Matthew and Willstrop renew rivalry at Canary Wharf

February 9, 2013 - 7:18am
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Nick Matthew and James Willstrop clash in last year’s final. Picture by STEVE LINE of

England’s leading squash stars Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are ready to resume their massive rivalry in the 2013 Canary Wharf Classic.

London’s premier squash tournament takes place from March 18-22 and tickets for the final have already sold out as squash fans look forward to another classic confrontation in the final of this long-established PSA International 50 event.

Reigning champion Matthew is top seed for the tournament, followed by Willstrop, rising Egyptian star Mohamed El Shorbagy and England’s Peter Barker.

Matthew and Willstrop have each won the tournament three times. Matthew has been the more successful player in recent history, claiming three consecutive victories after Willstrop dominated the early years of the event, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Willstrop won the first final in 2004, beating French ace Thierry Lincou in an historic best-of-seven games final. He then overcame the biggest hitters in the game as he beat Scotland’s John White in 2007 and Australian Cameron Pilley in 2008.

It was White who smashed the world speed record for squash when he registered 172mph on the Canary Wharf radar gun in 2007, with Pilley claiming the record with a blistering speed of 175mph recorded in the US Open 18 months ago.

Willstrop was aiming for a fourth Canary Wharf title when he reached the 2009 final, but he was hampered by an ankle injury as he lost to another powerful Australian, David Palmer.

Matthew won his first Canary Wharf title at the East Wintergarden venue the following year, but he had to do it the hard way. He and Willstrop battled each other to a standstill in a two-hour semi-final before Matthew recovered in time to beat French star Gregory Gaultier in the final.

In 2011 Matthew beat England team-mate Barker and last year Matthew and Willstrop met for their first Canary Wharf final. Although Matthew won in straight games, the match lasted 78 minutes, which illustrates how closely matched these two great athletes are.

Aiming to stop another English monopoly is young Egyptian El Shorbagy, the number three seed who beat Willstrop to reach the World Championship final in December. Their semi-final clash lasted 112 minutes before Shorbagy triumphed 11-8 in the deciding fifth game.

Willstrop beat El Shorbagy in the Canary Wharf semi-finals last year but the young Egyptian has grown in confidence since then. Behind El Shorbagy and Barker, a group of English players will be aiming to impress in front of a vociferous home crowd.

Tom Richards, Daryl Selby, Adrian Grant and wild card Charles Sharpes will be joined in the main draw by a hugely talented group of international rivals featuring Alister Walker (Botswana), Simon Rosner (Germany), Steve Coppinger, the South African who has recently reached the world top 20, and the spectacularly athletic Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez.