James Willstrop & Joelle King Win Commonwealth Games Gold

It was third time lucky for two times runner-up James Willstrop who won the Gold Medal in the Men’s Singles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios in Gold Coast, Australia whilst Joelle King ensured that England and New Zealand shared the glory with victory in the final of the Women’s Singles.

Willstrop, the fourth seeded Englishman, prevailed in straight games over New Zealand’s No.2 seed Paul Coll.

Both players had endured arduous routes to the final - Willstrop denying home interest in the later stages by beating top Australian Cameron Pilley in an enthralling 95-minute quarter-final battle and Coll surviving a 106-minute semi-final clash with Welshman Joel Makin less than 24 hours before the final.

Willstrop was in imperious form in the final, claiming his first straight games win since the opening round by beating Coll 11-9 11-4 11-6 in just 47 minutes.

"It just clicked for me in the final," admitted the 34-year-old Englishman. "It's stuff you dream of. It's one of the most brilliant performances I've had in my career. It just worked and it clicked. I don't know why, maybe the hours of solo practice I've put in all my life.

"It's an incredible thing and one of my best performances. I love playing the game and four years ago there were some doubts about that. I can't really process it to be honest, being here with a Gold Medal in the singles ... 

“Is it my biggest title? I guess it is. I reckon it probably is the best. It's a wonderful occasion - and the atmosphere and everything around it adds to it."

King became New Zealand's first ever Singles Gold Medallist when she beat England's Sarah-Jane Perry in a close-fought Women’s Singles final.

Fourth seed Perry had two games balls in the first, but it was King who closed out her fourth game ball to win the opener 16-14. The New Zealander opened a two-game lead but Perry dug deep to draw level and force a decider, but from eight-all in the fifth, it was King who moved ahead to clinch a dramatic 16-14 11-8 6-11 11-13 11-8 victory in 78 minutes.

"It feels pretty good,” acknowledged the Kiwi on winning her country's first squash Gold Medal. “We've had some great names that have come through the squash community from New Zealand and no-one's managed to do it yet - so it's a privilege, to be honest, to be the first one to do it and I'm just looking forward to celebrating with my team-mates.

The Bronze Medal matches in the Men’s and Women’s’ Singles proved to be equally dramatic and emotionally-charged.

The women's clash saw Malaysian Nicol David, the long-time World No.1 and Gold Medallist in 2010 and 2014, take on fast-rising Welsh star Tesni Evans.
 
Undaunted by a 4/0 career head-to-head record in the 34-year-old Malaysian's favour, sixth seed Evans delivered a scintillating performance to see off her illustrious rival and No.3 seed 11-7 3-11 12-10 11-7.

"It's truly amazing - unbelievable really - I'm absolutely over the moon," exclaimed Evans. "To beat someone like Nicol for the Bronze Medal is just out of this world. If you'd asked me 10 years ago, 5 years ago, I never would have thought I would beat her. She's an absolute legend. That's the first time I've ever beaten her so that's extra special as well.

"I've gone from the bottom of the scale to the top of the scale, literally. I was really down after my semi-final match - but thank you to Dave Evans and my team, they really picked me. They made me just realise where I am and that I still had a medal to fight for.

The first Games medal for Wales for 20 years was greeted with delight by National Coach David Evans. "It's an amazing result for Tesni and Welsh squash, getting a medal in the Commonwealth Games," said the former British Open champion. "The last one was in 1998 with Alex Gough, so to get a medal is unbelievable.

"But more, to beat Nicol - who we've all got so much respect for, with what she's achieved. For Tesni to beat Nicol to get a Bronze just adds a little bit extra to it."

Malaysia took Bronze in the Men's Singles play-off where 12th seed Nafiizwan Adnan beat Welshman Joel Makin, the No.11 seed, 11-7 6-11 9-11 11-4 11-5 in 81 minutes.
 
"It was the biggest ever match I've ever played - it was enormous,” explained Adnan. “I can't believe it, I was so nervous. I'm the first male player in Malaysia to win a medal - I am very proud, not just for myself but for my team. Everyone's behind me - my coach and the support team. Every day we prepare - so I want to give to them."

Commonwealth Games Squash, Gold Coast, Australia
Men's Singles Final:

[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [2] Paul Coll (NZL) 11-9, 11-4, 11-6
Men’s Bronze Medal Play-off:
[12] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt [11] Joel Makin (WAL) 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5

Women's Singles Final:
[2] Joelle King (NZL) bt [4] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 16-14, 11-8, 6-11, 11-13, 11-8
Women’s Bronze Medal Play-off:
[6] Tesni Evans (WAL) bt [3] Nicol David (MAS) 11-7, 3-11, 12-10, 11-7

"It just clicked for me in the final. It's stuff you dream of. It's one of the most brilliant performances I've had in my career. It just worked and it clicked. I don't know why, maybe the hours of solo practice I've put in all my life.
James Willstrop

"It feels pretty good. We've had some great names that have come through the squash community from New Zealand and no-one's managed to do it yet - so it's a privilege”
Joelle King