• ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic • 21st to 25th March 2011 • London •  




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TODAY at the Canary Wharf Classic ...  
Thursday 24th March, Semi-Finals:

[4] Peter Barker (Eng) bt [2] James Willstrop (Eng)
                    14/16, 11/1, 11/7, 11/8 (77m)

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [3] Grégory Gaultier (Fra)
                    8/11, 11/5 rtd (31m)

Matthew and Barker in all-English final

The packed crowd at Canary Wharf's East Wintergarden witnesses one tremendous semi-final as Peter Barker finally secured his first-ever PSA victory over England teammate James Willstrop, then had what was shaping up to be another tremendous match snatched away from them when Gregory Gaultier was forced to pull out through illness at one game all against Nick Matthew in their 2010 final rematch.

It was shaping up to be some match, this repeat of last year's final.

France's Gregory Gaultier was in great form in the first game - "he made me feel pretty ordinary out there," admitted defending champion and world number one Nick Matthew - and the second was delicately poised at 5-all.

But then something looked to happen to Gaultier, he looked lethargic at times, essentially let the rest of the game though, and unsurprisingly didn't come out for the third ... What Happened ?

LIVE     AlanT's BLOG     photo Gallery     EN BREF

Fram reports, Steve on the Shutter, Alan on the Blog

Matthew's Pain Game
this is going to hurt ...

Alan Thatcher
reports on the Blog

Semis Head2Head

[4] Peter Barker (Eng) bt [2] James Willstrop (Eng)
                    14/16, 11/1, 11/7, 11/8 (77m)


It all started brilliantly for James, who found nicks and stunning lengths in most of the rallies in the first game. And it’s all to his credit, because Pete was playing out of his skin, finding great width – you need it to avoid Jimbo’s reach and volleying – and playing lovely aggressive and positive squash from the word go.

James was nicely ahead 9/6, but Pete’s game just got amazingly accurate, and he was the one who got a first game ball at 10/9. Five game balls for Pete later, here we are still in the first, but it’s James who finally clinched the 30m game, 16/14 on his second game ball, to Pete’s disgust and frustration, smashing his racket on his leg.

And that’s where I start going the wrong way. When James came back, he looked a changed man, where his movement was fluid and fast in the first game, it became laboured and somehow painful. To the point I thought he was in pain, and was experiencing an injury on his left side. And from that point on, I was sure in my mind that James was not physically fit.

The 11/1 score in the second confirmed my feeling, especially when I saw James disappearing for what looked like a loo break – which he confirmed later as being one!

Right on time Jimbo came back on court, looking more positive and taking a good start in the third, 2/0 and 3/1. Peter, a bit defensive, still equalised 4/4, but soon made a few errors to give the lead back to James, 7/5. But again, James looked to be struggling with his reach and movement, and never score another point in the game.

In the fourth, Peter looked more and more confident, but yet, not completely relaxed. He was playing so well, but still very wary of James’ attacks. Jimbo was again looking poor movement-wise, but was attacking all he could while pushing Peter to the back.

1/1. 2/2. 3/3. 4/4. Peter found a nice momentum, 8/5, I never saw him play that well. James, as he normally does, clawed back, 8/8. The crowd was so enjoying this. A massive rally, where the match was being decided really, with James in control at the end, but just clipped the tin with the last shot!

A very quick rally, won by Peter rather easily, match ball. And again rather quickly, a James who just played the ball straight back to himself ... stroke.

Mummy Barker burst into tears, Dad was ecstatic, and Peter was quietly smiling, relieved, while James, with a large smile, embraced his team mate, congratulating him for a “long time overdue victory’….

No Fram, I was not in trouble in any particular area. He was making me work too hard, maybe he was exposing my movement. I personally couldn’t see that my movement was weak in any particular area or situation.

I maybe looked a bit ragged because his pressure was too strong!! He played relentlessly … A very hard and very solid performance.

I had a game plan tonight, but I have had a game plan against James since I was 10, and I'm very pleased that it finally paid off! Even during the juniors, I never managed to beat him, so it’s been long time coming.

Well, you’ve seen James' reaction after the match, his smile to me, his attitude, it’s all credit to him, that shows how a great guy he is. Well, not that nice, as he could have let me win before! I knew I would need to work very hard to beat him.

Believe it or not, I was supposed to go to Paris tomorrow with my girlfriend, and now, my girlfriend is going to go on her own with her mum for her mother’s 60th birthday! It’s a shame to miss out on a lovely trip to Paris, but that’s what we are training for, to get to the final of events!!!

Ah, and I want to apologise, when I hit my leg with my racquet, it was a mixture between adrenalin and stupidity.

My first game was really poor mentally, but I didn’t get overexcited, like I did in Richmond. Today, I looked at my game against James there, I took the first game, and after that, completely lost focus on what I did that got me there. So I looked, learned from my mistakes, and after the first game today, I stayed calm.

The second game was probably the best squash I ever played. The third and fourth were very hard, as they would be, with James keeping coming back, and then, he got a bit tired…

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [3] Grégory Gaultier (Fra)
                    8/11, 11/5 rtd (31m)


When Greg came into the press room earlier today, he was wearing his hood, which is not like Greg, but, to be honest, I didn’t pay much attention. He was quiet though, very quiet, and something weird I noticed was, when he came to watch James and Pete’s match, and sat next to me, he was not listening to his normal music to concentrate and isolate himself from the crowd.

As he started playing against Nick, I forgot about it all, as it was Nick who looked a bit nervous and unsteady. Greg seemed relaxed, too relaxed maybe. He was not pushing the pace up, as he can do normally, but still, was moving well, and made very few errors. As for Nick, he made six unforced errors, just in that first game.

But as the second game started, Greg was going for shots very early, wouldn’t move much and really looked injured. I thought that maybe his adductor was playing up again and playing on his mind. But at the end of it, I saw him sitting in his corner, head heavily in this towel, looking poorly.

As the ref announced time, Greg disappeared behind the screen and obviously something was wrong. John Massarella, match ref, came and asked if Greg could continue with the match, or concede. Greg, clearly unable to answer, was logically informed that he had in fact conceded the game.

A nice lady doctor came, checked Greg over, and it was decided that an ambulance would be called. The three paramedics arrived shortly after being called, checked Greg’s physical state, and made a few tests. It was decided he didn't need to go to hospital, so is returning to the hotel to rest.

I felt poorly this morning when I woke up, chills, massive headache, pains and aches in the whole body. I just felt sick and poorly. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t.

I just couldn’t warm up for the game, my head was pounding, it felt like the ball was bouncing on my head! I shouldn’t have got on court probably, but I worked so hard to come back from that injury… It’s so unfair…

 “Nobody likes to win a match like that. Apparently Greg was up all night feeling unwell so I find it amazing that he started the match playing such great squash. He made me look very average at times.

“At the moment I can’t begin to think about the final because my thoughts are with Greg. I just hope he’s OK.”

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