Wildcard James Marks Return With Shock Win As London Squash Classic Begins

English wildcard Declan James celebrated his return to the PSA World Tour after over a year out injured with a sublime performance to reach round two of the inaugural GillenMarkets London Squash Classic, as the PSA World Tour Gold-level event made its debut.

On the traditional courts of Coolhurst Squash Club, where the opening round took place ahead of the move to Alexandra Palace tomorrow, World No.76 James was in top form against Egyptian World No.19 Mohamed El Sherbini.

The Englishman, playing in his first World Tour event since the 2022 Egyptian Open after suffering a ruptured achilles tendon, played the court conditions perfectly, defending well and taking advantage of every opportunity presented by the Egyptian to secure an 11-9, 11-7 win.

“I feel relieved, it was a really tough match! I’ve been playing well but it’s a different story trying to do it against someone in the top 20 in the world. I held my composure well when I saw the finish line. I was just glad that I managed to find a bit extra. I’m disciplined, train hard and live a clean life. Motivation is fleeting and I don’t rely on it. I know I’m into the final third of my career now and am just trying to enjoy it, improve and be as good a player as I can be,” James said afterwards.

James was far from the only player to record an upset, with Timothy Brownell shocking Fares Dessouky, George Parker beating Auguste Dussourd and Nick Wall getting the better of Abdulla Al-Tamimi.

Dessouky, who won the precursor to this event, the Canary Wharf Classic, in 2022, went on the attack early against Brownell, but the US No.1 dug in, saving two game balls in game one on the way to a tight 12-10, 12-10 win.

“It feels amazing. I’m here with my mom and to get the win here was pretty special. Fares is someone I’ve watched for years on TV and to play him was special and to play well is really exciting. I’ve been working hard on my squash and I’ve got a lot of confidence now; I’m not a pushover and I can test the top boys,” Brownell said.

In the women’s event, Mead’s first ever Gold-level event got off to the perfect start as the World No.49 set up an all-England showdown with No.6 seed Sarah-Jane Perry by securing a convincing win over Egyptian World No.35 Mariam Metwally.

Mead took control of the encounter from the opening rally, dominating the court and forcing errors from the Egyptian as she coasted to an impressive 11-5, 11-4 win in just 13 minutes.

Afterwards, Mead said: “I’m really pleased, it’s not often that you have one of those performances where everything comes together, maybe one in fifty! Everything worked well and I really enjoyed it. I think I found the balance quite well. I’ve never played best of three before on tour and didn’t want to come out too frantic and fast. Playing in Alexandra Palace on Friday, it couldn’t be better really!”

Elsewhere in the women’s event, Japan’s Satomi Watanabe, who earlier this month won the Gold-level Optasia Championships, survived an early scare to get the better of France’s Enora Villard.

Results – Women’s First Round: GillenMarkets London Squash Classic

Tesni Murphy (WAL) bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 2-0: 11-1, 11-6 (14m)
Katie Malliff (ENG) bt Grace Gear (ENG) 2-0: 11-2, 11-5 (15m)
Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 2-0: 11-5, 11-4 (21m)
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 2-0: 11-6, 11-7 (20m)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Cindy Merlo (SUI) 2-0: 12-10, 11-3 (14m)
Alicia Mead (ENG) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 2-0: 11-5, 11-4 (13m)
Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Malak Khafagy (EGY) 2-0 13-11, 11-5 (26m)
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 2-0: 14-12, 11-4 (27m)

Results – Men’s First Round: GillenMarkets London Squash Classic
Timothy Brownell (USA) bt Fares Dessouky (EGY) 2-0: 12-10, 12-10 (28m)
George Parker (ENG) bt Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 2-0: 11-6, 11-8 (27m)
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 2-1: 13-11, 3-11, 11-7 (53m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Juan Camilo Vargas (COL) 2-0: 11-6, 11-6 (24m)
Eain Yow Ng (MAS) bt Ramit Tandon (IND) 2-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-1 (40m)
[WC] Declan James (ENG) bt Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) 2-0: 11-9, 11-7 (33m)
Nathan Lake (ENG) bt Simon Herbert (ENG) 2-0: 11-5, 11-9 (20m)
Nick Wall (ENG) bt Abdulla Al-Tamimi (QAT) 2-1: 3-11, 11-8, 11-8 (31m)