Monday, October 2, 2023

Selby fights all the way in feisty semi-final

Refereeing disputes, booing and Twitter spat overshadow Matthew’s gruelling last four win over Selby 

Defending champion Nick Matthew battled his way into his fourth successive final at the Men’s British National Championships before hitting back at a courtside fan and a Twitter troll angered by the world number one’s bruising four-game victory over Daryl Selby.

In a match plagued by ugly incidents and refereeing disputes, top seed Matthew was kept on court for nearly 90 minutes before struggling past the 3/4 seed 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9.

The England number one, who will face world number five James Willstrop in the final for the third year in a row, was then forced to respond to boos from a member of a crowd during his post-match interview and even became embroiled in a Twitter spat later in the afternoon as emotions threatened to boil over.

Matthew told a packed National Squash Centre crowd: “To the person that booed, I’d like to see how they would react under so much pressure.”

He went on: “It was getting a bit physical out there and the referees were involved more than we’d like. I think we were both taking our space. It’s nothing personal between us. 

“Decisions went against us both during the match. The refs have a tough job,” concluded the triple world champion.

Matthew and Selby newSelby famously defeated Matthew in five games at the Manchester event three years ago and looked set to force a decider after taking a 7-3 lead in the fourth.

However, the 31-year-old became involved in several heated exchanges with the referee and was unable to retain his focus as Matthew clinched a dramatic fourth game to seal an 84-minute win.

A disappointed Selby said: “It’s the semi-finals and emotions and passion obviously run high. I felt like I got some poor decisions in the fourth and it turned the tables. It’s hard to take when you’re on there slogging your guts out, training hard throughout the year.”

A two minute and 28 seconds opening point typified how evenly matched the duo are, despite Matthew’s superior ranking.

But while Matthew had won the last four meetings between the pair, it was Selby who started the stronger in the opening game and reeled off seven of the last eight points in quickfire fashion to overturn a 7-4 deficit and inflict Matthew’s first dropped game of the tournament.

Matthew, 33, responded in the second game and recovered from a blood injury to level the scores.

Three successive tins at the start of the third game left Selby fighting an uphill battle and Matthew ruthlessly took full advantage to move within one game of his seventh final in his last nine appearances at the Manchester event.

An ugly fourth game, however, overshadowed some incredible exchanges at the front of the court as Selby opened up a 4-2 lead. Thereafter, the referee was constantly called into action with four successive lets drawing plenty of arguments from both Matthew and Selby.

Matters finally boiled over with Selby (pictured right) leading 7-3 as the 31-year-old clattered into the back-wall after Matthew attempted to force a let decision with an exaggerated push.

The incident, which left the duo engaged in a heated discussion, seemed to rouse Matthew into action and the joint world number one took the next six points to edge ahead at 9-7 as Selby threatened to lose his temper with some questionable refereeing decisions.

A cross-court smash off Matthew’s next serve drew a huge fist pump and shout from Selby, before the England number three drew level at nine-apiece to the delight of the crowd.

There was still time, though, for one final moment of contention as Matthew benefitted from a fortuitous stroke decision at 9-9 which left Selby exclaiming to the crowd: ‘I want to cry’.

A clever body shot down the middle of the court duly ended Selby’s challenge and sealed Matthew’s fifth final appearance in four months.

Afterwards, the five-time National champion engaged in a war-of-words with one Twitter follower upset about his actions during the match, before the argument was eventually defused later in the evening. 

Matthew will meet fierce rival and second seed James Willstrop in a repeat of their 2010, 2012 and 2013 finals, after the former world number one powered past Adrian Grant in straight games.

Willstrop, a two-time champion at the tournament, had spent a combined total of 93 minutes on court during his opening three rounds and rarely looked troubled as he eased past Grant 11-5, 11-9, 11-8.

Grant, though, will rue a series of forehand errors which were ruthlessly punished by the former world number one in the opening two games.

The Yorkshireman raced into a 7-3 lead in the first game and despite a mid-court collision which left both men sprawled out across the floor, Willstrop recovered his composure to draw first blood.

A 20-minute second game saw Grant threaten a comeback from 8-3 down but despite saving two game balls, another forehand tin saw the 3/4 seed throw his racket at the sidewall in disgust as Willstrop doubled his advantage.

The Canary Wharf champion forged another early lead in the third game and although Grant responded again to level at six-apiece, Willstrop won four of the next five points to amass his first game ball.

Grant saved the first but was unable to retrieve a trademark low backhand drive which handed Willstrop victory in 51 minutes.

The 30-year-old from Pontefract has yet to drop a game this week but will need to end a dismal run against Matthew in Sunday’s final, after losing all but two of their last 28 meetings dating back to 2007.

Willstrop said: “Every day you get up, work and train hard so you look forward to big occasions like tomorrow. There’s no pressure on me, I’m about 800-1 down (on head-to-heads with Nick Matthew) so I can just go out and enjoy it.”

British Nationals draw new

Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite) 

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