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22 Jul 2024

Willstrop Ends 10-Year Losing Streak To Topple National Rival Matthew At ToC

15 Jan 2017

It was a case of 20th time lucky for England's James Willstrop in today's second round of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York when the 2010 champion beat 2012 champion Nick Matthew in five tense games to end a ten-year losing streak to his national rival.

The two former world number ones, who also hail from same English county of Yorkshire, were meeting for the 58th time in all competitions and the 35th time on the PSA World Tour, since first playing in the British Open qualifiers in June 2001.

But Matthew had had the upper hand since December 2007, when Willstrop last beat his nemesis in the English Open final in Matthew's home town of Sheffield. Matthew's 19 successive victories since then featured nine confrontations in finals, including the World Championship climax in 2010.

Unseeded Willstrop took the opening game on the all-glass court in the Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal - but Matthew battled back to open up a 2/1 lead as it looked as if his winning run would continue.

Willstrop, however, was playing the match of his life - hitting sublime winner after winner to halt the decline before running out the 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 victor in 73 minutes.

"I'm very, very happy to be in the next round. To beat a champion like Nick is good, especially with the rivalry we've had. Not many people beat Nick," said Willstrop.

"I've been working out how to get the better of him for many years now. I had to play accurately against him.

"It was just a game of squash - I tried not to let the history and baggage get in the way."

"But he's got a game which is tough for me. He's incredibly strong. Certain players, like him and Nicol David, have a way of getting stronger when they're behind.

"I didn't let myself get complacent when I was ahead in that fifth game. I think we both played the ball well - the accuracy there today was ridiculous and the court took it beautifully.

"Win or lose, the important thing to me was that I was playing well and those are the goals I had."

ToC image courtesy of www.squashpics.com