Matthew master class is a short, sharp shock for Willstrop
World champion Nick Matthew overwhelmed his great rival James Willstrop to claim his fourth Canary Wharf Classic title.
Matthew’s high-paced attacking game and astonishing court coverage nullified Willstrop’s best shots.
Matthew clinched an 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 victory in just 51 minutes, the shortest final on record.
Four years ago these two players battled to a standstill in an epic semi-final at the East Wintergarden that finished with Willstrop collapsing with cramp after two hours and seven minutes.
More recently, Matthew beat his Yorkshire neighbour in the National Championship final in Manchester lasting 76 minutes.
The sell-out crowd at this spectacular venue must have been disappointed that this showdown was over so quickly, but were spellbound by the sheer quality and intensity of Matthew’s performance.
At 33, he is one of the fittest players on the PSA World Tour and ran his rival ragged for most of the match.
Willstrop made an uncharacteristically high number of errors, which hastened his decline.
As five of his shots found their way into the tin in the first game alone, Matthew was driving the ball to a dying length in the back corners.
Matthew began the evening attending a photocall with fellow world champion Laura Massaro.
He ended it lifting the Canary Wharf trophy for a fourth time to draw level with Willstrop and joked: “I was aware before the game that James had four titles and I had three. So we’d better come back next year to fight for the fifth title and then both hang up our rackets together.”
He added: “I said to Laura she was going to inspire me this week so when you say something like that you have to back it up. I’m so proud of her.
“Me and James both got through to this final fresh and it was one of the first time I was ready to start strong because I knew that he was on great form.
“And maybe that worked in my favour that he’d not quite been pushed, because he’s sometimes more dangerous when he’s had a four-setter, because then he gets more time to practise those backhand drops.
“Maybe he didn’t have enough practice on those but there was still some amazing shots, and I think it’s the best I’ve moved all year and that really helps.
“I got my tactics right this time but he’ll get his right next time, and it could be his turn.”
The players exchanged some contrasting dialogue as Willstrop complained about crowd noise during the rallies. Matthew added: “Me and James differ slightly on the noise level. It’s the more the better for me, and James prefers less. I see his point. It’s not like us to have two different opinions…”
After lifting the trophy in front of a battery of cameras, Matthew turned to his opponent and said: “James, we’ll have some battles, there’s no doubt about that. I can’t play like that every time.
“I thought you would be used to the noise now with a young son. I’ve got that to look forward to with our first baby due later this year.”
Willstrop countered: “I just want to correct Nick – it’s not the noise I have a problem with, it’s the, sort of, intermittent thing. I love the noise.
“The best venues, like Canary Wharf, like the Tournament of Champions, have brilliant atmospheres and people getting involved, so I’m just putting you right there, Nick.”
He added: “Congratulations to Nick. I just have to take my hat off. I don’t know if it looks like it off the court, but I really gave it everything tonight.
“I feel spent and I’ve tried my best, but Nick is on top form, he’s had a great year.
“I can’t really say anything more – he’s given me a bit of a trouncing.
“So I have a lot to learn and many congratulations to him. And thanks to the crowd for turning up, I know it wasn’t a great final, but I hope there were some decent rallies.”
Canary Wharf Classic
East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England.
(1) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt (2) James Willstrop (Eng) 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (51 min)
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON