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Saturday, July 31, 2021

ESR: Matthew and Massaro take National titles

Alan Thatcherhttps://squashmad.com
Founder of World Squash Day, Squash Mad and the new Squash 200 Partnership, building clubs of the future. Founder of the Kent Open and co-promoter of the St. James's Place Canary Wharf Classic. Author and Public Speaker.

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National champions Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro

British National Squash Championships News

RESULTS: British National Championship, Manchester, England

Men’s final:
[2] Nick Matthew (Yorks) bt [1] James Willstrop (Yorks) 11-8, 11-3, 6-11, 14-12 (81m)

Women’s final:
[3] Laura Massaro (Lancs) bt [8] Alison Waters (Middx) 11-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4 (53m)

Nick MatthewLaura Massaro Win National Titles

Nick Matthew prevailed in the historic men’s British National Championship final between the top two players in the world when he beat fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop in an 81-minute display of dazzling world class squash at theNational Squash Centre in Manchester.

The 31-year-old from Sheffield went into the match against Leeds-based Willstrop boasting a 31-9 career head-to-head advantage – with a winning streak of 18 matches over the past four years.

But 28-year-old Willstrop has hit the best form of his career recently – leading to taking over as world number one last month.

Matthew, who regained the world’s top ranking this month, admitted that he had to play some of the best squash of his career to fend off his county rival in the much-touted national final.

After taking the first two games and leading in the third, Matthew was unable to prevent Willstrop recover to reduce the deficit – and, in the fourth, move to within a point of forcing a decider.

But after a series of stunning rallies and on his third match ball, Matthew clinched an 11-8, 11-3, 6-11, 14-12 victory after 81 minutes to win a record-equalling fourth title.

“James put up an amazing fight, as always,” Matthew told the packed Manchester crowd afterwards. “People talk about his racket skills, but he’s also the most determined player I’ve played. It was just brutal.

“Everyone talks about the rivalry, but there’s also a great deal of respect between us.”

Matthew reached last year’s final, as expected, but lost out to England team-mate Daryl Selby.

“It was one of the biggest disappointments of my career – losing the title last year.

“Tonight, I feel I played the best squash of my career for the first two and a half games.

“It means a lot to me to win the title for a record-equalling fourth time,” added Matthew.

Willstrop, who this week also launched his autobiography “Shot and a Ghost”, was not wholly downhearted: “I was disappointed not to win, but not disappointed in my performance.

“I’m not worried about what happened score-wise – it’s more about what’s happening in the match and making sure that I’m in it,” explained the world number two and twice former champion.

“People keep mentioning the run – and that’s great. But the key thing is my squash maintains a high standard and I give it my best.”

Laura Massaro in action

Laura Massaro became the first player to successfully defend the women’s title for eight years when she beat LondonerAlison Waters 11-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4.

Waters, a former world No3, was making a comeback after Achilles surgery and was returning to competitive action for the first time since the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.

Massaro took the opening two games and led 7-4 in the third. But Waters rediscovered her former form to come back to take the game before the 28-year-old from Preston took control in the fourth to close out the match after 53 minutes.

“The national title is huge for all British players – there are some big names on that trophy,” said the exuberant Massaro after her second successive title.

“To be able to win it last year was special, so to do it again is fantastic.

“I was disappointed not to defend my title in Cleveland (USA) last month, so it is good to defend this one.

“Ali was such a good player before she got that terrible injury. To get back to this level, after what she’s been through last year, is incredible.”

Waters was understandably disappointed: “I’ve got mixed feelings – I’d like to have won, of course.

“I haven’t played a match like that for so long. I didn’t think I played badly at all. But she’s improved so much since I’ve been away.

“But if you’d told me at the start of the week that I’d be in the final, I would have bitten your leg off!”

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