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Thursday, 12 December 2019

Matthew makes history with World Open triumph

Nick Matthew, who thought he might never play again after a shoulder injury three years ago, made history by becoming the first Englishman to become World Open champion on Friday

AFP, Friday 10 Dec 2010
Nick Matthew
Nick Matthew wins the World Open
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The 30-year-old top seed defeated fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop 7-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 in the first all-English final, and looked an almost certain winner from the midway stage onwards against a brave but tiring opponent.

When his triumph arrived Matthew had supportive words for the fellow Yorkshireman with whom he shared the piece of history, and, unusually for him, had moments in the on-court interview when his emotions overcame him.

He had, he admitted, thought about being world champion during the last few points. "You are only human," he said.

"At that stage you are playing against yourself instead of your opponent. You are sort of fighting the demons in your head.

"You see the finish line and as it comes closer in terms of score it gets further away because you are drifting in your thoughts. With every single thought I tried to tell myself 'next rally, next rally'."

Matthew had more time than most to think about impending victory because his ability to dispose of earlier opponents efficiently had given him a significant advantage.

He had won all his previous matches in straight games, including a semi-final against the defending champion from Egypt, Amr Shabana.

Willstrop by contrast had two matches of more than 80 minutes against two other fellow Englishmen and halfway through the second game of the final was starting to flag.

But Matthew, who had also beaten Willstrop in the last two British Open finals and in the final of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October, again showed what a remarkable late developer he has become.

His fluent movement was as good as ever, while his ability to finish off rallies is more varied and well-disguised than at any time in his career.

Willstrop played an immaculate first game, beautifully accurate, carefully paced, and superbly timed in the moments when he went for winners.

But once his energy lessened, Matthew had the reserves to increase the pace and keep it higher than Willstrop's.

He also had enough control to cut off the volleys, and caress the drops into corners without the enormity of the impending result affecting his skill.

The success carried Matthew back to the top of the world rankings above Ramy Ashour, the Egyptian whose damaged hamstring caused his second round retirement - though the list will not become official until after next week's PSA Masters in Delhi.

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