British National Squash Championships 2016 •
08-14 February • Manchester
A week after it all started we were down to the finals at
the National Squash Centre, seventeen National titles to be
won, some wonderful matches in prospect, and finals day
 Laura Massaro bt  Alison Waters 11/2,
11/9, 8/11, 11/4 (53m)
 Nick Matthew bt James Willstrop 11/8,
11/3, 8/11, 14/12 (81m)
Laura Still the Champion
One of the questions that many were asking in the buildup to
the 2012 Nationals Women’s final was ‘how close can Alison
Waters be to her best, this soon after a long injury
The two-time champion had certainly looked good in the
previous rounds, but now she would be up against the current
world number four, WISPA player of the year and of course
the defending champion.
the first game the answer had to be ‘not very close’, as
Massaro romped through to take the lead 11/2, aided ad
abetted by some unforced errors from Waters.
For the next two games though the answer was ‘pretty much
there’ as the pair contested two games that could have gone
either way, scarcely a point between them and no shortage of
qualify shotmaking and retrieving. Massaro took the second
11/9, Waters the third 11/8.
An early lead from the defending champion in the fourth
proved to be decisive though, as in typically determined
fashion she pressed home her advantage, 4/1, 6/2, 6/3 and
assuming complete control now took five in a row to retain
No great celebrations, just a little skip, but a very
satisfied and a very worthy repeat champion, and the
distinct prospect of Britain having four of the top five in
the world rankings sooner rather than later.
national title is huge for all British players – there
are some big names on that trophy. To be able to win it
last year was special, so do it again is fantastic, I
was disappointed not to defend my title last month in
Cleveland, so it is good to defend this one
was such a good player before she got that terrible
injury. To get back to this level, after what she’s
been through last year, is incredible.
“It’s great to think I’ll be on the poster again for
next year, but this time I want to be the big one at
the front !”
got mixed feelings – I’d like to have won, of course, I
haven’t played a match like that for so long. I didn’t
think I played badly at all, but she’s improved so much
since I’ve been away.
“On the other hand, if you’d told me at the start of the
week that I’d be in the final, I would have bitten your
leg off …”
Matthew the master again
went into the match as the world champion, the world number
one and the three-time champion, but Nick Matthew was only
the second seed for the men’s final. James Willstrop,
himself a two-time champion who usurped Matthew’s number one
spot at the end of last year, was top seed. Until Matthew
had wrested it back of course, in last month’s ToC final in
Matthew had a 31-9 winning record to bolster him, including
wins in the World, British, Commonwealth and National
finals, and had won their last 18 encounters, which has to
give you a bit of a head start, you’d feel.
It certainly seemed to in the first two games. The first was
tough, as you’d expect, but from 3-all Matthew always had
the slight edge, finishing it off 11/8 as Willstrop
attempted a repeat of the sublime volley drop that had saved
one game ball, only to find the tin this time to finish the
the second Matthew exerted the sort of control that he can
and does so often, working his opponent around the court,
making it harder and harder and harder for his opponent
until finally a loose return arrives, the ball is just too
tight, or the opponent just can’t get there any more.
Turning the screw, it’s called, and Matthew was turning it
relentlessly from 4/0 to 7/2, hit two consecutive dead
nicks at the back of the court for 9/3 and 10/3, and in just
11 minutes was two-nil up, 11/3.
was looking ominous for James – even his manager thought so
– but from mid-point of the third game the screwdriver
seemed to change hands. The rallies were still relentlessly
tough, for both of them, but slowly, and surely, it was
Matthew who was being put under more and more pressure,
Willstrop who was beginning to control proceedings.
From 5-all he took four points in a row, and to the delight
of the Popntefract faction in the crowd pulled a game back
11/6 after 15 minutes.
fourth was a monster. Thirty-five minutes long, the momentum
swayed one way then the other, the tension racking up after
every point, but the players still managed to keep up a
brilliant level of squash, any one of a number of rallies
could have been a standalone advert for the professional
At the start of it Willstrop still seemed to have the slight
edge, but two drops that clipped the tin helped Matthew to
lead 4/2. Back Willstrop came though to 5-all. Then came
probably the longest rally of the year so far – ending in a
let, of course. And byu now they each had their own
screwdriver, first one then the other would exert marginal
control, and that’s how it stayed until the end, which was
still some way off.
6-all, 7-all, Willstrop goes up 9-7, a stroke pulls it back
to 9-8 but a superb midcourt drop gives Willstrop two game
balls at 10/8.
stroke as Willstrop struggled to clear his own dropshot,
then a counterdrop from Matthew and it was 10-all.
tin from Willstrop and it’s a first match ball for Matthew.
Huge rally, Matthew’s sure he’s won it on a stroke. Let. A
dropshot for the title, tin, 11-all.
Willstrop goes sprawling as he attempts to reach a dropshot
in the front forehand corner, 12-11 match ball.
A patient rally, a floated length that died in the back
corner and a huge Pontefract cheer for 12-all.
floated drive under no pressure goes just out of court,
13/12 match ball again.
Another long rally, Nick slowly, slowly builds the pressure
and eventually, eventually, he drives it deep with James too
far out of position to recover. He turns, arms raised to
celebrate his record-equalling fourth title.
81 minutes have gone. Some match, some players.
played the best squash of my career for the first two
and a half games, but for all his racket skills James is
also one of the most determined opponents I’ve ever
played, it was just brutal. We may be great rivals but
we have a good deal of respect for each other.
“It was one of the biggest disappointments of my career
– losing the title last year, so it means a lot to me to
win it for a record-equalling fourth time.”
not worried about what happened score-wise – it’s more
about what’s happening in the match and making sure that
I’m in it.
“People keep mentioning the run – and that’s great –
but the key thing is my squash maintains a high
standard and I give it my best.
“I was disappointed not to win, but not disappointed in