Sunday marks the 20th anniversary edition of the Canary Wharf Classic, sponsored by GillenMarkets. And to mark the moment we are delving through the history books to share some of the all-time Canary Wharf Classic matches.
With this year’s tournament also the swan song of the Classic’s co-founder Alan Thatcher, who also launched Squash Mad, we asked him to trawl his memory banks for sepia-tinged instances of pure squash gold over the years.
By way of an appetiser for this year’s event, which kicks-off on Sunday afternoon at 2pm, here are Thatcher’s top-three ‘Wars at the Wintergarden’…
2010: Nick Matthew v James Willstrop (semi-final)
“In my opinion this is probably the best match ever between two English players and certainly at 127 minutes the longest and it was just phenomenal squash. Those two had an amazing rivalry but what you saw that night was both of them playing well at the same time.
“It was fair, respectful, and tough squash played in a sportsmanlike fashion and the crowd just loved it! The third game was 20-18 and lasted over 30 minutes alone with James winning it. After Nick won the fourth to draw level, Nick hit the ball into the back left-hand corner in the fifth. It was the one and only time James dived for a ball and then his right quad cramped up and he was left crumpled up in agony.
“As a result of this being a self-inflicted injury and James using up his three minutes, Nick sportingly refused to take the win that way but James was crippled and forced to shake his hand anyway. What people didn’t know is that Nick told me he was about 30 seconds away from the same happening to him!”
2008: James Willstrop v John White (final)
“John White had won all his matches 3-2 including against Thierry Lincou in his semi-final which lasted 95-minutes and he went 2-1 up against James and his body packed in!
“But even although James dominated the rallies John dived all over the court and it was just the most entertaining squash you will ever see.
“When James got to match point after a monster rally with John again on the deck the crowd gave them both a three minute standing ovation but really that ovation was for John White and the effort he put in.
“James said after winning that final: ‘If I’m diving around like that at 35 will someone please shoot me!’ and on Sunday I will be announcing the 39-year-old James Willstrop on court.
“So for the sheer fun and enjoyment with two great guys playing superb squash and the crowd purring this is in second place.”
2015: Daryl Selby v Borja Golan (quarter-final)
“This was our third longest match in the history of the tournament. It was so physical and between them there were bodies on the floor throughout this match and it lasted 125-minutes with Daryl winning 14-12 in the fifth.
“Daryl has been such a great supporter of the tournament and he is hugely popular with the Canary Wharf crowd and has featured in three of our longest matches so he definitely deserves that bronze medal for this epic match against Borja.”