TOP STARS BATTLE FOR GLORY
Alan Thatcher reports
leading squash stars Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are
ready to resume their massive rivalry in the 2013 Canary Wharf
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
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.