Matthew remains the man to beat

NICK MATTHEW justified his world No 1 ranking by defeating nearest rival Ramy Ashour to clinch the Australian Open title.

The 30-year-old, from Sheffield, became the world's leading player at the expense of his Egyptian opponent in May, but the event in Canberra was the first time he had been able to defend his ranking.

It was not an easy route to yesterday's final for Matthew, who had to see off a strong challenge from Leeds's James Willstrop in Saturday's semi-final.

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And he built on that victory to see off Ashour in three closely-fought games, eventually triumphing for his fifth straight PSA Tour title with a 16-14 11-7 12-10 victory to become the first Englishman to win the Australian title since Gawain Briars in 1978.

Ashour ran Matthew close throughout their 59-minute duel before the Yorkshireman prevailed.

"You sometimes have to hold your hands up and say 'alright, what can I do better, what can I do to impose my game on him?" said Matthew. "I think I managed to do that, but in three games I never got an easy point."

On Saturday, Matthew enjoyed a solid 11-7 11-8 11-8 win over Leeds's Willstrop – his sixth straight victory against his Yorkshire rival.

Willstrop, 26, had gone into the duel in fine form, having earlier seen off two former world No 1s in Amr Shabana and David Palmer.