Saturday, July 13, 2024


Nick Matthew showed to a packed house at the East Wintergarden exactly why he is world champion and world number one as he came out with all guns blazing after losing the first game to completely demolish Peter Barker’s hopes of lifting the Canary Wharf title.

Barker looked superb as he gained his first victory over James Willstrop in the semi-finals after a long wait spanning 17 years of uninterrupted defeats. Buoyed by that success, he took that confidence with him into the final as he won the opening game, playing solid and constructive squash.

Matthew had started sluggishly and his movement looked slightly off the pace as Barker’s ¬†tight, controlled approach allowed him few openings.

However, Matthew came out with all guns blazing in the second game and instantly stamped his mark on the match.

He got in front of his opponent and he stayed there. He hit tight lengths, and moved forward to attack any loose balls from the back. He chopped in some tight drops and if Barker was able to get forward to dig them out then the ball was struck to the back of the court with ferocious pace.

Barker was doing all the chasing and somehow conjured up some amazing retrieving to keep the ball in play but from then on there was only going to be one winner as Matthew stood astride the T like a Yorkshire Colossus.

Tactically, Barker must have been pleased with his start to the match. He played a mixture of attacking and  conservative length, not giving anything away cheaply and moving in to attack anything loose from Matthew.

It worked. But when Matthew stepped up a gear, and played the same game at a higher pace, Barker had no answer.

From losing the first game, Matthew completely dominated the rest of the match and had Barker moving from corner to corner.

The London boy was soon worn down and, despite some astonishing retrievals, he conceded the dominant position on the T as  Matthew worked the ball from corner to corner.

Having won the opening game, Barker was very quickly cast in the role as the gallant loser, chasing all over the court and earning applause for any desperate attempt to keep the ball in play.

He will know that, in a career context, he was overwhelmed by a superior force.

His victory over Willstrop was a watershed moment but he will need to go away and analyse his mistakes and work out what he needs to do to get close to Matthew.

As an interested observer, the answer is simple. He needs to copy what Matthew does to him. And just do it better.

The theory is easy. Making it work against such a phenomenal champion is the tough part.


GET DOWN ON IT: Nick Matthew in action. Picture by JORDAN MANSFIELD






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