Nick Matthew & Alison Waters Crowned British Champions

Nick Matthew & Alison Waters Crowned British Champions
Nick Matthew and Alison Waters were crowned British National Champions in contrasting finals staged at the National Squash Centre in Manchester. Matthew won a record fifth men’s title after beating perpetual rival James Willstrop with a clinical straight games victory whilst Alison Waters won her third domestic crown with a 78 minute marathon win over Laura Massaro in the women’s final.
 
Matthew, the star who has never minded competing against the rank and file, took his opportunity to pull ahead of Phil Kenyon, who won four domestic titles between 1977 and 1985, to become Britain’s most successful player of the modern era with a brilliantly devastating display in a historic men’s final.
 
The 32-year-old had brushed aside James Earles, Jamie Haycocks, Alan Clyne and Tom Richards for the loss of just a single game to reach his fifth final in seven years, injury preventing his participation in 2007 and 2008, and went into the match against his great rival boasting a winning streak now extended to over the five years.
 
Willstrop, three years Matthew’s junior, had struggled to attain the same heights in reaching his sixth final, later admitting he was in danger of being beaten by Chris Simpson and Peter Barker in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
 
In the first game of their eagerly anticipated final, Willstrop was always a point or two behind and with Matthew applying his customary relentless pressure it was the defending champion who took it 11-9.
 
The second was much easier for the No.1 seed as he dominated the game, finishing it 11-3 with his opponent barely able to contest the closing points.
 
Willstrop took a 3-minute injury break in the interval, but came out for the third to compete well in a series of fast paced extended rallies before eventually conceding to his opponent’s greater accuracy and weight of shot with a succession of unforced errors from good positions. A successful challenge at 6-1 when the central referee gave a stroke against him when James had seen three different decisions signaled proved only a temporary respite and Matthew regained his momentum to eke an historic 11-9 11-3 11-3 win.
 
“James obviously wasn’t right physically,” conceded Matthew after the much-touted final. “He won’t make any excuses but I can make them for him - there are not many players who would have finished that match.”
 
“I never thought I’d get to the point of having five National titles, but I guess I’ve got them forever now!
 
Far from being an appropriate conclusion to a record breaking career, Matthew’s record represents another notable milestone and source of immense personal pride. Despite an increasing focus on preserving fitness by fine-tuning his playing schedule, the British Nationals remains a priority amongst his demanding World Tour commitments and no doubt he can be relied upon to make a determined and tough-minded defense when he returns to his favourite venue in Manchester’s ever prosperous Eastlands district.
Last year Laura Massaro became the first player to successfully defend the women's title for eight years, but the local favourite, now ranked at a career high World No.3 only reached her third successive final after surviving a 77-minute 11-7 7-11 11-4 8-11 12-10 semi-final scare against Ireland’s Madeline Perry, who despite having never reached a National final has fond memories of Manchester, having reached the final of the British Open in 2007.
 
Alison Waters, looking for her third win from seven finals, had ensured that the top seeds from both events won through to set up repeats of last year's finals with a more impressive 11-5 11-9 11-8 semi-final victory over Jenny Duncalf 
 
With both finalists ranked in the world’s top five, a high quality match of hard fought rallies, crisp winners and tremendous retrieving had been expected and both players duly delivered to share the first four games and set-up a tantalising decider.
 
And what a decider it proved to be. Waters swept into a 7-1 lead only for the defending champion to dig deeper into her reserves to level the game at 7-all, but the two could then only inch their way towards the match’s conclusion. Waters got to match ball with a lucky reflex volley which Massaro saved before earning one of her own at 11-10 which she thought she had won only for her opponent to be awarded a let at the front of the court.
 
Waters levelled with a flicked crosscourt drop and drove the ball deep to earn a second match ball, before claiming her third title by punching the ball away as Massaro slipped around the central T position.
 
“They don’t come much closer than that, do they,” said a delighted Waters. “At 7-1 up in the fifth it was looking good, then it was 7-all and it could have been anyone’s, no-one really deserves to lose a match like that.
 
“I was lucky she slipped at the end, but obviously I’m delighted to win a third National title, hopefully it will be the start of more titles this year.
 
British National Championships, Manchester, England
Men’s Final:
[1] Nick Matthew bt [2] James Willstrop 11-9, 11-3, 11-3
 
Women’s Final:
[2] Alison Waters bt [1] Laura Massaro 11-7, 7-11, 12-10, 6-11, 13-11
 
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