9:54 am
27 Feb 2024

England World Championship Heroes Head For Sheffield

14 Dec 2007

England's world championship-winning team Nick Matthew, James Willstrop and Peter Barker will surely get a heroes' welcome when they appear in Sheffield tomorrow to compete in the Mamut English Open.

The 2007 Mamut English Open - the final PSA Tour squash event of the year, which is hosted by Sheffield City Council - will get underway at the city's English Institute of Sport on Saturday, leading to the final on Tuesday.

Just three days earlier, in the Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras), the courageous trio fought back from a match down to beat major rivals Australia 2/1 in the final of the biennial Men's World Team Championship - successfully defending the title that Willstrop and Matthew helped to wrest back from Australia in 2005.

"Winning the title again was incredibly special - you realise that you might not achieve anything as good as that ever again in your career," said Yorkshireman James Willstrop, the world No6 and England No2 from Pontefract who levelled the tie after beating Australian Stewart Boswell in the second rubber.

Earlier, Sheffield's own Nick Matthew, ranked 5 in the world, had fought back from two games down against Australian No1 David Palmer before going down to the world No4 in an 82-minute five-game marathon.

"David's a class act," said Matthew. "I played a great match and put him under pressure. Losing was no disgrace - but it put the pressure on my team-mates!

"I would say that we won the title because we wanted it more than anybody else!"

It was England's world championship debutant Peter Barker that was the hero of the hour. With the tie poised at one-all against eight-time champions Australia, the 24-year-old from Essex calmly held off the challenge of Cameron Pilley, beating the world No23 in straight games to clinch the title for England.

"It was better than last time," explained Willstrop when asked if the team was able to celebrate, with the English Open only days away. "We had a beer or two after the final, and then on the long flight back, we celebrated with champagne, kindly donated by BA!

"It hasn't been the ideal preparation for the English Open, but I'm just going to try and relax and enjoy it. I've got a tough first round, against the Italian number one Davide Bianchetti - but I'll try and give him the respect he deserves.

"Having been with Nick and Peter in a team for the past week, it'll be weird if we have to play against each other in Sheffield - especially after one of the best experiences we could ever wish to have," added Willstrop.

Matthew, the reigning US Open champion who was runner-up in Sheffield two years ago, is the event's second seed and will face a qualifier in the opening round. If the draw goes according to the seedings, top seed Willstrop will face fourth seed Barker in the semi-finals.

1st round draw:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) v Davide Bianchetti (ITA)
[7] Renan Lavigne (FRA) v Qualifier
[4] Peter Barker (ENG) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[5] Alex Gough (WAL) v Qualifier
[6] Shahier Razik (CAN) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
[3] John White (SCO) v Qualifier
[8] Bradley Ball (ENG) v Jonathan Kemp (ENG)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Qualifier

Tickets, priced from £12.50 - £25.00, are now available only from the venue. For further information, please check the official website www.englishopensquash.co.uk