NICK MATTHEW announced his intention to return to Manchester for next year’s World Championships after continuing his love affair with the city by clinching the British Squash Grand Prix crown.
A 3-0 victory over long-time rival James Willstrop may look easy when looked over in the record books in years to come, but the 36-year-old from Sheffield was quick to acknowledge the difficult test he’d been given by his fellow Yorkshireman, the pair battling on court for just over 50 minutes.
For Matthew, the victory was a first PSA World Tour title success since last year’s Canary Wharf Classic in London – he won the British Nationals in Manchester in February – and marked the perfect ending to a difficult period which, in part due to injury, led to him contemplating giving up the sport he dearly loves.
Willstrop, who hasn’t beaten Matthew in a tour event since 2007, had gone into the final at the National Squash Centre boosted by a semi-final win over world No 3 Gregory Gaultier. But he admitted afterwards he couldn’t contain a player who was simply “too good” on the night.
Matthew started strongly to take the opening game before withstanding an onslaught from his 33-year-old opponent to also take the second game tie-break. The third game proved the most comfortable of the lot to enable him to lift the 34th PSA World Tour title of his career.
“We’ve played an incredible number of matches - big tournament matches in semi-final or finals - against each other and this was another so I’m just delighted to have come out on top,” said Matthew.
“A lot has been said about our rivalry but there is a tremendous admiration for what both of us do on the court. Off the court as well in the way we prepare, we couldn’t be two more different people but that leads to some unbelievable matches.
“It wasn’t easy at any stage today and it could have been very different. In that second game he showed how good he was and I was lucky to get that game. I knew I had to just push through and I’m really pleased to back it up.”
He added: “There’s been a lot of soul-searching and times when I wasn’t sure if I could cut it at the top anymore, so there was a lot of emotion that came out at the end tonight.
“All that behind the scenes work, the work of the team that have been on that journey with me and the sacrifices that everyone makes as part of that melting pot are what comes out. I’m happy to be playing but to know that I can still produce it and get over the line is an incredible feeling.
“There were times where I thought this might be my last year but I definitely have plans to finish this season and take it from there. I would dearly, dearly love to play in one more commonwealth games and of course the Worlds in Manchester next year.
Willstrop was left wishing he could have made it a closer contest, but admitted Matthew was as strong now as he was six years ago.
“I just wish I could have given him more of a match,” said Willstrop.
“But I have to salute him. I gave everything there but he was too good, and too accurate - I couldn’t get him out of position. People talk about his age but he’s as good as he was six years ago when we were playing finals.”
There’s been a lot of soul-searching and times when I wasn’t sure if I could cut it at the top anymore, so there was a lot of emotion that came out at the end tonight.Nick Matthew