Willstrop Pulls Off Five-Game Comeback in NetSuite Quarters; Elias Reaches Milestone Semifinal

Willstrop (l) celebrates match ball against Roesner. (image: squashpics.com)
Willstrop (l) celebrates match ball against Roesner. (image: squashpics.com)

The NetSuite Open for the first time will feature a semifinal between a wild card and qualifier after James Willstrop and Diego Elias pulled off upsets Thursday evening on the NetSuite Challenge Court at Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco.

Willstrop, the former world no. 1 in 2012, occupied the wild card position and opened up his tournament with a three-game victory over three seed Miguel Rodriguez.

The English world No. 18 found himself two games down against Germany’s Simon Roesner–11-9 in both. Willstrop then turned the match on its head winning the third 11-9 and claiming a quick fourth 11-2.

Roesner regrouped in the fifth and earned one match ball at 10-9, but Willstrop saved the match ball force extra points. A few rallies ensued that ended with let calls to the frustration of both players before Willstrop teed up match ball and clinched the match at 12-10 after seventy-nine minutes.

“I think the quality of the squash was so good,” Willstrop said. “It was a pretty high standard, we were both hitting the ball accurately. It’s cut-throat stuff, the ball was flying around and you have to have such control to stay in it. His pace and control was a little bit better in the first two games.

“He won the crucial points in the second, but it was close. The key is that I didn’t panic, it’s a difficult psychological deficit to overcome when you’re 2-0 down. The statistics show that people don’t do it often, so I just had to keep making him play and I knew that I might be able to find a way in. I knew that if I could find my level and keep it, then I could have a crack in the next three games.”

Elias (r) against Marche. (image: squashpics.com)

Willstrop will face Peruvian teenager Elias for the first time in his career in the first men’s semifinal Friday evening.

Elias, world no. 34, enjoyed his first rest day Wednesday after seven matches in seven days spanning the Nash Cup in Toronto, NetSuite qualifying, and shocking five seed Ali Farag in five games in the first round.

The former world junior champion continued his momentum in the quarterfinals to defeat France’s world No. 29 Gregoire Marche in three games forty minutes.

“I’m really happy, it’s my first win on Squash TV,” said Elias.

The victory also marks Elias’ highest profile semifinal berth in a PSA tournament, having reached the $35,000 Charlottesville Open semifinals as a previous best.

“I was focused, I wanted to enjoy the match and I played my best,” Elias continued. “It has been an amazing experience, I knew the court was a bit tricky, but I’m happy I was able to play well on it. I had so much fun and wanted to thank everyone for supporting me.”