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16 Apr 2024

Matthew Upsets Willstrop To Join Top Three Seeds In Bermuda Semis

30 Nov 2007

Nick Matthew upset higher-seeded England team-mate James Willstrop in the quarter-finals of the Endurance World Open in Bermuda to join the top three seeds in the semi-finals of the flagship $175,000 PSA Tour event at the island's Fairmont Southampton Resort.

Perhaps slightly off his game after surviving two successive 90-minute matches in the previous rounds, fourth seed Willstrop never seemed to hit his stride. Looking sharp throughout, seventh seed Matthew won all of the long, hard rallies - and by the third game was in complete charge.

"I've got nothing but respect for James," said the 27-year-old from Sheffield after his 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 victory in 60 minutes. "We had some very tough rallies, and I don't know how I managed to win them all. Games can really turn on those rallies. I think the fact I was a little bit fresher than James helped me. I just started working with a new fitness coach, Mark Campbell, and it's paying off."

World number six Matthew will now face Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the second seed ranked three places higher. Gaultier also only need three games to get the better of Scotsman John White, beating the US-based sixth seed 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-5 in 55 minutes.

But it was no easy stroll for the No2 seed. White came out with fierce determination in front of a strongly partisan crowd and gave it all he had - and then some! The first game was a humdinger of a battle with Gaultier edging ahead until score tied at 8-8, then Gaultier hit two uncharacteristic tins to give White two game ball chances that he was unable to convert. Gaultier won four points in a row to take the first game.

The second game stayed close until 6-6,when Gaultier hit his stride and rattled off five unanswered points for a 2/0 lead.

It was surely match over, but White showed why he has a reputation as one of the great players of the game. He simply refused to concede as the two exchanged the lead until 6-6 when White finally began to show signs of fatigue. At 8-5 up, Gaultier ran White to every corner of the court during an unbelievable rally in which the Scot retrieved the impossible time and again. When he finally lost the rally, an exhausted White received an ovation from the crowd. Yes, he then went on to lose the match but to Bermuda squash fans he ended a true winner!

"It was a tough game," acknowledged the 24-year-old from Aix-en-Provence. "I had to keep the ball away from him. He's very tall and very fast. It's not easy. He was hitting the ball so hard it's not easy to control. I just had to keep it good and tight. Tomorrow is going to be tough. I've won the last three against Nick but this is the World Open."

The other semi-final will pitch favourite Amr Shabana, the world number one from Egypt, against third seed David Palmer, the defending champion from Australia.

Shabana face fellow former champion Thierry Lincou, the fifth seed from France. The first game was close all the way, with both players a little tentative at times. Lincou had two game balls at 10-8 but Shabana levelled before Lincou edged ahead and took the game 12-10. Errors made the difference. In the second game, Shabana started to find his touch, retrieving well and growing in confidence.

Level at five-all, Shabana pushed ahead to 10-6 and played a brilliant reverse boast to win the game. The third game was squash at its best with both exchanging the lead to 10-10 and this time it was Shabana who finished it 12-10. He raced ahead in the fourth to 5-0 and always looked in command despite a spirited but brief comeback by Lincou - Shabana eventually winning 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-10 (2-0), 11-5 in 64 minutes.

"I had to play to my maximum, 110%," conceded the favourite. "It was extremely tough, really hot today. I was very intense in the 1st game - hit n' run - and he hit hard and low. It was tough to hit shots. Halfway through game two I figured out what to do. I changed my game plan, slowing it down, then hit hard and low when I had the opportunity.

"You have to counter your opponent," explained the 28-year-old from Giza. "Today I felt good. I love playing here in Bermuda. I've been here three or four times now and the crowd is so smart; they really understand the game."

Palmer faced Welshman Alex Gough, the only unseeded player to reach the last eight. The tour veteran - who celebrates his 37th birthday next week - had reached the quarters after upsets over eighth seed Lee Beachill and ninth seed Wael El Hindi.

Palmer started as he intended to continue, dominating the centre of court, keeping Gough pinned at the back of court as much as possible, then forcing him forward, with a mix of power and finesse. At the start of the second game, Gough won the longest rally of the match - to much applause from an appreciative audience. But he paid for it later in the game as Palmer rattled off seven consecutive points. Gough never gave up but never looked to be in contention.

"Shawn (Moxham) and I prepared for this match concentrating on my game not my opponent," said Palmer after his 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 victory in 41 minutes.

"He's a confidence player as he's shown all week. I didn't want to let him in tonight. I wanted to stay on top and I got sharper as the match went on. Now I've got to take it up another notch for Shabana. I've got to come with a game plan tomorrow. I'm defending champion, and if it goes well I hope to still be there after tomorrow."

Quarter-finals:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [5] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-10 (2-0), 11-5 (64m)
[3] David Palmer (AUS) bt Alex Gough (WAL) 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 (41m)
[7] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [4] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (60m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [6] John White (SCO) 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-5 (55m)