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21/01/2011
ROD GILMOUR REPORTS FROM ToC

Rod Gilmour in New York

Rod Gilmour At ToC, New York

Nick Matthew v James Willstrop. It's Britain’s great racket sport rivalry and one that continues to perenially haunt Willstrop.

From Grand Central Station to the grass courts of the Queen’s Club, the 6’ 4’’ world No 4 just can’t win a match against his fellow Yorkshireman, the latest of which came in a rare, one-sided semi-final at the World Series Finals – staged in an inflatable cube on the lush grass of the 125 year-old sports club in London.

Andy Murray doesn’t have Willstrop’s problem, namely that there is no one close enough in British tennis. Willstrop, the former world junior champion, has now lost 11 on the bounce and counting, six of them in 2010, against a player he has been hammering down squash walls with since junior days in Yorkshire.

He last beat Matthew in the 2007 English Open final before Matthew began his run in January 2009 in New York. Each match he has lost since has clearly played a psychological advantage; Matthew’s dominance has only increased on the world stage.

For Matthew, racking up wins has been second nature as he bids to become World Series champion for the first time. It would make sense for him to achieve this. Last year saw the Sheffield right-hander become world champion, world No 1, Commonwealth champion as well as amassing a six-month unbeaten run. In January he was predicatably awarded world player of the year in New York.

Not that Willstrop has gone down without a fight in each of his contests. He lost out in a brutal 2009 British Open final, where Willstrop held match balls, and the Canary Wharf Classic semi-finals, which saw the Yorkshireman’s bid end with severe cramp after one of the finest contest in recent years.

In the World Series semi-final, Matthew stretched his opponent throughout. Willstrop’s backhand drops briefly deserted him before offering a mini comeback in the second. Matthew refused to play short in the third as he bid to dig Willstrop into the ground.

His words in defeat - coming moments after walking off court - were again refreshing and told of the gladiatorial battle going on both in mind and on court. With family and the Pontefract entourage having made the trip he looked as if he was on the verge of tears.

He was beating himself up in front of a packed crowd while paying tribute to Matthew for the achievements he has won, yet few know about.

Pontefract will know when Willstrop finally ousts Matthew.

Rod Gilmour, The Telegraph 

 

 

   

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