Canary Wharf Squash Classic: Matthew & Willstrop on course to renew rivalry
Canary Wharf Squash Classic: Nick Matthew and James Willstrop on course to renew their rivalry after quarter-final wins
Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are on course to resume their long-running and fractious rivalry in the final of the Canary Wharf Squash Classic following the quarter-finals.
Matthew secured his semi-final place by overcoming a late comeback from Omar Mosaad to triumph 3-0 – something he is glad about at his “age”.
Matthew, 33, took the first game without too much trouble, 11-5, and played impressively to win the second 11-9 and lead 8-2 lead in the third.
I’m pleased to get through, but a little bit annoyed with myself because when you get to my age you should be better from 8-2
At this point, Mosaad, dubbed the “Hammer of Thor” for his powerful hitting, “freed up his arm” and fought back to 8-8, before Matthew sealed the game and match 11-8.
Matthew said: “He picked one of my serve [at 8-2 in the 3rd] and it wasn’t that bad a serve. He went for it and started flying it in, and when you play like that the margins are tight, and he tinned a couple at 8-8, and that’s what happens when you go for it.
“So I’m pleased to get through, but a little bit annoyed with myself because when you get to my age you should be better from 8-2 – you shouldn’t allow that to happen. You’ve got to be hard on yourself and that’s something I need to improve for tomorrow.”
James Willstrop made light work of Daryl Selby, who was clearly well off being 100 per cent.
Selby has only PSA win against Willstrop, 3-2 in the Qatar Classic last year, and in truth Selby never looked like he was going to add to that tally here, as his epic five-game match yesterday with Jonathan Kemp, who rolled back the years from semi-retirement, took a heavy toll.
Asked whether Tuesday’s game affected Selby, Willstrop said: “I would have thought so. Obviously movement is slower and I know and I’m sure he knows and the crowd knows that that’s not Daryl at his best.
“It was tough last night. Jonathan played really well, made him move very fast. But I suppose that’s what squash tournaments are about; you have to keep backing up.
“But credit to him, he put a big effort in in the third here and that just shows what he’s like, and why he wins crucial matches. He’s World Team champion and he’s a very, very tough competitor.”
So, as ever, very humble in victory. But Willstrop could be forgiven for thinking privately that he would have taken even a fully fit Selby in three games, given the form he is in, having also beaten young and improving Adrian Waller 3-0 in the first round.
His line-and-length game was near perfect here, at many times it appearing that Willstrop was a puppeteer controlling Selby by string and waiting for the right to moment to spring one of trademark drop shots, used to full effect tonight.
Selby put up some resistance in the third game, with a few impressive smash nicks and, at 5-2 to Willstrop, one backhand cross-court flick from the back of the court which landed in the nick and had even Willstop looking to him in astonishment.
But, from 7-5, Willstrop pulled away to win the game 11-6, sealing the win with a ball which basically stuck to the wall.
I want to congratulate Max for one of the greatest victories of his career
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
Miguel Angel Rodriguez overcame stiff resistance from friend and training partner Max Lee to win 3-1 and set up a repeat of last year’s first round match between himself and Matthew, which had the crowd in raptures over Rodriguez’s acrobatics and daring.
The Colombian, nicknamed the ‘Superman of squash’ for his outrageous full-length dives, found himself at one game all, then later 7-1 down in the fourth game, but recovered to take it in four against the Hong Kong player who sprang the upset of the tournament in beating Karim Darwish 3-0 in the first round.
“I want to congratulate Max for one of the greatest victories of his career,” Rodriguez said of Lee’s victory.
“It was very tough for today mentally and physically.”
The Hong Kong player signalled the threat he posed to Rodriguez right from the off, as he took a 5-3 lead on the back of some squeezes, drops and boasts that even lightning-fast Rodriguez could not reach.
But the Colombian fought back – his superb court coverage putting pressure on Lee, who made three unforced errors as Rodriguez brought the game back to 7-6, and then went on to take the first game 11-9.
Lee was not to be content with his upset over Darwish, though, and in the second game he upped the ante and took the game 11-7 against his opponent who stands 19 places higher than him.
But Rodriguez didn’t get to World No. 14 just for running around a lot, as he showed in the third game, which he took 11-6.
Lee looked odds-on to take the game to five as he went 7-1 up but errors let Rodriguez back to 7-7.
From there, Rodriguez edged some of the best rallies of the game – and found an effective tactic of smashing the ball straight at Lee down the middle – to take the game 12-10.
Peter Barker will face Willstrop after what, at times, seemed like two personal duels for him – one against Simon Rosner and the other against the officials.
Barker fought back from a game down to beat the German ‘Tree Chopper’ 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 13-11 – but not before many calls and tense verbal exchanges with the officials.
But the crowd certainly enjoyed all the drama – with far more fans staying behind to watch the other 9pm games this week.
It was obvious how much of a battle Barker had been in by his celebration after the 29-minute long fourth game – an emotional fist-pump from the World No9 against the front wall.
Barker said he did not have the rub of the green the whole game until the final few points, when a few “50/50” calls went in his favour.
“The refs don’t get paid enough and I certainly gave them a run for their money,” Barker said.
And on his opponent, he said: “I lost to Simon last time and probably didn’t pay him the respect he deserves. I sort of did today…believe it or not.
“It was a really, really tough match. I don’t think I played as well as I did yesterday, but hopefully I showed a few different qualities.
“So, I’m really pleased to get through. It wasn’t vintage today, but I’m in the semis, so I’ll hopefully play a little better tomorrow.”
Judging by form of Willstrop, who beat him in last year’s final, Barker will need to…