m).
The 25-year-old, who beat Massaro in round two of the PSA World Championships in December, started the brighter of the pair – racing to an 11-3 lead before Massaro could find her rhythm.
Massaro, the World no.4, looked to have recovered from an early onset of nerves when the Lancastrian took a 7-3 lead, before Evans broke back, claiming five successive points to clinch a decisive second game.
Cardiff born Evans, who was playing in her second British National semi-final in three years, again ramped up the pressure in the third, battling back from 3-2 down to grind down her opponent and go 8-2 up.
Massaro’s never say die attitude, which has come to define much of her professional career, once again came to the fore in the third – refusing to give in to her younger opponent and battling back to 6-8 down.
However, the World No.12 displayed enough quality and composure to hold off Massaro and book her place in her first British National final.
“To get to the final means a lot. At this tournament there are always more English players than Welsh, so for us smaller countries it means so much,” said Evans.
“To have a performance like that it is fantastic. I have a very good support group behind me and that was a big thank you to all of them.
“I am really looking forward to tomorrow and I will try to be relaxed about the situation.
Meanwhile, in the men’s draw, James Willstrop booked his place in the final for the ninth time after overcoming Daryl Selby in three – 11-9, 11-4, 11-2 (35m).
The two-time national champion, who has lost only once in 26 matches versus Selby, rapidly dispatched an ailing Selby who was suffering from an injury as the game progressed.
In an intense first game, two great showmen of squash’s golden generation went toe to toe, jostling for control in a tight opening encounter.
The Yorkshireman eventually got the better of the 35-year-old Selby, dominating the T and wrapping up the first game in comfortable fashion.
The second seed continued on the front foot, oozing class and utilising the short ball to his advantage to again get the better of his rival Selby, who Willstrop first encountered in the under 12’s.
Following the break, Selby was forced to request an additional three minutes to treat an injury, but when the Essex man returned he was visibly hampered.
With Selby hindered, the world no. 16 took advantage, rapidly clinching the third game to book a spot in the final for the first time since 2016 where he could face Nick Matthew in another blockbuster showdown.
“It is a great pleasure to be playing at 34 years old – we have a wonderful life,” said Willstrop.
“We have always had a great relationship me and Daryl. We play doubles together and it is good to work with him.”
“It is an incredible tournament and that is why everyone watches it across the world. The venue has always had a great atmosphere and there is a great history – everyone wants to win it.”
After the match, Selby said his injury prevented him from reaching his very best.
“I have had it since last week, so I was hoping that it would be alright,” said Selby.
“This week I have managed it and the first game it was fine, then just in the second I didn’t feel comfortable with it.”
“I was hoping it would an epic match, but we will have to move on.”