Monday, 19 December 2011

Willstrop Starts 2012 as World No 1

England's James Willstrop will begin 2012 as the world's number one ranked player after a stunning fightback victory in the PSA Masters final.

Willstrop, 28, defeated Gregory Gaultier of France 19-21 11-8 11-4 6-1, who retired with cramp, to win his third title in a row.

The victory will see Willstrop top the men's world rankings for the first time on 1 January.

He will leapfrog another Englishman, Yorkshire's Nick Matthew.

Willstrop, who won in Delhi despite losing a gruelling 58-minute first game, said it had been "an amazing day".

An English win seemed unlikely after Willstrop's setback in that marathon opener.

In a tense, see-saw game he spurned several opportunities to win by the two clear points required once the score reaches 10-all, and it was Gaultier who eventually took the lead after an hour on court.

But any hopes the Frenchman had of pressing his advantage were dashed thanks to the conditioning and racquet-work of the 6ft 4in Willstrop.

Willstrop, who emerged for the second game looking the fresher, got off to a flying 4-1 start and converted it 11-8.

After that it was downhill for an exhausted Gaultier, who lost the third 11-4 in quick order and retired, barely able to move, at 6-1 down in the fourth.

"It's a very emotional moment for me. It was not just a final but a lot more to me. A very special achievement for me," said Willstrop

Matthew, 31, sat out the Punj Lloyd with an adductor injury, which also saw him withdraw from last month's Kuwait Cup.

He has beaten Willstrop in their last 11 meetings on the PSA tour, with his last defeat to him coming in the December 2007 Mamut English Open.