Matthew bids for British Open hat-trick

SHEFFIELD’S Nick Matthew bids for a third British Open title on Sunday knowing he will have to overcome the game’s form player to make history.

The 31-year-old world No 2, third seed for the event at London’s O2 Arena, swept into the final (4pm) with a convincing defeat of fellow Englishman Peter Barker, winning out 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 in 45 minutes.

The Yorkshireman was triumphant when the prestigious tournament was last staged three years ago, beating Leeds’s James Willstrop in a memorable two-hour epic at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.

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But it won’t be his fellow Yorkshireman - currently world No 1 - who he will come up against on Sunday afternoon, not after the 28-year-old was despatched by an in-form Ramy Ashour in four games in Saturday’s other semi-final.

For Ashour, a former world No 1 himself, it will be a first appearance in a British Open final and, if one thing is certain, he won’t be affected by the partisan crowd cheering on Matthew to repeat his triumphs of 2006 and 2009.

“The match between James and Ramy looked like a brutal one,” said Matthew. “Ramy is in great form, and it’s bound to be a big match. I’m excited - it’s the British Open final.”

And while the disappointment at not reaching a fourth final will have been obvious, Willstrop was generous in defeat to his Egyptian opponent, who came from a game down to win 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 after a captivating hour’s squash.

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“I got really frustrated, because I couldn’t produce the accuracy,“ said Willstrop. “And that is all credit to him. I really mean it, I’m not saying that I played badly, so he won, it’s really the opposite, I played badly because he forced me to.

“The only little satisfaction is that I gave it everything - but it was just not good enough. I hate to lose, I really hate to lose, but there are moments where you can only turn round, shake the hand of your opponent, and say ‘too good’”.

Ashour, who won his last meeting against Matthew at the El Gouna International, added: “James is such a great player. He is the world No 1 and I had to raise my game to come close to him. Beating him is giving me a lot of confidence.”

In the women’s draw, home interest was ended when Laura Massaro went down 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 to world No 1 and clear favourite Nicol David.

The top seed faces Egyptian 16-year-old Nour El Sherbini, who beat compatriot Raneem El Weleily in four games to reach her first tour final.