Nick Matthew Wins Historic British National Title

Matthew and Willstrop, now firmly established as one of the sport’s all-time great rivalries, produced another close and brilliantly entertaining encounter in an historic men's final - it being the first time in the competition’s history that the World No.1 and No.2 had met in the final.
31-year-old Matthew went into the match against his great rival boasting a 31-9 career head-to-head advantage and a winning streak of 18 matches over the past four years. However the difference in quality is far less pronounced and Willstrop, three years Matthew’s junior, had hit the best form of his career in the closing months of 2011 which allowed him to take over as World No.1 in January when injury had forced Matthew to withdraw from successive World Tour events.
Matthew, who regained the world's top ranking following his win over Willstrop in the final of the Tournament of Champions in New York two weeks prior, admitted that he had to play some of the best squash of his career to fend off his English rival in the much-touted national final.
After taking the first two games and leading in the third, Matthew was unable to prevent a Willstrop recovery which reduced the deficit and in the fourth, move to within a point of forcing a decider.
But after a series of stunning rallies and on his third match ball, the World No.1 clinched an 11-8 11-3 6-11 14-12 victory to win a record-equalling fourth title.
Matthew acknowledged afterwards that Willstrop is pushing him to reach new levels of his game: “For two and a half games, I played some of the best squash of my career.”
“Even James said that there was nothing he could do. He was putting in a massive fight by the end in that fourth game. It was a real battle of wills.”
"People talk about his racket skills, but he's also the most determined player I've played. It was just brutal.
"Everyone talks about the rivalry, but there's also a great deal of respect between us,” adding that the enforced break with a hamstring injury at the end of 2011 had probably done him good. “I was out long enough to freshen up, but not so long that I became rusty.”
Matthew lost in last year's final to England team-mate Daryl Selby, whom he defeated in straight games in this year’s semi-finals.
"Losing the title last year was one of the biggest disappointments of my career.
"I feel I played my best squash for the first two and a half games. It means a lot to me to win the title for a record-equalling fourth time," concluded Matthew.
Willstrop knew that he had given his best and was not wholly downhearted: "I was disappointed not to win, but not disappointed in my performance.
"I'm not worried about what happened score-wise - it's more about what's happening in the match and making sure that I'm in it," explained the world number two and twice former champion.
"People keep mentioning the run - and that's great. But the key thing is my squash maintains a high standard and I give it my best."
Laura Massaro became the first player to successfully defend the women's title for eight years when she beat Alison Waters 11-2 11-9 8-11 11-4.
Waters, a former World No.3, was making a comeback after Achilles surgery and was returning to competitive action for the first time since the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
Massaro took the opening two games and led 7-4 in the third. But Waters rediscovered her former form to come back to take the game before her 28-year-old compatriot took control in the fourth to close out the match after 53 minutes.
"The national title is huge for all British players - there are some big names on that trophy," said an exuberant Massaro after her second successive title.
"To be able to win it last year was special, so to do it again is fantastic.
"I was disappointed not to defend my title in Cleveland (USA) last month, so it is good to defend this one.
"Ali was such a good player before she got that terrible injury. To get back to this level, after what she's been through last year, is incredible."
British National Championship, Manchester, England
Men's Final:
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [1] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-8, 11-3, 6-11, 14-12
Women's Final:
[3] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [8] Alison Waters (ENG) 11-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4

Nick Matthew prevailed in the historic men's British National Championship final between the top two players in the world when he beat fellow Englishman James Willstrop in an 81-minute display of dazzling world class squash at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.