Matthew stays calm to see off Dutch threat

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NICK Matthew admitted he had to weather an early storm before powering to victory and a semi-final spot in the British Open.

The 31-year-old world No 2, from Sheffield, found himself behind early on in his quarter-final match with the Netherlands’s Laurens Jan Anjema at London’s O2 Arena.

But the former world No 1 - aiming for his third title – kept his cool to eventualy run out a 4-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 winner after an hour on court.

Saturday will see him meet fellow Englishman Peter Barker, after the sixth seed from Essex caused a surprise by knocking out second seed Gregory Gaultier.

The other semi-final will see Leeds’s world No1 James Willstrop pitted against Ramy Ashour from Egypt - the one man remaining who can deny a home winner of the returning event on Sunday.

“He (Anjema) came out like a steam train,” admitted Matthew following his Friday evening victory.

“I didn’t feel I did much running, he just came up to play that great occasion that is a quarter-final of a British Open. Sometimes, you just have to raise your hand and say ‘too good.’

“The only thing I could do was to stay composed really, weather the storm as LJ was on fire. I was trying to find the right balance between matching his aggression, but at the same time, not getting away with excitement. At the end of the 2nd and 3rd, I managed to come back into it.”

Matthew will be favourite to beat close friend Barker, who has got the better of him just once in 15 previous meetings.

For Willstrop, a meeting with the highly-gifted Ashour - himself a former world No 1 - presents an opportunity to gain a second victory of the year over his long-time rival, who defeated fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana over five games.

Willstrop defeated Ashour in straight games to take this year’s North American Open title, before Egypt’s No 1 got his own back at the El Gouna International after Willstrop retired from the final due to what he felt were poor playing conditions.

“I am very pleased with the way I played,” said Willstrop, following his 45-minute 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 triumph over Egypt’s Mohamed El Shorbagy.

“He made a big effort at the end of the match, cranking the pace up. We were both hitting tight lines and, with the court a little warmer today, the rallies were longer than they have been earlier this week in the cold.”

Willstrop, who has suffered defeat in three previous Open finals, acknowledged he would have to get the better of one of the world’s most exciting players in order to reach a fourth.

“I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself and I am looking forward to playing Ramy,” he added.

“He is a very exciting player and to play him in the semi-finals of the British Open is an enthralling proposition.

“He makes squash great to watch and we all know what he can do with a racket. I am feeling confident, though, and going into it as the best player in the world at the moment.

“But there will be three other players who will be feeling the same.”

While there was delight for both of Yorkshire’s hopes in the men’s draw, there was nothing but heartache for Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf in the women’s event.

The world No 2, looking to reach her second Open final, struggled to cope with Egypt’s Raneem El Weleily and went down 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 in 27 minutes.


Men’s quarter-finals:

(4) Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt (5) Amr Shabana (Egy) 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 1-11, 11-4 (45m)

(1) James Willstrop (Eng) bt (7) Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (45m)

(3) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt (8) Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 4-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (60m)

(6) Peter Barker (Eng) bt (2) Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 11-8, 2-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6 (89m)

Women’s quarter-finals:

(16) Nour El Sherbini (Egy) bt (7) Annie Au (HKG) 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6 (56m)

(5) Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt (2) Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 (27m)

(3) Laura Massaro (Eng) bt (10) Camille Serme (Fra) 11-13, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9 (51m)

(1) Nicol David (Mas) (16) Joelle King (NZL) 8-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-0 (45m)

Saturday schedule

Men’s semi-finals

4pm: James Willstrop v Ramy Ashour

5pm (approx): Nick Matthew v Peter Barker.

Women’s semi-finals

1pm: Nour El Sherbini v Raneem El Weleily

2pm (Approx): Nicol David v Laura Massaro.

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