PSA International 50 Canary Wharf Squash Classic
East Wintergarden, London, England
(4) Peter Barker (England) beat (1) Nick Matthew 11-7, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8 (69 mins)
(2) James Willstrop (England) beat (3) Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt) 6-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 (66 mins)
By ALAN THATCHER
Peter Barker stunned top seed Nick Matthew to set up an all-English final against James Willstrop in the tenth anniversary final of the Canary Wharf Classic.
No.4 seed Barker had the packed crowd behind him all the way as he matched Matthew’s pace and precision, and he’s hoping for the same support in the final when he faces the 6ft 4in Willstrop.
The East Wintergarden erupted as Barker clinched only his second career win over the man who has won the last three Canary Wharf finals.
Barker had to fight back from 7-4 down to win the decisive fourth game in a pressure-cooker atmosphere.
Barker was pumped up for the battle and clawed his way back into the game despite two video reviews going against him.
Playing at a phenomenal pace, both men fought toe to toe like gladiators as the majority of the London crowd willed Barker to win.
As he closed the gap, Matthew conceded two penalty strokes and Barker clinched victory with a dying length in the back left corner.
The 29-year-old left-hander from Brentwood had promised to go flat out this week and he finished strongly to take the first game 11-7.
With Barker leading the second game 10-9, Matthew’s volley rattled the tin to give his rival a massive boost of confidence to top up the adrenalin coursing through his veins.
Barker led 5-3 in the third but Matthew, the 32-year-old from Sheffield, matched his opponent for aggression and took advantage of some desperate retrieving to finish off openings at the front of the court.
As Matthew built a solid lead in the fourth, he must have hoped to take the match to five, but Barker’s determination and solid, constructive play helped him home in a dramatic finale.
The applause echoed round the packed arena for several minutes before Barker could begin his post-match interview.
He said: “I was glad to get across the finishing line at the end. I admit some of it wasn’t pretty and I was fishing a bit, but it’s great to double my win tally against Nick in the head-to-head series. I’m now on two!
“Nick and I have grown up together in squash and played each other so many times down the years.
“He is a great champion and you know you will have to give it everything to get a win.
“The crowd were simply amazing and I hope they can make the same noise in the final.”
No.2 seed Willstrop hit back to beat El Shorbagy after losing the first game to the big-hitting Egyptian.
From 4-4 in the opening game, El Shorbagy stepped up the pace and buried a flat-nick kill to win it 11-6, then punched the air in delight.
Willstrop, the 29-year-old from Leeds who was world No.1 for 11 months of 2012, dominated the opening phase of the second game with a phenomenal display of controlled squash to build a lead of 6-2.
The No.4 seed El Shorbagy clawed his way back but at 9-7 he hit he ball out of court to give Willstrop game ball. El Shorbagy responded by slamming a flat kill but then hit the tin to give his opponent the game 11-8.
Willstrop continued to dominate in the third but after reaching game ball at 10-6 he hit the tin twice and conceded a penalty stroke before nailing a straight volley kill to win the game 11-9.
The fourth game was full of drama as 22-year-old Bristol student El Shorbagy moved 6-3 ahead before Willstrop tightened up his play to claw his way back.
El Shorbagy claimed only one more point as Willstrop turned the screw, clinching victory in 66 minutes of pulsating squash.
He said: “There were some very subtle changes of pace, and at the highest levels it is a matter of subtle differences that can mean the difference between winning and losing.
“Mohamed and I have developed a great rivalry and respect and he beat me in the semi-finals of the World Championships to show how dangerous and talented a player he is.
“We have had lots of battles all over the world, including the semi-final here last year, and I am very pleased to get through to another final.
“I am happy with my movement and the way I am playing, but there’s another massive battle looming tomorrow in the final, where I will need everything to be working.”
Final (7.30pm): (2) James Willstrop (England) v (4) Peter Barker (England)
Tournament website: www.canarywharfsquash.com