JAMES WILLSTROP will be hoping to turn the clock back when he takes on long-time Yorkshire rival Nick Matthew in the final of the British Grand Prix in Manchester tonight.
Since first clashing in 2001, the pair have endured an, at-times, ferocious rivalry, with Sheffield-born Matthew very much holding the upper-hand over the last few years having not lost to Willstrop since 2007.
Both have struggled with injury over the past few years, with Willstrop battling back from a career-threatening hip injury suffered in 2014, while world No 4 Matthew at one point required shoulder surgery.
But it has been a long time since the two met in the final of a major PSA World Tour event, with both looking forward to locking horns in a majore showdown once again.
Former world No 1 Willstrop booked his place in the final with an impressive victory over world No 3 Gregory Gaultier that saw him battle back from 2-0 down to seal a 3-2 win and end a six-match losing streak,.
“Nick has just been awesome recently, the way he’s been so dogged and tough – he was fantastic in Qatar and at the US Open so I know I’ll have to give him huge respect on there,” said world No 15 Willstrop. “I know we’re both a bit older, but I think we’re playing as well as we have done for quite a while.”
Matthew booked his place in the final after defeating Daryl Selby 3-1 in the other semi-final.
“I said at the start of the week I came here to win it I’ve been in a lot of semis and finals of late and it’s about time I converted one of them,” said 36-year-old Matthew.
“It’s going to be tough because James is in great form - and its great to see that. Coming from 2-0 down against Gaultier is hard but it didn’t surprise me because of how well James has been playing recently - he’s such a classy player and we’ve always had big battles, I’ve never taken that rivalry for granted.
“We’ve played in literally in every final going!
The thing about our rivalry is that more often than not we’ve played in big matches, that’s why it is such a good rivalry. There have been lots of big finals in there so tomorrow will another to add to the list.”