Willstrop happy with low profile ahead of final appearance

PUBLISHED: 15:34 08 April 2018

England's James Willstrop is going for gold at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: PA

England's James Willstrop is going for gold at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

James Willstrop is happy to fly under the radar ahead as he bids to strike third time lucky at the Commonwealth Games.

Willstrop will face New Zealander Paul Coll in the men’s singles squash final this monning aiming to upgrade the silver medals he won at the last two Games when he lost to arch-rival Nick Matthew.

The 34-year old former world number one – born in North Walsham – has been keen to play down expectations ahead of his fourth and probably final appearance at the event.

But he cruised past the player who beat Matthew in the quarter-finals, despatching Malaysian second seed Nafiizwan Adan in straight sets.

“I was just desperate to get here and try not to build it up too much,” he said. “Last time around there was lots of media and pressure and this time there’s been a lot less focus on me, which I’ve really welcomed.

“I thought my form was pretty good but I had no idea what was going to happen this week. It will be different to play a Commonwealth Games final against someone who isn’t Nick (Matthew), but it doesn’t make any difference to me.”

A victory for world number 14 Willstrop – after his near misses in Delhi and Glasgow – would be a feelgood story as he nears the end of his career.

But Coll, just 25, won’t be making up the numbers as he’s gone from strength to strength throughout the tournament.

But he had to dig very deep in his semi-final against Wales’ Joel Makin, surrendering a two-set advantage to his opponent before coming from behind. He eventually emerged a 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-2, 11-8 victor in a match that lasted 99 minutes but Willstrop insists that will count for nothing when hostilities resume today.

“Paul is the favourite. He’s an incredibly tough player on the up and has beaten me the last few times,” he added.

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