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