Maestro Matthew Marks Silver Milestone In
a sensational climax to the Springfield Solutions British
Grand Prix at the National Squash Centre in
Manchester, England's Nick Matthew recovered from
a game down to upset top seed and fellow countryman James
Willstrop and claim the 25th PSA World Tour title
of his career.
The final of the PSA International 70
squash event was marked by milestones: it was the 30th Tour
clash between the two Yorkshire rivals since 2001, and the
50th appearance in a Tour final by Matthew, the 32-year-old
world number two from Sheffield.
Unbeaten in his previous 14 encounters with
Willstrop, world champion Matthew went into the match as
favourite - particularly as Willstrop, the world number one,
had come through a gruelling two-hour semi-final against
third-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier while Matthew
spent well under half the time in his win over England
team-mate Peter Barker.
But it was Willstrop who started the
stronger, quickly taking the lead in the first game, moving
from 5-1 to 9-4 with Matthew making uncharacteristic
After losing the game, Matthew settled into
the match in the second, lengthening the rallies and opening
up a 7-3 lead before taking the game to draw level.
It was Willstrop, however, who started the
third game the better, building up a 6-2 lead. Matthew
maintained the pressure, pulling back to nine-all and
sending an increasingly tiring Willstrop to all corners of
Matthew took the game with a tight dropshot -
then continued to dominate early in the fourth. Willstrop
dug deep to reverse the run of the game for a brief period,
but after saving one match-ball the top seed succumbed to
the might of Matthew as the Sheffield man clinched his 4-11,
11-6, 11-9, 11-5 victory in 78 minutes to become the British
Grand Prix champion for the first time.
"Everybody talks about James's racket skills
- but he's also the toughest and fiercest competitor I've
ever played. It doesn't matter what he's done before," said
Matthew in response to MC Sue Wright's suggestion
that Willstrop's previous match might have taken its toll.
"His physicality is something to behold,"
added the world champion.
"I made a lot of errors in the first game,
but I got it together in the end."
"It feels great to win this title, it's a
tremendous tournament, the sponsors and the organisers do a
great job, and I'm sure that James and I are looking forward
to coming back here for the Nationals next year, and then
the World Championships in Manchester too."
Willstrop wasn't unhappy with his
performance: "It was a good quality match, we were both
hitting the areas, and even if it maybe wasn't our sharpest
it was still a good, enjoyable match.
"It was level, and very tough, he managed to
get through the crucial end of the third game better and
that helped him push on in the fourth where I couldn't quite
get it together.
"There's some stuff I could have done better,
but he made it very difficult for me, all credit to him.
"It was a good week, great atmosphere, I
really enjoyed it here, you just have to move on, learn, and
Englishmen James Willstrop
(right) and Nick
Matthew, the top two players in the world, will line up
for their 30th Tour match in 11 years when they meet in the
final of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix,
the PSA World Tour International 70 squash event in
The Yorkshire rivals prevailed in two
contrasting semi-finals in front of a packed crowd at the
National Squash Centre - world number one Willstrop
surviving the third-longest match of his career, coming
through 15-13 in the fifth in a dramatic 118-minute
encounter with Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the world
No3, and Matthew taking out England team-mate Peter
Barker in straight games to reach a major milestone in
his career, his 50th PSA World Tour final.
In the opening semi, third seed Gaultier took
a 1/0 lead before allowing too many errors into his game to
lose the next two to favourite Willstrop.
But the 29-year-old from Aix-en-Provence
struck back to take a 5-1 lead in the fourth, and had
several chances to finish it off from 10-8 up. After saving
two match-balls, Gaultier finally walked off the court
having levelled the match - pumping his fist with delight
after a video review confirmed the stroke against his
The fifth was a thriller, with both players
struggling physically at times, and Willstrop's stunning
retrieving and Gaultier's occasional errors keeping it close
all the way.
Gaultier was first to match-ball at 10-9, but
after a series of appeals it was ultimately Willstrop who
prevailed on his third match ball of the game to win 7-11,
11-6, 11-4, 14-16, 15-13.
As the two players embraced, the crowd showed
their appreciation with a standing ovation.
"When it's played like that, squash is the
hardest sport on earth," admitted Willstrop, 29, from Leeds.
"There was some twisting and turning tonight, there was no
easy point on that court, you needed to plot and plan each
and every one.
"This was a pretty special thing that Greg
and I could play such quality squash for such prolonged
Gaultier, who recently became a father, was
gracious in defeat: "I really enjoyed playing today. I
couldn't have my normal training preparation with the birth
of my baby, but I thought I did not too badly, a bit up and
down, but I managed to get through most of the match.
"Shame that tin was just too high for me
Second seed Matthew
(left) later joined Willstrop in
the event's dream final when he beat London left-hander
Barker, the fourth seed, 11-6, 11-7, 11-3 in 48 minutes -
less than half the length of the earlier semi!
"James and Greg were a hard act to follow,"
admitted Matthew, the world champion from Sheffield. "Once I
had the first game under my belt, I was able to relax and
grew more comfortable.
"You are trying to concentrate on your own
game, but you can't help thinking that if you win 3/0,
you'll be fresher for tomorrow!"
In addition to countless clashes in domestic
squash, Willstrop and Matthew began their Tour
confrontations in the British Open qualifiers in June 2001.
The pair's head-to-head count since then is 21-8 in
Matthew's favour, with the Sheffield man boasting a 14-match
unbeaten run since December 2007.
But, away from the Tour, Willstrop has turned
the tables with two wins in continental European meetings
over the past few months - and will be eager to reverse the
Tour trend in Manchester.
champion Nick Matthew is one match away from his 50th PSA World Tour
final after beating former compatriot Alister Walker in the
quarter-finals of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix, the
PSA International 70 squash event at the National Squash Centre in
But the world No2 from
Sheffield, who had never previously lost to Walker, was initially outclassed by
the world No13 now representing Botswana, the country of his birth. The US-based
30-year-old played superbly to take the first game and build up an 8-5 lead in
But like other seeded
players earlier in the day, second seed Matthew weathered the storm - coming
back to draw level before dominating the next two games to win 9-11, 11-8, 11-4,
11-3 in 58 minutes.
"Ali sure makes you
work hard, but it's funny how quickly things turn round," explained the 2011
runner-up later. "I was facing going 2/0 down and maybe going home, and the next
thing I know I'm 7-1 up in the third.
"He was immaculate for
the first two games and the best compliment I can give him is that I had to
change my game. James (Willstrop) spoke earlier about the game of chess, that's
exactly how it felt for me tonight."
Matthew now faces
England team-mate Peter Barker for a place in the 50th Tour final of his
career - after reaching his first in Barcelona in September 1998.
Barker faced fellow
Londoner and fellow left-hander Adrian Grant. After winning the 20-minute
opening game, fourth seed Barker took complete charge of the second
quarter-final of the day, closing out the match 11-8, 11-1, 11-3.
"I had to be solid and
focused, because I wasn't either of those things yesterday," said the
28-year-old world No7. "I'm not sure Adrian was at the top of his form or even
100% tonight, but he is still dangerous and can hit shots from anywhere, so I
really had to stay focused."
The other semi-final
will feature favourite James Willstrop, the world number one from
England, and career-long French rival Gregory Gaultier.
from a game down against Laurens Jan Anjema to beat the seven-time Dutch
champion 8-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-5 in 66 minutes.
"I had to cover a lot
of ground today, LJ is very strong physically," said the 29-year-old from Leeds.
"It's a good result for me to beat him 3/1. I'm happy with that, he really got
me sharp for tomorrow."
Third seed Gaultier had
to overcome a strong challenge from unseeded Simon Rosner. The top-ranked
German stayed with Gaultier every inch of the way in the first two games,
failing to capitalise on a game ball in the first, then taking the second on his
second game ball.
The Frenchman dominated
the third, and although world No18 Rosner was back on competitive terms in the
fourth, Gaultier pulled clear to take the match 12-10, 10-12, 11-5, 11-7 after
"After winning the
first, I was up 4-0 and just relaxed too much," admitted Gaultier. "It's only in
the third and fourth I started to vary my shots to the four corners, I was able
to speed up the pace. But he didn't make it simple for me, that's for sure!"
Rosner, the six-time
German champion added: "In the third, my game just wasn't there, but I got it
back for the fourth. I'm proud I'm able to compete with Greg and make it a hard
fight for him.
"He is one of the
players I've been looking up to since I was 12, and I hope that I can sneak a
win one day."
Adrian Grant (right) ensured domestic representation in the semi-finals of the
Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix in Manchester - but the
world No15 survived a dramatic opener after fighting back from two games and
match-ball down against qualifier Saurav Ghosal in the first round of the
PSA World Tour International 70 squash event at the National Squash
In the longest
match of the day, 31-year-old Grant - a former world No9 - recovered from the
early two-game onslaught by Indian number one Ghosal, ranked eight places lower,
before closing out the match 7-11, 7-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-6 in 87 minutes.
"I have a bit
of a loss of confidence at the moment, so I was not at the top of my form when I
started today," said left-hander Grant. "And I really don't know why I am such a
slow starter. I warm up really well, but I just cannot seem to find that burst
of energy I get at the end of matches. I am trying to get the same feeling at
the start of the match that I get in the third for example, but so far, I just
cannot do it.
things do fire me up, like when I'm playing rubbish. I'm thinking, 'come on,
this is ridiculous', or a bad decision, I get a positive reaction, but still, I
just can't be fired up from the start the way I would like to."
Ghosal summed up his reaction on Twitter: "Lost 3-2 today after being 2-0 up and
10-9 match ball in the 4th!!! Absolutely gutted to say the least. Good
performance...just need to win."
Grant moves on
to face fellow Londoner and England team-mate Peter Barker for a place in
the last four. Fourth seed Barker was also stretched in a marathon encounter
with Borja Golan before beating the top-ranked Spaniard 11-8, 7-11,
12-10, 11-2 in 85 minutes.
"You know that
a match against Borja is going to be ultra-competitive," admitted world No7
Barker. "I lacked a bit of mental sharpness today and when I found myself 7-3
down in the third. I knew I had to do something different. And I was a bit more
precise after that."
top two seeds eased into the second round, but not without demanding encounters
against English compatriots.
Nick Matthew, the world No2 from Sheffield, faced Tom Richards. The
world No12 from Surrey gave the world champion an almighty run for his money in
the first two games. But underdog Richards was unable to capitalise on the game
balls he had in each as Matthew survived two tie-break games before taking the
third in a stunning white-wash.
"I think I
played the important points well," said 2011 runner-up Matthew after his 14-12,
12-10, 11-0 victory. "We had two tie-breakers, and whereas he was patient all
through the games, suddenly he tried to force it. I could very well have found
myself 2/0 down today, after having had game balls in both games. That's why in
the third I was making sure I was getting it right."
James Willstrop, the world No1 from Leeds, conceded three fewer points than
Matthew in his first round win over England team-mate Daryl Selby. Like
Richards, world No11 Selby contested the first two games strongly before finding
Willstrop too hot to handle in the third.
"There were a
few cobwebs that needed to be cleared out, there's no way you're going to be in
top form at the start of the season," admitted Yorkshireman Willstrop after his
11-8, 11-7, 11-4 win. "I was ready for a physical test. I had to hang in during
that second game, and when I managed to pull away it gave me a boost for the
start of the third."
Adrian Waller and Chris Simpson will boost home interest in the main
draw of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix in Manchester
after claiming straight games victories in the qualifying finals of the PSA
World Tour International 70 squash event at the Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis
& Squash Club in Wolverhampton.
In the opening
match of the evening, Waller overcome compatriot Chris Ryder after an
epic first game which finally concluded in a 17-15 victory for the tall
left-hander in 25-minutes. The effect of Ryder's recent illness took its toll as
he became slower on the ball and the following two games were more
straightforward with Waller concluding the match 12-10, 11-5.
Simpson ended the brave run of fellow countryman Joe Lee - the
London-born 22-year-old who produced the biggest shock in the first round by
ousting Scotland's Alan Clyne. The game was played in great spirit with
both players ensuring that the referee's job was easy - with Simpson easing to
an 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 win in 50 minutes.
upset took place on an adjacent court where Mathieu Castagnet, the world
No37 from France, battled for exactly an hour to overcome Egypt's Marwan El
Shorbagy, the reigning world junior champion ranked 11 places higher, 14-12,
In the only
match which went the full distance, India's Saurav Ghosal, fresh from a
bye in the previous round, dashed local hopes by beating Wolverhampton-born
Jonathan Kemp 5-11, 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9 in 54 minutes.
Lee Laps Up
Late Grand Prix Call
place in the qualifying draw of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix
just hours before the beginning of play, England's Joe Lee took full
advantage of the opportunity of making the main draw of the PSA World Tour
International 70 squash event by upsetting Scotland's Alan Clyne in a
five-game thriller at the Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club in
London-born 22-year-old was called up as a late replacement for Borja Golan,
the Spaniard who was promoted into the main draw following the withdrawal of
Egypt's former world No1 Karim Darwish.
world No30 from Edinburgh, recovered from two games down to force the match into
a decider - but Lee, ranked 26 places lower, regained the upper hand to close
out the match 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 6-11, 11-8 after 94 minutes - the longest match
of the day.
victory will guarantee two additional English places in the main draw - as he
faces fellow countryman Chris Simpson in one of today's qualifying
finals, while another pits Adrian Waller against former
Wolverhampton-based Chris Ryder.
Channel-Islander Simpson, ranked 38 in the world, also survived marathon opener,
overcoming India's Siddharth Suchde 11-6, 5-11, 12-10, 14-12 in 84
recorded a notable upset by defeating Max Lee, the Hong Kong number one
ranked 16 places higher, 11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 12-10 in 75 minutes.
club's 32-year-old former pro, was coming back from illness - but fought back
from 2/1 down to beat fellow local Jaymie Haycocks 11-5, 8-11, 6-11,
11-5, 11-8 in 74 minutes.
Mathieu Castagnet, ranked 37 in the world, proved too strong for Darren
Lewis, beating the Wolverhampton club coach 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 in 40 minutes -
which according to Lewis "felt more like two hours". Lewis, who retired from the
PSA World Tour several years ago, had the support of a very vocal Wolverhampton
crowd which carried him through the early stages of each of the three games.
In the only
qualifying final without domestic interest, Castagnet will face world No26
Marwan El Shorbagy. The Egyptian teenager recovered from two games down to
beat Frenchman Gregoire Marche 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 in 70
Jonathan Kemp proved too strong for fellow countryman Ollie Holland,
beating the 18-year-old from Nottingham 12-10, 11-9, 11-3.
Kemp, the Wolverhampton-born world No28, now takes on India's Saurav Ghosal.
UK-based Ghosal, ranked 23 in the world, received a bye in the first round after
the late withdrawal of Egypt's four-time world champion Amr Shabana,
which led to German Simon Rosner's elevation to the main draw.
Court Set To Reignite Epic British Rivalry
ever rivalry in British squash is set to be reignited on an all-glass court in
Manchester next week when Yorkshiremen James Willstrop and Nick
Matthew, the top two players in the world, meet in Monday's predicted final
of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix at the National Squash
World Tour International 70 event - which gets underway tomorrow (Friday) -
boasts 11 players from the world's top 20, three of whom are former world number
ones, with domestic interest being provided by eight English players.
29-year-old from Leeds who first succeeded Sheffield-based Matthew as world No1
in January and has now topped the list since March, is the event's top seed. He
is making his first appearance on the PSA Tour since reaching the semi-finals of
the British Open in London in May - only the second time in ten ranking
events since October that the tall Yorkshireman failed to make the final.
world No1 throughout 2011 - and finished the year by winning the World Open
in Rotterdam, where he became the first player for 15 years to defend the PSA's
most prestigious title.
32-year-old double Commonwealth Games gold medallist has already notched
up three major Tour titles this year - including his third British Open crown -
and is poised to mark his 50th Tour final appearance next week in Manchester.
pair have contested Commonwealth, World and numerous National Championship
finals - and already three Tour finals this year.
It is Matthew
who boasts the upper hand, however, unbeaten in 14 Tour clashes since December
2007. But, away from the Tour, Willstrop has turned the tables with two wins in
European league meetings over the past few months - and will be eager to reverse
the Tour trend next week.
year, Matthew begins his 2012 campaign against England team-mate Tom Richards
- while Willstrop also faces a national team-mate, Daryl Selby, the world
No11 from Essex.