England men reign supreme but Nicol David downs Laura Massaro to retain crown
By Squash Mad Reporting Team in Glasgow
Top seeds Nicol David and Nick Matthew marked an historic Commonwealth Games double when both successfully retained their Squash singles titles at the Glasgow 2014 Games.
David – the world No1 from Malaysia who is competing in her fifth successive Games since her maiden home soil appearance in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, aged 15 – beat England’s world champion Laura Massaro in the women’s final, while world number two Matthew survived a five-game battle with fellow Englishman James Willstrop in a repeat of the 2010 men’s final in Delhi.
Matthew triumphed 11-9 8-11 11-5 6-11 11-5 in a repeat of the final in Delhi, although the manner of his win was markedly different from his straight-sets sweep four years ago.
The Sheffield man seized the lead early in the decider and held firm for a win which completed an English sweep of the medals after Peter Barker beat India’s Saurav Ghosal in the bronze medal play-off.
Matthew edged the first set 11-9 after a minor delay when he lost a contact lens and an angry confrontation with the referee when Willstrop was awarded a point after clattering the ball into Matthew’s legs.
But Willstrop responded well and remained ahead throughout a tight second set which he eventually edged 11-8 on his third game ball.
Matthew took early control of the third, streaking into an 8-1 lead and holding off a fleeting Willstrop recovery to take it 11-5, but again Willstrop responded by dominating the fourth to force the decider.
Matthew’s victory was all the more impressive as his hopes of competing in Glasgow were threatened by a knee injury, which required surgery last month and left his participation in doubt.
“Five weeks ago I was on a hospital bed, throbbing pain in my body,” said Matthew.
“How the medics have done it… it is incredible. They need to retire now because it can’t get better than that.”
It was an unexpectedly upbeat Willstrop who explained his thoughts after his defeat. “I’m disappointed to lose, of course, but I am really proud of my performance. I just enjoyed every second of it – I just loved being on that court. I’ve come off having lost, but I’m happy.
“I have great respect for what Nick has achieved. It’s miraculous what he’s done to get back after his surgery.
“When I got the results of the second scan (after a first had suggested a serious condition), it was like getting a new lease of life.
“I did hit a wall in the third – but I got second wind in the fourth. I haven’t had a match like that for ages, but neither has he.
“This is not a loss – I’ve won a silver medal. Playing on an occasion like this doesn’t get any better.”
Earlier, world champion Laura Massaro was forced to settle for the silver medal after losing the women’s final 12-10 11-2 11-5 to long-time world number one Nicol David of Malaysia..
Like Matthew, it is back-to-back Commonwealth golds for David, who did not drop a single game when she won in Delhi in 2010.
David has been world number one for 99 months and has won the World Open title a record seven times.
But Massaro, 30, is the world number two and went into the Commonwealths full of confidence after winning both the World Open and British Open titles this year.
Massaro, based in Preston, began quickly and looked to be controlling the opening game, but David showed why she has been the dominant figure in women’s squash for so long by fighting back to pinch it 12-10.
The second game was much more one-sided as David played some brilliant shots and displayed her trademark athleticism around the court to breeze through 11-2 with little trouble.
Massaro fought hard in the third – and required treatment after being accidentally caught in the face by David’s racket – but it was not enough.
I’m disappointed with my performance – you go into a gold medal match knowing the worst case is a silver medal, but you want to win the gold,” the second seed said afterwards.
“Nicol is the champion and she’s been world no.1 for seven years. I feel like I have a lot of confidence when I play her, but when she brings out a game like that, it’s very hard to break her down.
“She’s so quick that you end up doing something rash – that’s what she brings out in all her opponents.
“I took a racket to the face and think it bruised my gums, but it was more shock than anything. It’s a non-contact sport, so when I get hit, I panic a little bit.
“Ultimately my goal was to get a medal and I didn’t try to put a colour on it. A silver is probably what I deserve as I’m second in the world and my performance wasn’t good enough to win gold.”
The men’s bronze medal play-off resulted in a 1-2-3 for England when third seed Peter Barker beat Indian semi-final first-timer Saurav Ghosal, the No4 seed, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5, 11-6. The women’s bronze went to Joelle King after the New Zealander beat England’s Alison Waters 11-7, 11-7, 11-5.
After winning his second successive singles bronze, Barker said: “I was really gutted after yesterday – but to have come away today without a medal would have been even worse. It’s been a long and tough week. I wanted a medal and badly wanted to improve on my bronze in Delhi.
“It’s the first England medal – and that’s why we are here. Medals is what the England team have all worked so hard for.
“Saurav played well – it was a really hard match and for him to have backed up his earlier matches in this way shows how far he has come. He has had some great PSA wins.
“I hope it’s a great final – I wish I was in it. I know Nick has worked really hard over the past few weeks and the reaction on James’s face last night when he won shows how good he feels about making the final.
“This crowd has been the best I’ve ever played in front of. People asked me yesterday if I’d be able to pick myself up for this today? Believe me, it’s a privilege and honour to be able to play in such an arena.”
When asked if he could look positively at the result, as the youngest of the 2014 semi-finalists and the only one likely to be competing in the 2018 Games, Ghosal said: “It’s hard right now to think of that. I’ve trained really hard for this – four years is too far away. Right now I’m just gutted.
“To do everything I’ve done and not come away with anything tangible is super depressing. Yesterday I played really – and came up against two players really sharp on the day. But I’m happy I could back up four days in a row.”
King’s reaction to her win: “One of the most pleasing things about this is the way I’ve played all week. I really enjoyed myself out there today – I felt able to let go. I loved every second of it – it’s amazing what you can do when you relax.
“I felt I rose to the occasion.
“I’m really happy to have won a medal and can now look forward to doing better in four years’ time – I’m still young enough, aren’t I?” said the 25-year-old.
“The crowd and atmosphere is AMAZING and the court is beautiful! I’ve never played in front of anything like it – and it’s been like this all week, with the crowds cheering for both players. I have to say a big thank you to Scotland.”
Waters’ reaction was brief: “Joelle played well – she was better on the day. It just wasn’t my day.”
Pictures by GLENN GUAN / The Star