James Willstrop denied in epic final at British National Squash Championships

February 18 2018

James Willstrop was beaten by Nick Matthew in an epic showdown in the final of the British National Squash Championships in Manchester.

In his final appearance in the championships, Matthew overcame his long-time domestic rival 11-7 12-10 8-11 11-6 in a tightly contested 69-minute finale to claim a record tenth British National title.

Remarkably before yesterday’s clash, the younger James Willstrop had never triumphed over his rival in any British National Championship match - falling short on seven occasions, including five final defeats.

With the sound of Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ ringing in Matthew’s ears, Matthew leapt into action, huffing & puffing to a hard earned 5-1 lead inside the first game. In a tight opening encounter characterised by gruelling minute-long rallies & lung busting scrambles, Willstrop clawed his way back into the tie, utilising his formidable short game to his advantage to stretch within a point of drawing level at 7-7. On the back of an uncharacteristically wayward Willstrop serve, Matthew rallied, powering to victory & claiming the first game 11-7.

With the wind behind his sails, the three-time British Open winner began coasting, sailing to a 6-2 lead before a resurgent Willstrop again broke back to complicate proceedings for the top seed. With the scores level at 10-10, the English pair began an enthralling duel of cat & mouse until Willstrop made the first slip, enabling Matthew to clinch the second game & put the English No.1 within one game of a fairy-tale tenth title.

As tensions rose on court, James Willstrop continued to battle admirably - refusing to give in to the defending champion’s challenge & advancing to a 9-5 lead in the third. Undeterred by the looming sound of defeat, Willstrop pressed on, capitalising on the slightest of Matthew mishits & eventually wrapping up a deserved 11-8 win.

Where many would have faltered under the pressure, Matthew showed no visible signs of nerves, grinding down his opponent & forcing his challenger into completing uncharacteristic unenforced errors on more than four occasions.

While this may not be the first masterclass Matthew has produced on Manchester’s glass court, it may be the last, but not before treating the awaiting audience to an exhibition of beautiful squash. With five match balls remaining, Matthew utilised every inch of his six-foot frame to swing at one final National championship ball & claim his tenth British National Championship crown in the process.

Speaking after the match, Matthew expressed his disbelief at attaining a record ten titles: “I didn’t think I would get one to be honest.” “I had three goals this year, one of them was to win the World Championships in December & the second was to try & get a tenth National title. “As James said, I am a pretty horrible person on court, but James is pretty tough on there as well. We are both tough & that is why we have had such a good rivalry over the years.”

James Willstrop added: “It was a great match, I really enjoyed the squash on there. It’s a good job he wins more than he loses, but he is a wonderful player, a wonderful ambassador for toughness & an incredibly hard player to compete against. I love playing the game – I am really enjoying it & if my body allows me to do it, I will keep going. I can’t count on that necessarily but hope I will be back next year.”

British National Squash Championships
Men’s Final:
[1] Nick Matthew (England) 3-1 [2] James Willstrop (England) 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6 (69m)

James Willstrop defeated compatriot Daryl Selby 11-9 11-4 11-2 to reach his ninth British National Squash Championships final & will face long-time domestic rival Nick Matthew in today’s final at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The two-time British National Champion went into the match having only lost to Daryl Selby once in 26 meetings, starting with the British U12 final in 1994! – a statistic that belies how close the two players are in standard & rankings.

The first game went point-for-point until Willstrop, helped by a couple of fortunate bounces at the end, took the game 11-4. Willstrop took control early in the second game & moved quickly to double his lead – winning the game 11-4. Following a three-minute injury break, Selby returned to the court to contest the third game but was unable to prevent Willstrop closing out the match 11-2.

"We're both in our 30s, you have to look after your body but sometimes it lets you down,” sympathised Willstrop upon reaching his ninth final. “Daryl played well at the start & while you never like to profit from someone’s injury, it's good to be through to the final with a bit of effort saved. Daryl & I have always had a great relationship & it’s a great pleasure to be playing at 34 years of age – we have a wonderful life. We play doubles together & it is good to work with him.”

Fellow UNSQUASHABLE player Sarah-Jane Perry was unable to reach the women’s final after losing to compatriot Alison Waters 11-6 11-4 8-11 10-12 11-5 in an exciting 61-minute semi-final.

British National Squash Championships Semi-Finals Results:
[3/4] Tesni Evans (Wales) 3-0 [1] Laura Massaro (England) 11-3, 11-8, 11-9 (36m)
[3/4] Alison Waters (England) 3-2 [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (England) 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5 (61m)
[2] James Willstrop (England) 3-0 [3/4] Daryl Selby (England) 11-9, 11-4, 11-2 (35m)
[1] Nick Matthew (England) 3-1 [5/8] Chris Simpson (England) 6-11, 11-2, 11-9, 11-6 (64m)

UNSQUASHABLE: second most used racket at British National Squash Championships qualification
UNSQUASHABLE was the second most used racket amongst players competing in the men’s qualification for this year’s British National Squash Championships in Manchester.

Patrick Rooney, Charlie Lee, Julian Tomlinson & Arron Ken contested the final rounds of qualification in an attempt to join fellow UNSQUASHABLE players James Willstrop, Josh Masters & George Parker in the 1st round being staged at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

#1: Tecnifibre
#3: Dunlop
#4: Eye
=#5: Karakal
=#5: HEAD
=#5: Prince
=#5: Black Knight
=#5: Wilson

In the women’s main draw, UNSQUASHABLE will be used by 2nd seed & former champion Sarah-Jane Perry.

UNSQUASHABLE is committed to developing equipment to be used by the world’s leading players because we believe that engineering equipment for professional competition makes for a better product for the everyday player.

UNSQUASHABLE sponsored players and brand ambassadors competing on the PSA World Tour are sponsored by AJ Bell, one of the UK’s largest providers of online investment platforms and stockbroker services.

For more information, visit: www.psaworldtour.com & www.squashsite.com

James Willstrop uses our UNSQUASHABLE JAMES WILLSTROP AUTOGRAPH squash racket which is available exclusively from www.unsquashable.com

Sarah-Jane Perry uses our UNSQUASHABLE SARAH-JANE PERRY AUTOGRAPH squash racket which is available exclusively from www.unsquashable.com

UNSQUASHABLE sponsored players & brand ambassadors competing on the PSA World Tour are sponsored by AJ Bell, one of the UK’s largest providers of online investment platforms & stockbroker services.

For more information, visit: www.psaworldtour.com & www.squashsite.com