Willstrop & Matthew In Record Canary Wharf Classic Bid

13 Feb 13

A record fourth Canary Wharf Classic title is in the sights of both Nick Matthew and James Willstrop as England's leading squash stars prepare to renew their rivalry in next month's PSA World Tour International 50 event which is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Yorkshire pair are seeded to meet in the final of the premier squash tournament which takes place in London from 18-22 March. Tickets for the final have already sold out as squash fans look forward to another classic confrontation between the two former world number ones.

Reigning champion Matthew, the world No2 from Sheffield, is top seed for the tournament, followed by Leeds-based Willstrop, the world No3.

Rising Egyptian star Mohamed El Shorbagy is the third seed, with England's Peter Barker, the world No8 from London, seeded four.

Matthew and Willstrop have each won the tournament three times. Matthew has been the more successful player in recent history, claiming three consecutive victories after Willstrop dominated the early years of the event.

Willstrop won the first final in 2004, beating French ace Thierry Lincou in an historic best-of-seven games final. He then overcame one of the biggest hitters in the game as he beat Scotland's John White in 2007 and Australian Cameron Pilley in 2008.

It was White who smashed the world speed record for squash when he registered 172mph on the Canary Wharf radar gun in 2007, with Pilley taking over the record with a blistering speed of 175mph recorded in the US Open 18 months ago.

Willstrop was aiming for a fourth Canary Wharf title when he reached the 2009 final, but he was hampered by an ankle injury as he lost to another powerful Australian, David Palmer.

Matthew won his first Canary Wharf title at the East Wintergarden venue the following year, but he had to do it the hard way. He and Willstrop battled each other to a standstill in a two-hour semi-final before Matthew recovered in time to beat French star Gregory Gaultier in the final.

In 2011 Matthew beat England team-mate Barker and last year Matthew and Willstrop met for their first Canary Wharf final. Although Matthew won in straight games, the match lasted 78 minutes, which illustrates how closely-matched these two great athletes are.

Aiming to stop another English monopoly is young Egyptian El Shorbagy, the number three seed who beat Willstrop to reach the World Championship final in December. Their semi-final clash lasted 112 minutes before Shorbagy triumphed 11-8 in the deciding fifth game.

Willstrop beat El Shorbagy in the Canary Wharf semi-finals last year but the young Egyptian has grown in confidence since then. Behind El Shorbagy and Barker, a group of English players will be aiming to impress in front of a vociferous home crowd.

Tom Richards, Daryl Selby, Adrian Grant and wild card Charles Sharpes will be joined in the main draw by a hugely talented group of international rivals featuring Alister Walker (Botswana), Simon Rosner (Germany), Stephen Coppinger, the South African who has recently reached the world top 20, and the spectacularly-athletic Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

1st round draw:
[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Alister Walker (BOT) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Qualifier
[4] Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
[3] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Qualifier
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Qualifier
Daryl Selby (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) v Charles Sharpes (ENG)

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