Matthew gets past Reda, Selby and Barker
The final of the Canary Wharf
Classic between England’s top seeds Nick Matthew and
James Willstrop promises to be one of the highlights of the
Willstrop takes on Ghosal, Momen and
Their eagerly-anticipated clash
on the glass court at the East Wintergarden this evening could
provide a career-defining moment for world number one Willstrop
if he can put an end to a long losing run against Sheffield’s
In all competitions, Matthew has won 19 matches in a row
(see chart) against his great rival from Leeds.
Near neighbours in Yorkshire they may be, and England team-mates
on regular occasions, but they don’t exchange Christmas cards
and their extraordinary rivalry is the major talking point of
the PSA World Tour.
While Matthew was recovering from a hamstring injury at the end
of 2011, Willstrop enjoyed the most successful spell of his
career to win World Series tournaments in Hong Kong, Kuwait and
Delhi to reach the number one position in the world rankings for
the first time in his career in January of this year.
Three in a row for James
When Matthew returned to action,
he immediately hit top form to beat Willstrop in the finals of
the Tournament of Champions in New York and the
National Championships in Manchester.
Two in a row for Nick
Both matches were over in four
games, but the time spent on court demonstrates how desperately
close they were. The New York final lasted 85 minutes, with
Matthew winning 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7, and the Nationals
showdown ended after 81 minutes, with Matthew winning 11-8,
11-3, 8-11, 14-12.
Those victories propelled Matthew back to the top of the
rankings in February, and the two were seeded to meet in another
final when they flew off to compete in the Davenport North
American Open in Richmond, Virginia.
had beaten Ramy Ashour in the two previous finals, but as
the week unfolded it was clear that he was not hitting top form.
After struggling past energetic Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez
in 92 minutes, he dropped a game against both Olli Tuominen and
Simon Rosner before crashing out to Ashour in the semi-finals.
Amazingly, he let slip significant leads in the first two games
and was ripped to pieces by Ramy in the third.
Despite the fluency of Willstrop’s 97-minute victory over
Gregory Gaultier in the other semi-final, few expected him to be
able to withstand Ashour with the Egyptian genius in such hot
Willstrop delivered a performance of phenomenal quality and
discipline to deny his opponent the shot-making opportunities he
Segments of play at the beginning and the end of the match
illustrated his authority over the proceedings.
From the off, he went 5-0 up in the first game with a relentless
line and length that pinned Ashour in the back corners. When he
offered up anything loose, Willstrop deftly tucked away soft,
straight drops and volley-drops.
Towards the end of the match, Ashour was all over the place,
failing to scrape shots off the side wall and giving away match
ball with a penalty stroke.
Despite having to battle through three enormous matches this
week against Saurav Ghosal, Tarek Momen and Mohamed El Shorbagy,
shades of that Richmond performance were in evidence last night
as he dominated the final game against Shorbagy.
In a mirror-image of that NAO moment, a floated length to the
back left corner saw Shorbagy trying and failing to scrape the
ball off the glass.
So far this week, both players have averaged match times of
around 70 minutes, with Willstrop on court for 210 minutes
and Matthew for 218.
No doubt our sell-out audience members will be hoping both
players will have the reserves of energy to produce a repeat of
their epic semi-final of two years ago, which lasted two hours
and seven minutes.
Both players hit peak form at the same time and many observers
felt it was one of the best matches in squash history. It was
certainly a compelling encounter with a marathon third game
tiebreak which Willstrop won 20-18.
Sadly, the match ended with Willstrop lying injured in the back
left corner as he dived in vain after a winning shot that took
Matthew to match ball.
an epic from 2010
Expect that same corner to be
the main target for both players this evening as they seek to
pin their opponent behind them and then hunt down any loose
It promises to be another compelling spectacle, for all the
Their intense rivalry adds to the drama of the occasion, but our
greatest desire is to see two world-class athletes producing
their very best squash in front of a full-house crowd in a
stunning venue that has witnessed so many great finals in the
past nine years.