In the first two rounds of the tournament (he plays in the semi-finals today versus Gregory Gaultier!), he had incredible 5-game wins after being down late in the fifth game. He shows all of the mental toughness any player needs in tight situations like his.
In the first round, James came up against Hong Kong's Max Lee. They battled out the first four games, Lee winning 11-9 in the first, then Willstrop coming back 11-5, 11-5 and then Lee leveling it at 2 games all with an 11-4 fourth game win. In the fifth game, Willstrop was down 9-7 but came back to win 11-9. He is a former World #1 with tons of experience...but experience doesn't directly correlate to that kind of ability to dig deep. In his interview with PSA, he said:"I had to dig in and have faith in what I was doing. I’m very pleased to come away with the win. I just had to keep it as simple as I could really, once you start clouding your head with loads of thoughts it makes it worse. I only think about what I’m out there trying to do and I simplify it rather than think about how many points I’ve got to win. It’s not very easy, but you’ve got to forget about the scoreboard as much as possible."
After this incredible win, he decided he would do it again yesterday when he took on Spain's Borja Golan! James found himself 2-0 up after winning 11-6, 11-7. However Golan stepped it up a level and won the next two games quickly, winning 11-2, 11-6. They were quite tight through the first half of the fifth game, before Golan took a lead at 10-7. Willstrop then came back to bring it to 10-10 and then proceeded to win the next two points and take the match at 12-10 in the fifth. This last game was an incredible round of points and we HIGHLY recommend watching it (highlights in this article!)
Now, what can we take away from these incredible back-to-back five game wins? It is important to note what Willstrop said in his first PSA interview (which he reiterated with the courtside emcee after his match against Golan), which was to TRUST your game. Keep it simple. Once you are in that tight situation, it is highly important not to let the scoreline or the nerves or the stress get to you. If you stay focused on the task at hand, which is executing your game plan, you give yourself the best shot at performing well and therefore the best shot at winning the point, then hopefully the game and the match. Another option? Set yourself some mini-goals!!
If you haven't watched any of the matches yet, here are some highlights from SquashTV. If you want to watch the full match, we recommend subscribing to SquashTV! Remember, we offer all of our East Coast Squash Academy members a 10% discount on SquashTV, so contact us now for your promo code :)!