World champion Matthew
books his place in Canary Wharf history
Alan Thatcher reports
World squash champion Nick Matthew is looking forward to
returning to Canary Wharf in March.
He completed a perfect year by regaining his place at the top of
the world rankings when the January list was published.
clinched his third world title in Manchester in November and
followed that up by
winning the Hong Kong Open at the end of December.
His return to the top of the world rankings coincided with the
launch of his autobiography, Sweating Blood.
He devotes a large part of the book to the inside story of his
ongoing rivalry with fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop, the
reigning Canary Wharf champion.
rates their marathon semi-final in 2010 as one of the
five greatest matches in his career. Their titanic battle ended
with Willstrop collapsing with cramp after more than two hours
of brutal combat on court.
Matthew wrote: “This was the best-quality match that James and I
have ever played. It’s very rare to have two top players
competing at their very best in the same match.
“We were throwing the kitchen sink eat each other. It was like
Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.”
Matthew has enjoyed a long unbeaten run against Willstrop, a
four-times Canary Wharf champion, but he felt this was the
occasion when it might end.
added: “I lost a massive third game 20-18 to go 2-1 down and in
games. At the break I was ready to throw in the towel. I said to
my coach, David Pearson ‘Maybe today’s the day he’s going to
“But then I gave myself a metaphorical slap round the face and
said ‘No way – it’s not going to be today’ in the very next
“After two hours and seven minutes of the bitterest and most
exhausting squash we have ever played, I was 9-8 up in the fifth
game, just two points from victory.
“With James in the front right-hand corner of the court, I
thrashed the ball as hard and low as I could down the backhand
was so far out of position and he flung himself to the floor in
a desperate attempt to reach the ball. His leg cramped up so
badly in the process that he was forced to retire.
“I reckon my own legs had about 30 seconds left before they
would start cramping as well.
“I think that match at Canary Wharf defined our career rivalry.
There was no sledging, no shenanigans. It was totally clean.
“We knocked seven bells out of each other and, at the end,
neither of was left standing.
“I needed five hours of treatment before I could play in the
final the next day. My feet felt like they had broken glass in
them, but somehow I recovered to beat Gregory Gaultier 3-1.”
Matthew beat Frenchman Gaultier 3-2 in another marathon match
lasting 111 minutes to win his third world crown in Manchester
in early November.
The 33-year-old from Sheffield was back in London last week to
receive an award from the Sports Journalists Association in a
star-studded bash at the Tower of London.
Matthew said: “This is the icing on the cake after such a great
year. I got married to Esme, I was inducted into the Sheffield
Hall of Fame, I won the world title for a third time, and I’m
back at number one in the New Year.”
Squash fans are certainly keen to see another Matthew-Willstrop
battle at Canary Wharf in March with the 2014 Classic heading
for another sell-out. Three months ahead of the event, every
ticket has been sold for the final.