Nick Matthew today became the first player to retain the Commonwealth Games men’s singles squash title as he beat England team-mate James Willstrop in a five-game thriller in Glasgow.
The 34-year-old World No.2 repeated his 2010 Delhi Games final triumph over his great Yorkshire rival with an 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5 victory in 99 minutes.
This win, though, was particularly special, as five weeks ago top seed Matthew underwent knee surgery and was a doubtful starter.
In the end, his renowned determination won the day as he completed his 12th win over Willstrop in their 13th major final clash.
Matthew admitted: "What a battle. We’ve had a few down the years, but to do that on this big stage. Five weeks ago today I was waking up on an operating table!
“My coach told me to resort to old-fashioned, caveman squash, and that’s what I did!”
The triple world champion began in sensational style, storming into an 8-3 lead in the first game, which was interrupted after five points when he lost a contact lens.
However, Willstrop then cut his error count and rallied to 7-8 before the world no.2 moved clear again to 10-7, only for the second seed to save two game points before losing it after 24 minutes.
Matthew again claimed an early lead in the second game, but this time it was Willstrop who took control as he unveiled a series of delightful drop shots to march into a 10-6 advantage on the way to taking it on his third game ball after 15 minutes.
The see-saw nature of this epic contest continued in the third game as Matthew blazed into an 8-1 lead with the aid of two strokes. Although Willstrop then won the next three points, Matthew snatched it in 13 minutes.
Again Willstrop hit back, though, rallying from 3-1 behind to blast 9-5 in front and then win the game in 15 minutes.
However, it was Matthew who controlled the decider, never trailing after marching into a 5-1 lead. Although Willstrop fought back to 7-4, the top seed controlled the latter stages to retain his title.
Willstrop, who has also had his injury worries recently, said: “No complaints on the outcome. What he’s done is unbelievable. I’m disappointed, but to have got to where I am is just thrilling. I left it all out there.”
The magnificent encounter attracted tweets of admiration from team-mates Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant, whom Matthew partners in a men’s doubles title defence.
Selby wrote: "Immensely proud to call @nickmatthew and @james_willstrop team-mates. Proud to be English. What an epic match and a great advert for squash.
“A truly amazing effort from @nickmatthew. The work he’s put in over last 5 weeks has been staggering. @james_willstrop a true legend.”
Grant added: “Proud of the guys @james_willstrop @nickmatthew for the squash spectacle, all round athleticism. Squash is here people!”
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