Nick Matthew proved that their is still life in the old dog as he
produced a masterclass performance to inflict an 19th consecutive defeat
on perennial rival James Willstrop and win the final of the 2016 AJ Bell
British Squash Grand Prix - his first title win in 18 months.
In the latest instalment of a rivalry dating back to 2001, which has
seen the pair clash almost 60 times altogether, it was Matthew who
proved his domestic supremacy once again with a spirited and tactically
astute display that saw him break Willstrop down physically throughout
the 51 minute 11-7, 12-10, 11-4 win.
The Sheffield-man, known on tour as the 'Wolf', started strongly to take
the opening game and then showed the grit and determination that has
epitomised his career as he snarled his teeth to withstand an onslaught
from 33-year-old Willstrop and take the second game tie-break - setting
up the platform to complete the victory and lift the 34th PSA World Tour
title of his career.
"We've played an incredible number of matches - big tournament matches
in semi-final or finals - against each other and today was another so
I'm just delighted to have come out on top," said Matthew.
lot has been said about our rivalry but there is a tremendous admiration
for what both of us do on the court. Off the court as well in the way we
prepare, we couldnít be two more different people but that leads to some
"It wasn't easy at any stage today and it could have been very
different. In that second game he showed how good he was and I was lucky
to get that game. I knew I had to just push through and I'm really
pleased to back it up."
The three-time World Champion's career has at times stuttered since his
last title success, at the 2015 Canary Wharf Classic, with injuries
hampering his opportunity to win more silverware. And despite starting
the 2016/17 season with a shock first round defeat at the NetSuite Open,
he rekindled some of the finest form of his career on home soil in
Manchetser to end the year on a high.
"There's been a lot of soul-searching and times when I wasn't sure if I
could cut it at the top anymore, so there was a lot of emotion that came
out at the end tonight," he added.
"All that behind the scenes work, the work of the team that have been on
that journey with me and the sacrifices that everyone makes as part of
that melting pot are what comes out. I'm happy to be playing but to know
that I can still produce it and get over the line is an incredible
minute Iím planning my retirement party, the next minute I want to play
for five more years, so the truth is probably somewhere in between.
ďThere were times where I thought this might be my last year but I
definitely have plans to finish this season and take it from there. I
would dearly, dearly love to play in one more commonwealth games and of
course the Worlds in Manchester next year.
On the final Willstrop said: "I just wish I could have given him more of
"But I have to salute him. I gave everything there but he was too good,
and too accurate - I couldn't get him out of position. People talk about
his age but he's as good as he was six years ago when we were playing
of the most intense and acrimonious rivalries to have graced squash in
recent years will be renewed tomorrow (Dec 5) when three-time World
Champion Nick Matthew and long-term domestic rival James Willstrop will
lock horns in the final of the 2016 AJ Bell British Squash Grand Prix.
The pairing, separated by just three years in age and thirty miles in
their home county of Yorkshire, have maintained a fiery relationship
since first clashing in 2001, with Willstrop going as far as citing his
rival as Ďpretentious and viciousí during a 15-year rivalry that has
produced some of the most memorable matches in squash history -
including the 2010 Canary Wharf Classic semi-final, which many claim to
be the best squash match ever played.
Both have struggled with injury over the past few years, with Willstrop
battling back from a career-threatening hip injury suffered in 2014, but
this latest duel will see them clash in peak renaissance form - making
for what promises to be the most blistering encounter since their
meeting in the 2014 Commonwealth Games Final.
ďI said at the start of the week I came here to win it - Iíve been in a
lot of semis and finals of late and itís about time I converted one of
them,Ē said 36-year-old Matthew, who secured his place in the final with
a 3-1 win over Daryl Selby.
ďItís going to be tough because James is in great form - and its great
to see that. Coming from 2-0 down against Gaultier is hard but it didnít
surprise me because of how well James has been playing recently - he's
such a classy player and we've always had big battles, I've never taken
that rivalry for granted.
ďWeíve played in literally in every final going! The thing about our
rivalry is that more often than not weíve played in big matches, thatís
why it is such a good rivalry. There have been lots of big finals in
there so tomorrow will another to add to the list.Ē
World No.1 Willstrop booked his place in the final with an impressive
victory over World No.3 Gregory Gaultier that saw him battle back from
0-2 down to seal a 3-2 win and end an six match losing streak, and he'll
be hoping to continue his run and end an 18 match losing streak against
Matthew that dates back to 2007.
ďNick has just been awesome recently, the way heís been so dogged and
tough - he was fantastic in Qatar and at the U.S Open so I know I'll
have to give him huge respect on there," said Willstrop.
ďToday I was getting outplayed in the first half of the match so to turn
it around, and put some good squash together under pressure, and get the
win feels very good and to be in the final is great.
"I know weíre both a bit older but I think weíre playing as well as we
have done for quite a while.Ē
are guaranteed at least one presence in the final of the 2016 AJ Bell
Squash Grand Prix after three-time World Champion Nick Matthew was
joined by former World No.1 James Willstrop and current World No.16
Daryl Selby in the last four of the PSA M70 tournament taking place at
the National Squash Centre, Manchester.
Three-time tournament winner Matthew secured his berth courtesy of a 3-1
win over in-form Hong Kong number one Max Lee, setting up a semi-final
clash with Essex-man Selby. While Willstrop, with whom Matthew has
contested a fierce-some domestic rivalry for over decade, will face 2015
World Champion Gregory Gaultier - the man Matthew beat to claim two of
his three World Championship crowns.
ďI had to work hard and play well physically tonight to beat Max and
solve the problems he imposed on me, and there will be more of that
tomorrow," said 36-year-old Matthew.
ďI know very well what to expect from Daryl, he has a very economical
game. If he moves well he tends to play well, and he is moving well at
the moment. So Iíll have to work hard.
ďMy game plan didnít work as well as Iíd have liked today - in the
second game I was sloppy and gave him a bit of a lead and I felt I gave
him a few easy points. But I managed to win the big points and that will
also be important tomorrow."
Selby booked his place in the last four courtesy of a 3-1 win over
up-and-coming English youngster Richie Fallows while Willstrop downed
Australian number one Cameron Pilley to set up his encounter with
Gaultier, where the Frenchman will be hoping to prevent an all-English
In his first tournament since injury struck during the semi-final stage
of November's 2016 World Championship the 33-year-old World No.3 put in
a commanding performance to beat Malaysian Nafiizwan Adnan 3-1.
ďComing here I just wanted to play so Iím happy to get through to the
semi-finals," said Gaultier.
this will help build up my confidence, because I havenít played for a
while. But I'm used to playing in this stage of competitions, so
hopefully I can push on and I'll try to adapt my routine a little to
make sure I am ready for the challenge."
On Gaultier, Willstrop said: "I'm excited about tomorrow. It's a thrill
to be playing here in this atmosphere - these are the events and
environments that you want to play in and why you play the game. There's
history between Greg and I, so I'll get my head around it and look
forward to tomorrow and try and enjoy playing against him again on a big
qualifier Richie Fallows pulled off what he described as his 'biggest
ever win' as he overcame a gap of 49 places on the PSA World Rankings to
dispatch fellow Englishman and World No.31 Tom Richards on the opening
day of action at the 2016 AJ Bell British Squash Grand Prix.
Fallows had to come through two testing qualification battles just to
reach the main draw of the PSA M70 tournament taking place at the
National Squash Centre, Manchester, and the 21-year-old managed to hold
off any big-stage nerves to complete a 3-1 victory that sees him set up
a quarter-final encounter with World No.16 Daryl Selby.
Playing on the front foot and with an aggressive style Fallows recovered
from dropping the opening game to complete the win, which seed him
become the first qualifier to reach the quarter-final stage of this
tournament since 2011.
ďTo beat someone like Tom, who Iíve seen from a young age, means
everything to me," said Fallows.
"Staying in the moment was so important. I had to not worry about my
opponent and just focus on my own game and I'm really pleased. I'm
looking forward to the quarters now, Daryl is a good mate and a fellow
Essex-man, so hopefully it will be good especially because the crowd
really get behind you here."
Fallows as a surprise quarter-finalist is Manchester-based Malaysian
Nafiizwan Adnan after the 30-year-old produced a superb fightback to
overturn a two-game deficit against Englandís Chris Simpson to emerge
triumphant after a punishing 96 minute battle.
Simpson stormed out of the traps and charged into a 2-0 lead as Adnan
failed to respond to the 29-year-oldís brilliance but a change in
intensity saw the Malaysian surge back into contention and he took the
next three games without reply to complete a 4-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8,
11-9 triumph, which will see him face World No.1 Gregory Gaultier in the
ďIím really, really glad I won, at 2-0 down I was just telling myself
itís all about me, he [Simpson] was really good in the first and second,
but I gave him that opportunity," said Adnan.
"In the third, fourth and fifth I just kept pushing, and in the fourth I
got a cramp, but that didnít stop me, I just carried on. Itís all about
passion, Iím a player that plays in the quicksand, I slow it down and
make them hurry and that has worked for me.
"A win is a win, itís not about how long it takes."
top English hopes James Willstrop, Daryl Selby and three-time World
Champion Nick Matthew (right) came through their first round encounters
courtesy of straight-forward 3-0 victories, with Matthew, who is aiming
to lift this title for the fourth time in his career, negotiating a
potentially tricky affair with wildcard Joel Makin.
"I'm so happy to still be playing at the level that I am at this stage
of my career," said Matthew.
"Manchester is a happy hunting ground for me and I have a lot of great
memories here, but I'm trying to start each week fresh and take it one
round at a time, but I am here to try and win it and Iím not here to
just make the final.
"I donít know how many of these events Iíve got left ,so Iíve got to
enjoy it, do my best and focus on my own game and see where that takes