The country’s finest players are set to take to the courts at the Nationals after qualifying concluded on Wednesday.
No major upsets were recorded in the first two days as the final touches were put on the all-glass show court in Manchester, with England No.1 Laura Massaro the first due to grace the court at 12pm on Thursday.
Eight-time winner Nick Matthew will begin his quest for a ninth title tomorrow with the remaining masters events also due to begin at the National Squash Centre.
But attention in the first two days has been firmly on those lesser-known and younger players fighting for their chance to take on the big guns in the main draw. Those in attendance who stayed until Wednesday evening were treated to an enthralling, five-game match on the venue’s other all-glass court between Ashley Davies , of Derbyshire, and England Squash Academy player George Parker [5/8], of Leicestershire. Parker twice fought back from a game down to take the match to a decider but Davies was composed enough to take the match 11/5, 8/11, 13/11, 10/12, 11/5 in 65 minutes.
Scot Rory Stewart, Patrick Rooney, of Merseyside, and Nottinghamshire’s Mark Fuller also advanced to the main draw. Davies’ win earned him a first round tie against top seed Matthew, while Rooney faces Scottish No.1 Alan Clyne [3/4]. Stewart is due to play 5/8 seed Joe Lee, of Surrey, and Fuller goes up against two-time winner James Willstrop, of Yorkshire.
Kace Bartley, Victoria Temple-Murray, Lily Taylor and Julianne Courtice claimed places in the main tournament of the women’s draw. Taylor, of Leicestershire, will face Fiona Moverley [5/8] while Temple-Murray, of Devon, takes on World No.15 Emily Whitlock [3/4] and Courtice, of Gloucestershire, plays World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry [3/4]. Surrey’s Bartley has earned a first round match with second seed and four-time champion Alison Waters.
Some of the competition’s older contingent began their tournament campaigns on Wednesday, with action in the men’s over-50’s, 55’s, 60’s, 65’s and 70’s all on show.
Top seed Mark Woodliffe, of Gloucestershire came through his first test in the over-55s, beating Keith Haddock, of Merseyside, 11/4, 11/4, 11/8 in 19 minutes.
Yarwar Abbas , of Durham and Cleveland, will face Jamie Maddox in the first round of the over-50s after Maddox, of Lancashire, defeated John Valentine, also of Lancashire, in just 17 minutes – 11/7, 11/3, 11/2.
While Rustom Batilava , of Warwickshire, and Stuart Hardy , of Middlesex, both advanced to the second round of the over-60s. And the only slight upset in the over-65s came from Alan Hendry, of Merseyside, who defeated Mark Thompson [9/16], of Yorkshire, 15/7, 15/10, 15/13 in 24 minutes.
The only preliminary match in the over-70s was played out between Alan Whittow, of Buckinghamshire, and Thomas Elves, of Durham and Cleveland, with Elves progressing after a 15/12, 15/7, 15/3 victory in 24 minutes.