Yorkshire rivals prepare for final showdown once again

James Willstrop, left, and Nick Matthew.
James Willstrop, left, and Nick Matthew.
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JAMES WILLSTROP fought his way through to the final of the squash men’s singles to earn another chance to get the better of his long-time fierce rival Nick Matthew.

The 30-year-old, from Pontefract, will not want reminding he has not beaten his fellow Yorkshireman in a meaningful meeting since December 2007, ironically in the defending champion’s hometown of Sheffield, in the English Open.

Willstrop, seeded two in Glasgow and a former world No 1, lost out to Matthew in the final of the same event four years ago in Delhi, going down 11-6 11-7 11-7. It was just one in a long list of defeats at the hands of the former world 
No 1, top seed at the Games and also the current world champion.

Willstrop was given a good workout in last night’s second semi-final by India’s Saurav Ghosal, before emerging as a relatively comfortable 11-8 11-8 11-5 winner.

Matthew was on court earlier and won in similarly convincing style, getting the better of fellow Englishman Peter Barker 11-3 
13-11 11-6.

Barker – the third seed – will go into today’s bronze medal match with Ghosal as favourite.

Matthew’s presence in the final, while expected by everybody connected with the sport, did not look such a certain thing six weeks ago when he was admitted to hospital for a knee operation, leaving him facing a race against time to be fit to defend his title.

“I couldn’t have wished for any more, to be honest,” said Matthew after yesterday’s victory.

“A few weeks ago I would have signed a million pieces of paper for that. I need to enjoy it and then really refocus ahead of the final.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would feel as good as I do with the knee, and I can’t get carried away.

“I feel as good as I ever have, which is testament to the guys that work with me.

“I said to them to keep me fit and my squash will come back quick and it seems that way. I am conscious I don’t want to fall short of the line – I want to run through that tape.”

Matthew made it through to yesterday’s semi-finals after overcoming Guernsey’s Chris Simpson 11-7 11-8 11-9 in Saturday’s quarter-finals, while Willstrop took less than half an hour to beat Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen 11-1 11-7 11-3.

In the women’s singles, Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf saw her hopes of a medal ended by defending champion and dominant world No 1 Nicol David in Saturday’s quarter-finals.

David enjoyed an 11-9 11-7 5-11 11-4 victory, but Duncalf emerged with plenty of credit.

“It was always going to be a tough match but I was looking forward to it– I was dying to get on this court,” said Duncalf.

“I think I played well and it’s the best I’ve felt on court for a while.

“It’s always disappointing to lose, especially in an atmosphere like this where you just want to stay out there as long as you can.

“She is the world No 1 and I played well.”

David eased into today’s final by beating New Zealand’s Joelle King 11-6 11-8 11-5 and will meet England’s Laura Massaro, who made it through after getting the better of fellow Englishwoman Alison Waters 11-5 12-14 11-3 11-8.