DEFENDING British Open champion Nick Matthew admitted he lost to the better player as his bid for a fourth title ended in Hull on Saturday.
The 32-year-old world No 2, from Sheffield, started brightly against France’s Gregory Gaultier but eventually went down 9-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 with there seemingly little love lost between the two rivals after a hotly-contested 70 minutes - Gaultier giving a huge fist-pump to the crowd on exiting the court, while Matthew later saying he was unimpressed by his opponent’s on-court behaviour.
Matthew raced into a 5-0 then an 8-1 lead as the Frenchman seemed to struggle to get to grips with the court, while also becoming frustrated with a number of the refereeing calls.
But the world No 4 pulled the game back to 8-8 and although Matthew managed to eventually take the opening game, he admitted afterwards that the momentum had been lost and he was not able to retrieve it.
The second game belonged to Gaultier who, after racing into a 7-3 lead was able to level proceedings. It was a similar story in the third, again Gaultier quickly building a sizeable advantage at 7-0 with Matthew never close to closing the gap.
The early lead Matthew gained in the next game was soon lost, however, and after Gaultier edged ahead at 5-4 following one of the longest rallies of the match, he never relinquished the lead, victory being sealed when Matthew hit the tin.
“Greg said in his post-match interview that even though he lost the first game he had started to get the momentum,” said a disappointed Matthew afterwards. “The turning point in the match maybe was halfway through the first game even though I won it.
“He sort of got on top at that stage and I never quite got the momentum back for the rest of the match.
“He played some immaculate squash. I was trying to get aggressive and the crowd were getting behind me which was great and I’m really appreciative of that,but he just didn’t give me anything to hit.
“He pinned me in the back corners and I couldn’t get any momentum or any aggression into the game from there on, but all credit to him.”
It will be a British Open final debut for Gaultier on Sunday afternoon, with Ashour appearing in his second final after last year’s defeat to Matthew at the O2 Arena.
“I think on the form guide Greg is probably more like No 2 in the last few months behind Ramy so the rankings sometimes take time to evolve.
“He thoroughly deserved it today - I don’t want to comment too much on his behaviour - his squash is fantastic, but his behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.”