PSA International 50 Canary Wharf Squash Classic
East Wintergarden, London, England
(2) James Willstrop (England) beat (4) Peter Barker (England) 11-8, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4 (57 mins)
By ALAN THATCHER
James Willstrop collected his fourth Canary Wharf Classic title with a stunning display of quality squash to subdue his England team-mate Peter Barker.
The No.4 seed from Essex had produced an outstanding performance to beat reigning champion Nick Matthew in the semi-finals, but he was unable to repeat that level of consistency against Willstrop.
Barker launched a ferocious attack at the start of the match, winning the first four points, but once Willstrop found his rhythm and length he began to dominate the tenth anniversary final of this sell-out London tournament.
From 5-2 down Willstrop won four points in a row and from 7-7 he controlled the closing phase of the game to win 11-8.
The No.2 seed from Leeds looked strangely subdued as he failed to maintain that level of consistency in the second game.
Barker made fewer mistakes and his high-paced driving had the 6ft 4in Willstrop in all sorts of trouble, twisting and turning uncomfortably.
However, that was Barker’s last moment of supremacy as Willstrop reached his peak. Playing supremely accurate squash, his drives clung to the side walls and his drop shots found their targets at the front of the court.
He won 10 points in a row from 7-4 in the third to 6-0 in the fourth to illustrate his control.
He even had time to throw in a few attempts at matching the amazing triple-fake shot he produced in the recent Davenport North American Open and launched an internet sensation.
He won the third and fourth games by an 11-4 margin to clinch a fourth title in his sixth final at a packed East Wintergarden. It was the first final in the tournament’s history to be concluded in less than an hour.
While the majority of the London crowd may have been cheering for local favourite Barker, they acknowledged the sheer mastery of a sporting genius playing squash of a phenomenally high standard.
Willstrop, who won the very first Canary Wharf final against Thierry Lincou as a 19-year-old in 2004, was delighted to claim his first PSA title since beating Ramy Ashour in the final of the North American Open in February last year.
After receiving his trophy from the Canary Wharf Group company secretary, John Garwood, he said: “To win any final at this level requires a massive physical and mental effort.
“Peter played superbly to win last night and any victory against Nick requires a huge effort.
“He must have gone home feeling very happy with that victory and it must have felt like winning the final.
“It’s so difficult to back it up the next day but the first two games tonight were as tough as they come and I was pleased to play so well and win my fourth Canary Wharf title.
“Winning any title is a wonderful occasion and especially here. This is a fantastic venue, and I love coming here. To win at Canary Wharf is very special to me.”
Barker, asked how well his opponent had played, said: “Much better than me, that’s for sure. You saw tonight just how good a player James is.
“It was a good win for me last night but I couldn’t back it up.
“James is four in the world and I don’t think he’s happy with that – he wants to be back at the top of the game again. He’s played well all week and he deserves it.
“Last night, I was really trying to puff it up and put in another performance today. Not quite there, but a pretty good week for me.”
During the presentation ceremony Mr Garwood said: “That match, and the quality of the squash we have seen all week at Canary Wharf, demonstrates why squash should be in the Olympics instead of a sport like golf.”
His feelings were echoed by BBC sports presenter John Inverdale, who was in the audience. He said: “Golf doesn’t need to be in the Olympics because so many leading players are ambivalent about playing.
“But there is no reason why squash shouldn’t be in the Games because it would be the peak of any squash player’s career.
“If squash can fulfil the IOC requirements of global participation then it stands a very good chance of being voted in.”
Tournament website: www.canarywharfsquash.com