Matthew retains squash title

Nick Matthew, pictured, beat James Willstrop to retain his Commonwealth Games squash title

Nick Matthew, pictured, beat James Willstrop to retain his Commonwealth Games squash title

First published in National Sport © by

Nick Matthew said his natural stubbornness made the crucial difference after dredging up a fractious five-game victory over England rival James Willstrop to retain his Commonwealth Games men's squash title at Scotstoun.

Only five weeks after undergoing a knee operation which threatened his participation in the Commonwealth Games, the world number two clung on through a torrid and exciting one hour and 40 minutes to win 11-9 8-11 11-5 6-11 11-5 and retain his title.

"It wasn't the prettiest squash I've ever played but I'm a Yorkshireman, an only child and a Leo so if you put that together you've got one hell of a stubborn so-and-so," said Matthew. "Having my back to the wall brings out the best in me."

Matthew and Willstrop make no excuses over their dislike for one another - although as Willstrop stated, "It's not as if we go round hitting each other with cricket bats" - and the Harrogate resident must be sick of the sight of his conqueror, who has now won 42 of their 53 career meetings.

Willstrop at least managed to push three-time world champion Matthew to the limit, in a marked contrast to their final four years ago in Delhi, which was won in straight games by Matthew.

The roots of their rivalry goes back to a sledging incident, instigated by Matthew, during the 2009 British Open final in Manchester.

The pair have barely been on speaking terms since, with Matthew admitting in his 2013 autobiography, 'Sweating Blood', that "four years on, they [Willstrop's team] are still seething".

Injury problems provided an intriguing subtext, with Willstrop also hampered by a recent hip problem so severe he was told by doctors six weeks ago it threatened his future in the sport.

The simmering rivalry was evident from the start of a sweaty and snarly final, although the first interruption in play was down to an incident as innocent as Matthew's need to replace a contact lens.

The brief breakout of entente cordiale was never likely to last for long, and a handful of long points later Matthew flung back open the court door to remonstrate with the referee over the award of a stroke penalty in favour of his opponent.

Matthew, despite his insistence that he "never had one bit of control in the whole match", commanded the first game, but the momentum swung the other way in the second as Willstrop refused to relinquish an early-won points advantage.

Again Matthew seemed to make a break for it in the third, only to be reeled back in by a determined Willstrop, forcing the deciding game yearned for by a capacity crowd relishing every moment of a high-quality showdown.

Matthew, whose wife Esme is heavily pregnant with their first child, described the point of victory as the greatest moment of his life.

He must now prepare for the men's doubles competition starting on Tuesday, but said: "In my life this ranks number one but it is only going to be number one for a matter of weeks because I have got a little girl on the way."

Willstrop, who collapsed in a mixture of emotion and exhaustion after Matthew finally wrapped up victory, paid a noble tribute to a fellow Yorkshireman with whom he freely acknowledges he will never be the best of friends.

"There is a mutual respect despite being disparate characters," said Willstrop. "He was very humble and sincere as he always is after matches. But it's sometimes easy to be sincere when he beats me all the time."

Peter Barker ensured a podium clean sweep for England, securing his second consecutive Commonwealth Games bronze medal with an 11-5 6-11 11-5 11-6 win over India's Saurav Ghosal.

Earlier, Laura Massaro came up short in her bid to build on this year's surprise world title win in Penang by dethroning world number one and reigning champion Nicol David.

David, still smarting from her failure to claim an eighth world title out of nine in her home city, survived a first game point against her and ultimately made short work of the English player, triumphing 12-10 11-2 11-5.

Even worse for Massaro was a sore mouth she sustained midway through the first game after being hit by a David back-swing - for which Massaro was also penalised with a stroke penalty.

"I was close enough in her swing for her to hit me but I feel she was close enough to the ball," said Massaro. "That's why I reviewed it and I was disappointed with that - but ultimately my squash wasn't good enough today."

England's Alison Waters missed out on a medal as she was beaten 11-7 11-7 11-5 by New Zealand's Joelie King in the bronze medal play-off.

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