Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix – Manchester 2012
Sun 23rd Sep, Semi-Finals:
Top seeds through to the final
By STEVE CUBBINS in Manchester
Two contrasting semi-finals at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, with top seeds James Willstrop and Nick Matthew winning through to a continuation of their rivalry. Willstrop prevailed 15/13 in the fifth in a two-hour encounter with Gregory Gaultier, while Matthew despatched compatriot Peter Barker in straight games in well under half that time.
 James Willstrop (Eng) 3-2  Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 7/11, 11/6, 11/4, 15/17, 15/13 (118m)
 Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-0  Peter Barker (Eng) 11/6, 11/7, 11/3 (48m)
Willstrop wins a cracker
James Willstrop came through a marvelous two-hour semi-final against Gregory Gaultier in front of a packed crowd at the National Squash Centre to claim the first place in the final of the Springfield Solutions British Grand Prix.
And what a match it was. Gaultier, the third seed and world number three took a close firt game 11/7, but too many unforced errors were his undoing in the next two games as world number one Willstrop took them 11/6, 11/5.
But Gaultier struck back to take a 5/1 lead in the fourth, had several chances to finish it off from 10/8 up but was getting the worse of the decisions and video reviews. Eventually at 16/15, having saved two match balls, he walked off court after being awarded a stroke, which was confirmed by the appeal process with Willstrop on court and Gaultier sipping from a spectator’s water bottle courtside!
The fifth was a thriller, with both players struggling physically at times, but Willstrop’s amazing retrieving and Gaultier’s occasional errors kept it close all the way.
Gaultier had match ball at 10/9, asked for and was given a let when it was really James’ prerogative to ask. Willstrop appealed, again the video ref disappointed the Frenchman, and it was Willstrop who eventually took it on his third match ball of the game.
The crowd rose, the players embraced. Quite a match.
“When it’s played like that, Squash is the hardest sport on earth,” admitted Willstrop. “There was some twisting and turning tonight, there was no easy point on that court, you needed to plot and plan each and every one…
“This was a pretty special thing that Greg and I could play such quality squash for such prolonged period…”
Gaultier was gracious in defeat: “I really enjoyed playing today. I couldn’t have my normal training preparation with the birth of my baby, but I thought I did not too bad, a bit up and down, but I managed to get through most of the match.
“Shame that tin was just too high for me tonight…”
Matthew makes a 50th final
Second seed Nick Matthew joined Willstrop in the final, which will be a continuation of the Yorkshire pair’s rivalry at the top of the world and domestic rankings, with a straight-game win over compatriot Peter Barker, the world champion looking more and more assured as the match went on.
The win means that Matthew will be appearing in his 50th PSA final.
“Well, James and Greg were a hard act to follow,” admitted Matthew. “Once I had the first game under my belt, I was able to relax and grew more comfortable. You are trying to concentrate on your own game but you can’t help thinking that if you win 3/0, you’ll be fresher for tomorrow!”