BRITISH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Though restricted to players from the UK, the title is widely regarded as one of the world's best, with previous winners including World No.1’s, World Champions (senior and junior), and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists!
In addition to men's and women's open events, this festival of squash will be held in Manchester for the twelve successive year, and sixth year at Sportcity, will feature Masters events which will attract the nation's best players in age-group categories ranging from Over-35 to Over-70.
The 2007 championships produced sensational English double when James Willstrop, the former World Junior Champion, and Jenny Duncalf, the European Champion, won their first National titles in style.
The men's final saw Willstrop overcome a mighty challenge from Scotland's John White, the sport's world-record-holding hardest-hitter, 11-10(2-0) 11-7 11-5 in forty-four minutes.
"I'm just so proud to win the title," said a jubilant Willstrop after receiving his trophy. "I've been coming here for so many years - I've had so much inspiration from the event. It's something I've been brought up on.
"Winning this title has always been one of my main ambitions, alongside the World Open and British Open."
Jenny Duncalf began her campaign as the sixth seed, and made her breakthrough in the quarter-finals when she upset top seed Tania Bailey, the defending Champion and her England team-mate.
After overcoming Ireland's No.3 seed Madeline Perry in the semi-finals, the 24 year-old recovered from 0/2 down to topple close friend and England team-mate Alison Waters 5-9 6-9 9-3 9-0 9-3 in seventy-four minutes in the final - her third match in a row lasting more than an hour!
"That was definitely my best win ever," said Duncalf after her stunning victory.
Willstrop and Duncalf will return to the scene of their triumphs to defend their titles in the 2008 championships after both went on to enjoy successful 2007 campaigns.
Willstrop lifted two World Tour titles on home soil; winning the Canary Wharf Classic in London and then the inaugural Prince English Grand Prix in Birmingham.
Jenny Duncalf successfully retained her European Championship crown, reached the final of the Seoul Open, and went on to record a hugely successful runs at the Women’s World Tour and Hong Kong Open, before reaching December's final of the Carol Weymuller US Open in New York.
However, but both Willstrop and Duncalf can expect stiff opposition in their defence of their titles.
Local interest in the women's event will be led by Manchester based Vicky Botwright, who completed her third successive year in the world top ten in December and despite having won titles on the all-glass court at the NSC, has yet to fulfil her potential in the Nationals. In nine appearances in the event since 1997, the 30-year-old has been stopped five times in the quarter-finals, and will be looking to give her home supporters more to cheer this time.
2006 champions Nick Matthew and Tania Bailey, both head the England National Rankings and having enjoyed significant success in 2007, will undoubtedly be looking to mount tough-minded challenges.
Matthew, won missed the 2007 championships through injury, reinforced his status as England’s leading playing in the closing months of 2007 with comprehensive 3/0 victories over Willstrop to win the US Open and reach the semi-finals of the World Open, as well as leading England in the defence of their World Team Championship title in India.
Bailey reclaimed her career-high World No4 ranking in 2007 and reached the final of the Malaysian Open in July, as well as the semi-finals of the Qatar Classic and World Open.
Other contenders for the Men’s title will include three time Champion Lee Beachill, England Internationals Peter Barker and Adrian Barker, and Welsh No.1 Alex Gough, whilst England’s Alison Waters and Irish No.1 Madeline Perry will no doubt have aspirations of lifting the women’s crown.
Organised for the past twelve years by the Manchester Partnership, comprising Manchester City Council, Hi-Tec, Dunlop, sportdiscount.com, MEN Media and England Squash, the British National Championships represent the pinnacle of a squash pyramid which has as its base a highly-successful Manchester Development Programme which is already producing a number of stars of the future.
After making their debuts last year, many of the best recruits from this pioneering scheme will once again be appearing in this year's event. These youngsters started playing squash by attending school coaching at local clubs and leisure centres from all over the City.
They include 17-year-old Morgan Hibberd and 15 year-old Emma Molyneux. Within a short time of taking up the sport, Morgan topped the England Under 17 rankings in July 2007 and Emma currently stands at No8 in the Girls' Under 17 rankings.
16-year-old Ray Nevin is the current England Under 17 No.11, and 15-year-old Tom Dwyer is ranked No.13 in the England Under 17 list.
These successes demonstrate how the National Championships are linked to community activity and engaging the involvement and commitment of young people across the City.
"The progression of these young players from grass roots involvement through to competing in the National Championships shows how Manchester has managed to connect community programmes to elite performance," said Jim Quigley, Head of Partnerships and Events for Manchester Leisure.
"The unique partnership involving Hi-Tec, Dunlop, sportdiscount.com, MEN Media and England Squash that underpins the National Championships, has also enabled a structured programme to be established by our Sports Development staff, providing pathways of opportunity for young people in Manchester.
"We are delighted that these players have been given the opportunity to fulfil their potential and enjoy competing in their chosen sport," added Quigley.
For ticket details, visit the official website: www.nationalsquashchamps.co.uk