career-threatening injury would be a major blow to any top sportsman. Three
in succession, however, would surely enforce early retirement in all but the
a hero of England’s world junior championship-winning team of 1996, suffered
three such accidents within twelve months from September 1997. After
contracting salmonella in Portugal and losing two-and-a-half stone (16 kg)
in weight while seriously ill in hospital, Lee then suffered a serious road
accident, writing off his car and breaking his back in two places!
Despite a hospital
diagnosis that would spend at least the next four months on his back – and
would never play squash again – he was back on court after some eight weeks
and made his tournament comeback at the 1998 British Open!
Then ranked 127 in the
world, he was required to compete in the pre-qualifying preliminary
competition. Incredibly, six victories later the 20-year-old qualified for
a debut appearance in the prestigious event’s first round – where he was
drawn to play the favourite and world No1 Peter Nicol, who went on to win
the title after ending Beachill’s brave run in straight games.
In October 98, Lee won his
first PSA Tour title, the Adelaide Club Open in Toronto, Canada. Three days
later, however, a freak accident led to further hospitalisation – when a go
cart crushed his foot after mysteriously leaving the indoor circuit track
which he and friends were visiting!
The lean Yorkshireman has
since become England’s fastest-rising squash star – in February 2001
becoming the lowest seed ever to capture the British National title, then in
June reaching the semi-finals of the British Open. In February 2002, Lee
became the first man in history to successfully defend the British National
In the 2002 Commonwealth
Games in England, Lee partnered Peter Nicol in the Men’s Doubles and
collected England’s only Gold medal of the Games, beating Australians
Stewart Boswell and Anthony Ricketts in the final.
After being forced to
retire from the quarter-finals of the Tournament of Champions in New York in
February 2003 – which was his third successive withdrawal from a PSA Tour
event after persistent problems with his right ankle – Beachill rushed back
to England where he underwent surgery which kept him out of action for two
He made his comeback for
England in the European Team Championships in May, and returned to the PSA
Tour later in the month at the Super Series Finals in London – where he was
making his debut in the annual event for the top eight players who achieve
the best results in the previous year’s Super Series events.
After disappointing draws
in three successive PSA events which saw him face – and lose to – world No1
Peter Nicol, Beachill produced his best in the Qatar Classic in December.
Seeded nine, he beat Stefan Casteleyn and Mohammed Abbas to reach the
quarter-finals where he again faced Nicol. This time he triumphed over the
top seed in straight games, and went on to beat England team-mate Nick
Matthew to make his debut in a Super Series final. A stunning 15-12 15-5
11-15 12-15 15-9 victory over Scotland’s John White, the No2 seed, gave
Beachill his biggest PSA title to date.
Three months later, Lee
was again on the winner’s podium – after beating Australia’s David Palmer in
the final of the PSA Tour’s five-star Bermuda Open in May 2004.
His glorious year
continued with victories in the English Open in August and the US Open in
September – in the latter triumphing over David Palmer in the semis and
Peter Nicol in the final.
The long-awaited reward
came the following month when Lee reached No1 in the Dunlop PSA world
rankings – becoming the first true Englishman to achieve this accolade.
Lee finished the year by
reaching the final – the 12th of his career – of the World Open
in Qatar, where he lost in five games to Thierry Lincou.
In the New Year, Beachill
was a semi-finalist in the Windy City Open and reached the quarter-finals of
the Tournament of Champions – but his most notable achievement of the year
to date was his triumph in the British National Championships in Manchester
where, in his fifth successive appearance in the final, he brushed aside
close friend and Pontefract club-mate James Willstrop to win the title for
the third time.
Born in Huddersfield in
Yorkshire, Lee took up squash when he was eight, guided by noted coach
Malcolm Willstrop, his mentor still today. By his late teens, Beachill had
won British junior titles at U12, U14, U16 and U19 – becoming only the
second person (after world top five player Simon Parke) to win all four
national junior championships.