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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Nick dominates Willstrop (again)…now it’s Gaultier in the final

Lee Hortonhttps://squashmad.com
Former Sun, Mirror, People and Sunday Express sports executive. Knows a bit about newspapers and the art of talking a good game. Brighter than some but a way to go to match others.

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NICK MATTHEW continued his stranglehold on James Willstrop when he downed his England rival  3-0 in US Open semis making over six and half yearsy since Willstrop beat his rival on world tour.

The seedings and the world rankings put Willstrop ahead, but when these Yorkshire rivals meet, Matthew has won every time since December 2007.

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Matthew certainly seems to have Willstrop’s number. He seems to know where to go for each of Willstrop’s shots, patiently controls the rallies and builds a situation where James is out of position enough to force an easy winner or a stroke. It’s never as easy as that sounds, of course; we’re talking about two of the best three players in the world here, but in a lot of their exchanges there’s a sense of inevitability about it.

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Matthew started well, taking a 6-1 lead in the first and closed it out 11-3. The second was level up to 5-all but then Matthew pulled away again, taking it 11-6. Willstrop came out strongly for the third, led 4-2 but Matthew took seven points in a row before closing out the match 11-5 after 42 minutes.

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“I got a couple of errors and strokes out of him early in the first game,” said Matthew, “and I managed to carry that momentum through to the next two games.

“It’s good to get through in three, Greg’s in great form so I’ll need to be as fresh as possible for the final. I’m not putting any pressure on myself, he’s played seventy-five matches this season and I’ve played four, so he’s much more match sharp than I am! I’ll just go out to express myself and enjoy it, and if I happen to win that would be great!”

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Matthew will face French number one seed Greg Gaultier in today’s final following his 3-0 win over Egyptian Kairm Darwish.

“Greg’s the man in form,” said  Darwish after his quarter-final win last night, and top seed Gregory Gaultier certainly showed that to be true in tonight’s first men’s sem-ifinal.

The top-seeded Frenchman was in control from the outset, controlling the pace, controlling his opponent’s movement, slotting in crisp winners when the chance arose, and led 6-3. Darwish, although subdued compared to last night’s performance, threatened a comeback but, from 7-6, Gaultier eased away again.

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The second was all Gaultier, 6-0 converted to 11-4. It wasn’t a rout, the rallies were contested and it still took 14 minutes, but Gaultier was the one winning them.

Darwish managed to break free of the shackles in the third—Gaultier was always ahead, but never comfortably so. Darwish appealed a let that became a stroke to level at 9-all, then saved match ball on another stroke.

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The Egyptian’s pickup at the front was called by the referees on the next rally, and Gaultier finished it off with a crisp volley drop.

“I stuck to my game plan and was pleased with how I played in the first two games,” said Gaultier. “He played unbelievable squash to beat Shorbagy 3-0 yesterday, I was aware of that and knew I had to be focused from the start.

“In the third I went short too early, and he’s better at the front than me, so it became tough and I was just lucky enough to win the points at the end.

“I’m happy to win in three and really pleased to be in another final, it’s what we’re all here for.”

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