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Fri 10th Dec, The Final:

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt
[6] James Willstrop (Eng)
          8/11, 11/6, 11/2, 11/3 (74m)

Matthew makes history
Richard Eaton reports

Clinical Matthew takes World Title

The question of the day was which Englishman would become the first from that country to became World Champion. The form book said Nick Matthew, who came into the final boasting an impressive head to head record against his fellow-Yorkshireman James Willstrop, but this was the World Open final after all.

It was Willstrop who started the more impressively. The opening rallies were probing, relatively slow-paced, and Willstrop was making his opponent do marginally more work. After an error and a stroke gave Matthew a 2/0 lead, which he extended to 4/1 with a couple of trademark volley drops, Willstrop gained marginal control of the rallies, levelling at 5-all and then surging ahead from 7-all to take a well deserved lead after 21 minutes.

He continued to impress at the start of the second, eking out a 3/2 advantage, but Matthew, remaining patient, was starting to take James out of his comfort zone, making him stretch more and more to keep the rallies under control.

Matthew edged ahead 5/3, Willstrop levelled thanks to a couple of rare errors from Matthew, but he was starting to dominate now, and it was definitely Willstrop working harder. The points kept piling up now for Matthew, and he levelled 11/6 after 18 minutes.

For the next two games Matthew kept the pressure on, playing patiently, but tight, volleying on every opportunity as he does, and Willstrop was having increasing difficulty keeping up. He kept in the rallies, for sure, but he was struggling to find anything to hurt his opponent with, and time after time Matthew would move him from corner to corner before despatching a winner, often with James totally out of position.

That was the pattern of the last two games. Third, 11/2 in 12 minutes, fourth, 11/3 in 14 minutes with Willstrop clearly suffering from his harder series of matches to get to the final.

In the end it wasn't a dramatic confrontation like last year's final here, or their semi-final in Canary Wharf, more an inexorable march toward the inevitable, compelling, and well, well, deserved.

Matthew thus adds the World Open title to his two Commonwealth Gold medals to complete a marvelous end to the year, for him and for England.

As an added bonus, if the World Rankings were produced now he would overtake Ramy Ashour as world number one. Of course there's one tournament to go before 2010 is done, but there's little doubt about the identity of the man of 2010 ... Nick Matthew, World Champion ...

"I only thought about winning the title in the last few rallies, you are only human. At that stage you are playing against yourself instead of your opponent. You are sort of fighting the demons in your head.

"You see the finish line and as it comes closer in terms of score it gets further away because you are drifting in your thoughts. With every single thought I tried to tell myself 'next rally, next rally'."

"I didn't play badly in the first game but James was just immaculate. He was unlucky that he had had those hard matches which took it out of him.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought that all this would happen to me. As for that shoulder injury, it taught me to keep things in perspective - not to get too low on the low points, and not to get carried away either with the high if I am in a big final."

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