LAURA Massaro’s hopes of winning a third consecutive title were blown away in a thrilling final at the National Squash Championships in Manchester.

The world number three from Chorley was aiming to become only the third player to win the title three times in a row – as it was, it was Alison Waters who picked up her third national crown.

Massaro, who went in to the Championships without match practice due to illness, has shown her true fighting qualities throughout the week – and so it proved again in the final.

In a repeat of last year’s showdown, Waters struck first to take the opening game 11-7 having seen both players trade points up to 6-6.

Massaro, who lives in Hoghton, struck back in the second game, leading all the way to win 11-7 and draw level.

The 29-year-old former Albany High School pupil - who plays for East Lancs Squash Club – appeared to be on course to go 2-1 up, leading 4-1 and 10-6. But crucially, Waters reeled off six points in a row to win 12-10 and regain the lead.

However, Massaro, who came from behind to beat Emma Beddoes in the quarter finals and was pushed all the way by Madeline Perry in the semi finals, fought back once again to take the fourth 11-6 to set up a decider.

The fifth game was the best of the lot. Waters appeared to be cruising to victory, leading 7-1 but Massaro stormed back to level.

Waters had match ball at 10-9 but Massaro saved that and earned one of her own – thinking she had won but only got a ‘let’.

Waters levelled then took her next match ball – as Massaro crucially slipped – to win 13-11.

“They don’t come much closer than that,” said Waters. “I was lucky she slipped at the end but I’m delighted to win a third national title.”