Video: James Willstrop continues gradual road to recovery with hard-fought win

For Harrogate’s James Willstrop, it isn’t about the winning at the moment – it really is simply the taking part that counts.

The 31-year-old continued his rehabilitation in Manchester yesterday, edging past a lively Lyell Fuller 3-2 to clinch a place in the second round of the British National Championships.

James Willstrop. Picture: Steve Cubbins./squashsite.com

James Willstrop. Picture: Steve Cubbins./squashsite.com

While defeat would have stung, it would not have been of too much concern to Willstrop, the former world No 1 is chiefly interested with seeing an improvement to his game and fitness levels given he has spent around five months off court.

A hip operation last September saw Willstrop out of action until the end of last month.

Two tough games in last week’s Swedish Open before a quarter-final loss to South Africa’s Stephen Coppinger were just what was required ahead of this week’s trip to the National Squash Centre.

“Some people are saying that last week’s defeat to Stephen Coppinger was a shock or something but, to be honest, there’s no shock in any result,” said Willstrop following his 3-11 14-12 11-5 8-11 11-6 victory over Fuller.

“The only result I’m looking for is, or trying to get is to come off the court healthy and if I can do that, it’s been a success.

“It was a tough game. I came off a tournament last week and my legs were a little bit heavy, but I got going and I managed to win. I really had to work hard to win.”

Despite making it through the opening round, however, Willstrop has been forced out of the championships and has given a round two walkover to Charles Sharpes.

Elsewhere, defending champion - and six-time winner - Nick Matthew came through his opening round tie unscathed, seeing off the challenge from qualifier Patrick Rooney 11-5, 11-2, 11-2 in just over 30 minutes.

Harrogate-based Chris Simpson also navigated his way through to the second round, taking 39 minutes to defeat qualifier Steve Wykes 8-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-8.

Hull’s James Earles set up a second round clash with Adrian Waller after defeating Tom Ford in a five-game thriller lasting more than an hour, with Earls prevailing 11-4, 7-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-7.

Eddie Charlton, based in Leeds, also made it thorugh to an encounter with 2011 winner Daryl Selby, the 26-year-old eventually seeing off Mark Fuller i n five games, winning 11-6, 11-8, 4-11, 9-11, 11-7 in a bruising 83-minute encounter.