Declan James reunites with Willstrop in Commonwealth campaign

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Declan James reunites with Willstrop in Commonwealth campaign
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The Dark Knight does not fear the unpredictability of doubles, but he respects it.

Nottingham-born Declan James reunited his partnership with squash legend James Willstrop at the Commonwealth Games as they sailed through their round of 16 contest.

Malta pair Kijan Sultana and Niall Engerer proved no match for the reigning world champions, with James and Willstrop progressing to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 (11-2 11-1) win.

But despite opening their doubles campaign with a regulation victory at the University of Birmingham, 29-year-old James said the duo are taking nothing for granted.

“We just want to put up our best performance, do the best we can really,” he said.

“Nothing is for granted in doubles, there’s a lot of very good pairs out there, we’ve got full respect for that. We’re just going to do the best level that we can.

“I believe we have a chance if we do that. There is a lot of mental preparation, it’s a very mental game doubles, so you’re discussing different tactics, it’s the best of three.

“But we’re still on a squash court. We’re good enough, we’ve proved that we’ve been the best in the world but at the end of the day doubles is so unpredictable, so we respect that.”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

James won men’s doubles bronze alongside Willstrop on the Gold Coast but having had to wait to start his Games campaign, he welcomed the time off to get himself in peak shape.

“It’s given me time to train well and prepare as best I can and support the rest of my team and learn from the performances that they have put in as well,” he said.

“They have been amazing all week and I’m just incredibly excited to be out there now and hopefully have a few matches. The leg is good I moved quite well today.

“So that time off gave me time to work on my game and get my body and the health right, so I feel good. Three weeks after here we’re straight to Qatar, straight back on tour.”

Willstrop, England’s all-time most capped player, is competing in his fifth Commonwealth Games and came into the doubles after losing his bronze medal play-off in the singles.

And while he said the pairing should take confidence from their WSF World Doubles Championship title, he admitted the Commonwealth Games is a completely different beast.

“It was important, wasn’t it? World champions, a big confidence boost, but on the other side of it we know how close it is. The semi and the final were both unbelievably tight matches,” he said.

“There are pairs that are slightly unknown in this, it’s just a different league. It’s a lovely confidence boost but you can turn it on its head as well and respect that nothing means nothing really.

“This is what really matters now, and the lines are so fine from tomorrow, it will be so fine. I don’t think we can think about winning, almost, just take each moment each rally.

“If we can put the squash together, we will have a chance.”

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