NICK MATTHEW created history in the desert last night when he became the first Englishman to be crowned world champion by defeating fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop.
Once the 30-year-old world No 2 from Sheffield levelled the match by taking the second game in Saudi Arabia last night there was only going to be one winner as he gradually ground down his 27-year-old rival to run out a comfortable 8-11 11-6 11-2 11-3 winner in 74 minutes, chalking up his ninth straight victory over Willstrop.
It marks a remarkable year for Matthew, who as well as becoming world champion clinched two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in September and enjoyed a three-month spell at the top of the PSA world rankings before being replaced by Egyptian Ramy Ashour, who was forced out injured in Al-Khobar.
Willstrop had entered the final on the back of two hard-fought victories against fellow Englishmen Darly Selby and Peter Barker and despite him getting off to the better start, Matthew's relentless play gradually took its toll on the Leeds man.
As Willstrop tired, Matthew seemed to find even more energy and he admitted afterwards that his biggest problem was trying to keep himself in check as the finishing line edged closer.
"I only thought about winning the title in the last few rallies – I'm only human," said a delighted Matthew. "At that stage you are playing against yourself and not necessarily your opponent. You are fighting the demons in your head. You can see the finish line and as it comes closer in terms of score it actually gets further away because you are drifting in your thoughts.
"I didn't play badly in the first game, it was just that James was simply immaculate. He was unlucky in that he had had a couple of hard matches coming into the final which I think took it out of him. I never in my wildest dreams thought all this would happen to me."
Matthew and Willstrop could do it all again later this month when they are seeded to meet each other in the final of the Delhi Masters, the last major event of the year.