11:42 pm
13 Jun 2024

Willstrop Sets Up Dream Nationals Final Against Matthew

13 Feb 2010

Proving without doubt that his recent shoulder injury is well and truly behind him, former champion James Willstrop recovered from a game down to beat rising star Daryl Selby in today's semi-finals of the British National Squash Championships to set up a dream final against defending champion Nick Matthew - the first meeting on the all-glass showcourt at the National Squash Centre in Manchester since the Yorkshire rivals contested a controversial climax of the British Open last September.

Sixth seed Selby celebrated his first appearance in the semi-finals after upsetting fellow Essex player and close friend Peter Barker, the second seed, in the previous round. And the 27-year-old world No15 showed his new found form by taking the opening game against Willstrop, the third seed.

But the 26-year-old from Leeds, who was forced to concede last Sunday's Swedish Open final after sustaining a shoulder injury, raised his game to see off Selby 9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 in 56 minutes - in a match which captivated the near capacity crowd at the National Centre at Sportcity.

"The first game was pretty brutal - but it was always going to be against Daryl, he's in such good form," said Willstrop, the 2007 and 2008 champion now in his fourth final. "I had to stick with it and use all my skills to keep him at bay.

"If I can play a match like that after last week, that's good news. It was definitely looking a little ropey last Sunday.

"It was a real tough match to come through - and to do so is a confidence-booster, after the injury.

"We always have heavy battles," added Willstrop when asked to comment on the 'dream' final. "I suppose we've worked our way up to the top - he's at two and I'm at six. There's big rivalry.

"But it's exciting to be involved in a massive tournament like this," concluded Willstrop.

In the earlier men's semi, Nick Matthew took the opening game against England team-mate Adrian Grant - then fought back from 5-8 down in the second to take the score to nine-all when his opponent dived across the court in an attempt to retrieve the ball, and cut his hand.

After a seven-minute 'blood injury' break, the pair returned to the court and Matthew moved to game ball at 11-10. A freak bounce off the door handle at the back of the court gave the Yorkshireman the game - but Matthew insisted that a let was played, and the point was replayed.

Grant took the point to draw matters level again - only for the 29-year-old from Sheffield to win the game at his next attempt before easing through the third game to record an 11-6, 13-11, 11-5 victory in 70 minutes.

Matthew, the champion in 2006 and 2009, extends his unbeaten run in the event to 14 matches since 2005.

On discussing the injury disruption afterwards, Matthew agreed that there is never a good time for such a break to occur: "It was quite hard to get the rhythm back - but if he'd won the second, it would have been game on!

"I've told him before to stop diving," joked the defending champion.

When asked to comment on the sensational recent form on the PSA World Tour which has taken him to a career-high world No2, Matthew responded: "It's now or never. I'm 30 this year - I've not got a lot of time left so I've got to make the most of it!"

Asked about his sporting gesture in offering a let after the official had given him the second game, Matthew said: "I'm sure he would have done the same - anyway, it was probably the worst shot I've played in my life, so I couldn't take a win from it!"

Favourite Jenny Duncalf, the world number three from Harrogate, fended off opposition from third seed Madeline Perry in the opening women's semi-final to beat the 11-time Irish champion 11-8, 11-6, 5-11, 11-5 in 47 minutes.

"Madders hits the ball so well - she gets good pace on it," said Duncalf, winner of the title in 2007 and 2009. "She's tough, quite a confident player. She's a real handful. I had to get her out of her comfort zone.

"Yes, it's been going well for the last few months, I've struck some good form. Let's hope I can continue the run.

"It feels great to be in the final - in fact it was difficult not to think about getting to the final when I still had a few matches to go! But now I'm there, I can relax a bit more and enjoy it - whoever I play!"

Her opponent will be England team-mate Alison Waters - but the second seed from London was taken the full distance by fourth seed Laura Massaro before surviving her first five-game match in the tournament.

Massaro, who suffered two bruising WISPA World Tour defeats before the event - then battled with lower-ranked player opponents and her confidence to reach the semis - matched world No5 Waters shot for shot.

The underdog from Preston took the opening game, then fought back from 2/1 down to win the fourth.

But after a 14-minute fifth game, it was Waters who prevailed, winning 10-12, 11-5, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8 in 71 minutes to reach the her fifth final in the past six years.

"I knew she had a tough match yesterday, but I wasn't going to take her lightly today," said Waters. "It was a tough game - we were both a bit loose at times, maybe because we both really wanted to win it so much.

"Sometimes matches like that become a bit of a scrap and it's a question of digging out the win. I managed to do that today - I'm delighted to be in the final again."

A disconsolate Massaro tried to look on the bright side: "I was pleased that I could battle it with her today - especially after what happened in the US before and after my long game yesterday," said the 26-year-old world number nine.

RESULTS: British National Squash Championships, National Squash Centre, Manchester

Men's semi-finals:
[1] Nick Matthew (Yorks) bt [4] Adrian Grant (Kent) 11-6, 13-11, 11-5 (70m)
[3] James Willstrop (Yorks) bt [6] Daryl Selby (Essex) 9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 (56m)

Women's semi-finals:
[1] Jenny Duncalf (Yorks) bt [3] Madeline Perry (Ireland) 11-8, 11-6, 5-11, 11-5 (47m)
[2] Alison Waters (Middx) bt [4] Laura Massaro (Lancs) 10-12, 11-5, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8 (71m)