By Max Chesterton
The 2018 Dunlop British National Championship swung into action on Thursday with top seeds Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro beginning their title defence.
Top seed Nick Matthew showed no signs of nerves as the reigning nine-time champion dispatched qualifier Patrick Rooney in an intense three-game match 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (46m).
The three-time world champion was made to work hard for his quarter-final berth thanks to a sublime effort from his young opponent.
In a case of master vs apprentice, Rooney looked unfazed by the challenge of Matthew, pushing for victory in the first before the experienced Matthew battled to an 11-7 lead.
The four-time Commonwealth medallist upped the ante in the second, claiming an 11-5 win before Rooney went out all guns blazing in the third.
After falling to 4-1, the 20-year-old battled back impressively taking Matthew to 9-9 before the top seed charged to victory.
Speaking after the match Matthew praised his opponent for the tough first round fixture:
“I enjoy the youngsters playing like that and wanting to get stuck in because at the end of the day you want them to come through.
“It is good when they play like that and I don’t feel like we have seen enough of it from all of the guys.
“I played him two, three years ago and I thought out of all the young English players I thought he had the most about him.”
“Pat showed the most impressive of performances tonight. The last two months have been a big few months for him, he has put in some real hard work and it showed in what we saw. Great intensity and pace, the physicality was much better and a balance to his game starting to shine through,” said National Performance Coach Josh Taylor.
No.2 seed James Willstrop is also into the second round after a comfortable victory over a battling Lyell Fuller.
In a highly competitive first game, Willstrop saw his 22-year-old opponent go level at 6-6 from a lung-busting rally before the Yorkshireman broke back to go ahead.
With the wind behind his sails, the 34-year-old turned on the heat, claiming wins in his next two games to complete the rout and finish 11-7, 11-2, 11-6 (35m).
Speaking after the match, Willstrop said:
“I know he has got standard and quality, so I had to be ready to play. I managed to weather the storm in the first and I got through to him in the second,” said the second seed.
“You get a different type of player in this competition which we are not used to playing and they’re not used to playing us.
“You have to be careful – just because we are established ranked players it is still difficult.
2011 winner Daryl Selby also advanced to Friday’s matches, completing a quickfire 3-0 victory over late qualifier Matthew Parks.
The 35-year-old 3/4 seed breezed past the youngster in just seventeen minutes with a 11-1, 11-4, 11-7 score.
There were shocks however earlier in the day when 5/8 seeds Peter Creed and Ben Coleman fell at the first hurdle to lower ranked opposition.
Welsh qualifier Emyr Evans got the better of fellow compatriot Creed in the first two games before the world no. 56 was forced to retire through injury.
Likewise, Richie Fallows progressed through to the quarter finals after overturning Coleman in three straight games 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 (51m).
Speaking after the match, Fallows said: “I settled into the match quickly and felt quite confident on there, I think playing on the glass court helped me.”
“I am happy with that, and I am pleased to be through to the quarters for the first time.”
The 22-year-old Londoner will now face two-time national champion James Willstrop for a chance to play in the semi-finals.
Chris Simpson and George Parker played out an intriguing duel in a high-octane clash on the side court where both players but their bodies on the line for the opportunity to progress to the quarter finals.
In a tense opening game, Simpson walked away the victor with an 11-6 lead, despite early signs that Parker had rediscovered his form from the world championships that saw the 21-year-old take Nick Matthew to five.
Despite a hand injury in the second, Parker vowed to continue but could do little to avert the quality of Simpson, seeing the Guernsey born pro complete a three-game victory 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (50m).
Scotland’s Greg Lobban was made to work hard for a place in the quarters but he came through in the end despite a tough challenge from Adam Murrills.
5/8 seed Josh Masters will face reigning champion Nick Matthew in the quarters after the world no.57 edged past qualifier Charlie Lee in a hard fought 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (36m) contest.
Women’s Round One round-up:
Words by Gareth Evans:
The women’s main draw for the 2018 Dunlop British National Championship got under way with victories for two of the world’s top 20 players.
Tesni Evans, the highest-ranked Welsh player saw off 21-year-old Alison Thomson in straight games 11-3, 11-7, 11-6.
After controlling the first game to prevail 11-3, Evans had to dig deep in the second before proceeding to claim the third game 11-6 and book a place in the quarter-finals.
“I got off to a flyer in the first, and found my length quite quickly,” said Evans afterwards.
“But Ali put me under a lot of pressure in the second, and I had to work hard to come back and recover my length.”
2017 semi-finalist Emily Whitlock also advanced through to the quarters after defeating 22-year-old Alicia Mead 3-1 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9.
5/8 seed Whitlock started rapidly claiming the first two games before the left-handed Mead rallied to take the third before the world no.14 claimed victory in the fourth game.
“Alicia chased everything down, and gave me a hard match,” said Whitlock.
“She fought back well in the fourth, too – but I didn’t panic, as, with me leading 2-1, the pressure was on her, and I just needed the one point.
“I always like the Nationals, as I can return home between matches and chill – rather than being in tournament-mode the whole time. I’ll look forward to the next round.”
Whitlock’s next opponent will be top seed Laura Massaro, who found no difficulty in progressing through to the quarter-finals, edging past Rachael Chadwick 11-0, 11-4, 11-2 in 20 minutes.
She will be joined in the next round by 5/8 seed Jenny Duncalf, who overcame the challenge of Kace Bartley to wrap up a 3-1 win against the qualifier.
Four-time British National champion Alison Waters is also through after completing a routine victory over Julianne Courtice ensuring the world no.10 heads through to the quarters for the thirteenth year in succession.
Second seed Sarah-Jane Perry suffered no first round jitters when she overcame the challenge of the tenacious U19 British Junior champion Lucy Turmel – winning in three straight games 11-7, 12-10, 11-5.
5/8 seed Fiona Moverley triumphed in her match over qualifier Jasmine Hutton, completing her match in three.
Millie Tomlinson also progressed after reigning victorious over Lisa Aitken.