The Yorkshireman, trained by his father Malcolm Willstrop at the famous Pontefract Squash Club, became the world’s top-ranked Englishman just two years after becoming a ‘senior’. In December 2005, after reaching a career-high world No2, he led England to victory for the first time in eight years at the World Team Championships in Pakistan James had well and trully announced his arrival on the world stage.
Not only known for his rivalry with three-time World Champion Nick Matthew, he’s also known as ‘The Marksman’ after his accurate shot placement, he has a large, rangy build and stands at an impressive 6 feet 4 inches. He lifted the Qatar Classic in 2005 after losing out in the final of the British Open and picked up a silver medal alongside Vicky Botwright in the 2006 Commonwealth games.
2008 saw more heartbreak at the British Open after a 3-2 defeat to David Palmer despite Willstrop holding match ball on two occasions. He reached the final again a year later but lost out in a tense five-set match with Matthew. Willstrop started 2010 with an impressive win at the Tournament of Champions, dropping just one game throughout the whole tournament. He lost out to Matthew though in arguably the biggest match of his career, the World Championship final, later that year.
The Englishman had a stunning 2011 and earned a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games after defeat to Matthew again. Willstrop followed this up by winning fifteen matches in a row to clinch the Hong Kong Open, the Kuwait Open and the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters. This led to him reaching a career high World No.1 ranking in January 2012 but he surrendered it to compatriot Matthew after defeat in the Tournament of Champions the same year.
The Norfolk-born Willstrop wrote the book Shot and a Ghost in 2012 which released to positive reviews. Injury dogged the next two years but Willstrop still managed to pick up a solitary PSA World Tour title in March 2013 at the Canary Wharf Classic.
The Englishman celebrated the birth of his son, Logan, in November 2013 with partner Vanessa Atkinson, a former Women’s World Champion. Willstrop showed signs he was getting back to his best when he picked up his third silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, his old foe Matthew proving victorious once more. He finished 2014 on a high, winning the China Open for the first time in September.
|Home Club||Pontefract Squash Club|
|Date of Birth||15th August 1983|
|Highlights||World Open runner up, Commonwealth Silver Medalist, Former World Number 1|
|World Tour Titles||16|