Nick Matthew retains Commonwealth Games squash gold medal after victory …

July 29, 2014 Posted by admin

Let us put it this way: off the court, the pair may be team-mates but they are
not friends. And on it, they really went to war.

Through five exhausting games the lead was swapped promiscuously as they
appeared to take out all their mutual dislike on the small white object
sharing their space. My, did they whack that ball very, very hard.

“He’s so good that I can’t play good squash
against him. He brings out the worst in me,” Matthew said afterwards, the
sweat still pouring off his nose.

“When I play him I’m reduced to caveman squash, no subtlety, just belt the
ball as hard as you can.”

It may have been unreconstructed, Neanderthal stuff, but boy was it
compelling. This was squash at its best: dynamic, brutal, the perfect
advertisement for the game.

“I wonder how squash is not an Olympic
sport,” Matthew said. “This was the Commonwealth
but that was a world standard final.

“I hope the IOC are watching and think: ‘Wow we need to get this sport
in.’ Because I think it had everything.”

Given their preparations, it was amazing either man was able to stand, never
mind deliver such sustained excitement.

Willstrop was close to pulling out of the competition with a hip problem,
while Matthew had undergone knee surgery just five weeks before arriving in
Glasgow. But there was no hint of either giving any quarter as they scrapped
and harried and charged around the court.

The lead was swapped like the parcel at a children’s party. Matthew had taken
the first game (in which he had played only one winner, his opponent making
10 errors to gift him the points).

Willstrop came back with the second, then Matthew took the third. When
Willstrop won an incredible rally in the 14th point of the fourth game, the
momentum seemed to swing behind him.

With both men playing shots that defied all known laws of physics, trading
drops and smashes, the ball switching from corner to corner, it was
exhausting to watch, never mind play. Willstrop, 6ft 4in of refined power,
seized his chance to send the match into a decider.

For the younger man it seemed a defining moment. He had not beaten his heated
rival since 2007; he lost to him in the final of the last Commonwealth Games
in Delhi.

Now he thought he was genuinely in with a chance. But, tenacious, athletic,
strong as he was, he was ultimately let down by mistakes.

As tiredness began to constrict his movements, an unforced error when he
sliced the ball into the tin when well placed at the front of the wall gave
Matthew a 7-3 lead in the final game.

Another to go 8-4 down when he hit the ball out of the court altogether was as
bad. And a third on 9-4 effectively finished him. Though it was Matthew’s
skill that ultimately decided things. Poor Willstrop ended up on his face,
sliding forlornly into the corner, having first thrown his racket in vain
pursuit of a beautifully flighted lob by the champion.

Matthew, celebrated by dashing out of the court to the stands to kiss his
pregnant partner, Esme, on the stomach.

“We’re having a baby in a couple of weeks, so I better make the most of this
because it will no longer be the best moment of my life then,” he said with
a smile.

But that was not before he acknowledged the supreme effort the challenger had
given, wrapping his arms round the vanquished man and congratulating him on
his contribution to the 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5 defeat.

“He’s a superb competitor,” Matthew said of his rival. “I’m from Yorkshire,
I’m an only child and I’m a Leo, so I’m a stubborn so-and-so. And I needed
to be out there.”

Before he had been on court, his fellow English world champion Laura Massaro
had failed in her bid to add Commonwealth gold to her long list of
successes. She succumbed to the Malaysian the world No 1 Nicol David, in
straight sets, 12-10, 11-2, 11-5.

“Physically and mentally she’s really tough to break down and you’ve got no
chance if you’re not playing at the best you can,” the disappointed loser
said. “Silver is probably what I deserve. That performance wasn’t good
enough for gold.”

David, meanwhile, was cheered to the echo by a boisterous collection of
Malaysian supporters.

She is the country’s biggest sporting celebrity, and her success will have
been hugely appreciated back home, a rare bit of good news for the country
horribly rocked by recent events.

“It has been a very, very tough time for our nation,” David said. “Having this
maybe brings the spirits up slightly at this very low point.”

Article source:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *