British National Squash Championships: Women's Preview

Favourite yes, but not firm enough for confident predictions, which says much for the size of the leading group of British women players that it would not be a huge surprise if even such an excellent player were denied by any one of four challengers.
 
The most likely to do that of course is the defending champion Alison Waters, who also beat Duncalf, the England No.1 and World No.2, in the semi-finals here three years ago. But it could also be Laura Massaro, the 2008 runner-up, or Madeline Perry of Ireland, or even Tania Bailey, another former British National Champion, who is still bravely competing on the world circuit despite so many injury setbacks.
 
By being the second highest ranked player in the world for all of 2010, suggests that Duncalf has made a stride forward and achieved a greater level of consistency brought about by a tighter focus and steelier mindset. They are qualities which Duncalf will need in abundance if she is to claim her third title. Just one woman, Cassie Jackman, has managed a successful defence in the past decade.
 
Although dodged by an Achilles injury of late, there have been moments over the past couple of years when Waters has looked the most dangerous British player, displaying ability to pressure opponents with a volleying of a quality which few possess.
 
Bailey, though, is one who does. Most unbiased observers hope that she has regained the fitness needed to capitalise on this ability, and if she has, she will be a contender.
 
Madeline Perry will be attempting to become the first Irish winner in the 36-year history of the championship, and the World No.6 from Banbridge, near Belfast, who recently won her 12th Irish national title, will be hoping to make her mark in Manchester this year after semi-final finishes for the past two years.
 
Laura Massaro, the World No.10, finished last year strongly by winning the Women's Sharm El Sheikh Open in the Egyptian Red Sea resort, and will hope to take momentum from that win to improve on her runner-up finish in 2008,
 
The National’s is making its 15th successive appearance in Manchester, and ninth year at the Sportcity venue which hosted the squash action in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and the strength of the women’s field suggests that is likely to be one of the closest and eagerly contested in its illustrious history.

Jenny Duncalf is the highest world ranked British player and despite losing to Alison Waters her closest friend on the Women's World Tour in last year’s final, is the favourite to claim her third British National title in five years.