Spotlight on Matthew v Willstrop 2010
Spotlight on the greatest match in Canary Wharf history, the magnificent marathon between Nick Matthew and James Willstrop
BY ALAN THATCHER
Of the 19 Canary Wharf finals held so far, 10 of them have them been won by English duo Nick Matthew and James Willstrop.
Between Willstrop’s triumph in the inaugural tournament in 2004, and Matthew’s final victory in 2017, the two enjoyed a phenomenal rivalry on the PSA World Tour.
Willstrop won four of his seven appearances in Canary Wharf finals, while Matthew took first prize in all six of his.
They met twice in the final, in 2012 and 2014, with Matthew winning both of those showdowns in straight games.
However, their closest encounter, and arguably the most memorable battle between two English players in the history of squash, occurred in the 2010 semi-final.
Both were playing at their peak, and the contest lasted for 127 minutes before Willstrop was forced to concede on match ball down at 10-8 in the fifth after collapsing with cramp in the back left corner.
It was an epic contest that featured a third-game tiebreak that Willstrop won 20-18. That put him ahead by two games to one after Matthew had taken the opener. Matthew then drew level by winning the fourth and closed in on the match as a drive into the back left corner forced Willstrop into the only dive I have ever seen him make in his career.
Matthew initially refused to accept victory, sportingly offering his opponent time to recover, but Willstrop was unable to continue after being helped to his feet.
Willstrop recalls :
“That was probably my longest match ever. The cramp was maybe 30 seconds of hell but then you are OK. It’s just your body letting you know that it’s had enough. That is what squash does to you.
“There were so many special aspects of that match. Firstly, we were both playing high quality squash that was also tough as boots. But it was very sporting and respectful.
“Sharing that with Malc was a lovely moment, especially after all the work we had put in over the years. People can be critical but Malc saw that as a win.
“Nick and I both had treatment after the match and I was astounded at the feat of physicality from Nick to beat Gregory Gaultier in the final the next day.”
Matthew added :
“Canary Wharf is a huge favourite of mine. In my opinion no other tournament, except the Tournament of Champions in New York, rivals the atmosphere throughout the week with packed out crowds from the very first day.
“What people perhaps don’t realise is what they saw on court with James (when he collapsed with cramp) was about 30 seconds from happening to me!
“I could barely walk off the court after our post-match interview so quickly had the muscles seized up and the next morning I felt like I’d been hit by a bus!
“How I backed up the next day to beat Gregory Gaultier in the final is still beyond me. That was my first title at Canary Wharf and was really the catalyst for the run I had in the years to come.”