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14 Apr 2024

Matthew Prevails In Historic Marathon All-English British Open Final

15 Sep 2009

It took 122 minutes to settle the men's title in the internationalSPORTgroup British Open, with Nick Matthew finally emerging triumphant after beating England team-mate James Willstrop in the first all-English final of the world's oldest and most prestigious squash championship in 70 years.

Matthew, the England number one, reached the final at the National Squash Centre in Manchester without dropping a game. But it was Willstrop, last year's runner-up, who took the early advantage - winning the first game in convincing style.

However Matthew, the 2006 champion from Sheffield, battled back to take the second. The next two games were also shared - with Leeds man Willstrop visibly tiring at the end of the fourth as he put three successive balls into the tin.

In the decider - a gladiatorial encounter between two determined Yorkshiremen - Matthew built up a 6-2 lead before Willstrop delighted the packed crowd by coming back to overtake his opponent, eventually reaching match-ball at 10-9.

But former champion Matthew was not about to throw in the towel. The 29-year-old reclaimed the advantage before going on to clinch the title on his first match-ball, winning 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-3, 12-10 to claim the historic trophy for the second time.

"That was a fantastic match," said the new champion as he collected the trophy. "I want to thank James. I think you deserved it - you were the best player on the night, but I gutsed it out!"

Matthew, who boasts a career-high world No5 ranking, then admitted that he had been suffering with a back injury during the tournament: "I nearly didn't play the quarter-final match. I spent about five hours in the physio room before that match - and it's thanks to EIS (English Institute of Sport) phsyio Jade (Elias) that I came through. Jade, you're a star!"

Asked later if he thought he was a better player than when he first won the coveted title in 2006 - since when he has undergone shoulder surgery - Matthew said: "I was a better squash player yesterday, in the semis, than I was today.

"Today was best in terms of guts and determination.

"I don't know how my body got through this week. I'm just shattered by the effort. The last few points were a blur.

"I'm amazed I ever got to the final, let alone win the title," concluded the new champion.

Willstrop, who also had match-balls in last year's final, was clearly still in a state of shock half an hour after the match.

"A bit of a horror story, really. I'm desperately disappointed," said the disconsolate runner-up. "It was a good game of squash - and I thought I played really well."

When reminded that, only months ago, he was recovering from ankle surgery, Willstrop acknowledged: "I'm absolutely thrilled with the way I played tonight. To have come out and played like that after the surgery was very pleasing.

"I had match balls to win the British again! But he came out on top."

Earlier, Australia's Rachael Grinham ended the dream run of Irish champion Madeline Perry to win the women's title for a fourth time.

Perry, the first Northern Irish finalist in the history of the women's event, was unable to reproduce the form which saw her trounce hot favourite Nicol David, the world number one from Malaysia, in the quarter-finals.

Grinham dominated the first two games and held match-ball at 10-6 in the third. But Perry stepped up a gear and saved four match balls to take the game into a tie-break.

However, the former world number one from Australia reclaimed the advantage to run out an 11-6, 11-5, 12-10 winner after 39 minutes.

"I was really focussed today - I couldn't have played any better," said Grinham.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet. At the beginning of the week I was a few points from getting knocked out - I was lucky to get through," added the Queenslander, ranked four in the world.

"To win the British Open for the fourth time is not easy to do."

Both players head straight from Manchester to Amsterdam where the Forexx Women's World Open Championship gets underway next week.

"I have been having a lot of trouble with confidence all week - so having a result like this going into the Worlds next week should give me confidence."

Perry rued her missed opportunity. "I'm obviously disappointed - but if you're feeling a bit tired, the worst player in the world to play is Rachael Grinham.

"I didn't really get into it until the third game," explained the fifth seed from Banbridge, near Belfast.

Reaching the final was a remarkable achievement for Perry, who sustained a serious brain injury following mysterious fall in Milan just two years ago.

"That's behind me now. This week I've played the best squash of my life - I've reached another level.

"I'd rather not think about what might be in next week's World Open - I could have won the British Open if I'd played as well as I did in the previous two rounds."

Men's final:
[4] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [10] James Willstrop (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-3, 12-10 (122m)

Women's final:
[2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [5] Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-6, 11-5, 12-10 (39m)