10:36 am
27 Feb 2024

Willstrop & Matthew Set Up Dream All-Yorkshire Sheffield Final

18 Dec 2007

Top seeds Nick Matthew and James Willstrop - England team-mates ranked five and six, respectively, in the world - will meet in a dream all-Yorkshire final of the Mamut English Open after surviving Monday's semi-finals of the 5-star PSA Tour squash event at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Willstrop, the favourite from Leeds, faced fourth seed Peter Barker - the third member of the England squad which lifted the Men's World Team Championship title in India only five days ago.

Barker, who made his world championship debut for England in Chennai - and confidently clinched the winning rubber in the dramatic final against Australia - had a good run to reach the semi-finals in Sheffield, but went down 11-10 (2-0), 11-5, 4-11, 11-1 to Willstrop in 49 minutes.

The 24-year-old from Essex - who acknowledged earlier that his win in the world final decider was "easily the best moment of my career so far" - was not too downhearted by his English Open loss:

"I'm not too down on myself. The win in India was fantastic, probably beyond my expectations. I'm very happy, though a bit disappointed today," said Barker.

Later, Sheffield's own Nick Matthew extended his straight-games-winning run in the event by beating Scotland's John White, the No3 seed, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4. Though clearly not moving quite as well as normal, after sustaining a back injury in the quarter-finals, White tested the local star before succumbing in 38 minutes.

""It's never that comfortable playing John," said Matthew afterwards of his renowned hard-hitting opponent. "But he came back well after last night."

When asked if he and Willstrop were great rivals on court, despite coming from the same county, Matthew replied: "It's healthy, friendly rivalry. But very competitive too.

"Tactically I've got it right against him for the last couple of games - so hopefully tomorrow I'll do it again!"

Matthew and Willstrop's Tour head-to-head record is poised at 7-7. But the Sheffield hero has come out on top on the last three occasions - including at the US Open final in October and the World Open quarter-finals earlier this month in Bermuda.

"He's had me the last few times - and I'm getting a bit sick of it, to be honest," said Willstrop. "Hopefully this'll be my time."

Semi-finals:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [4] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-10 (2-0), 11-5, 4-11, 11-1 (49m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [3] John White (SCO) 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (38m)