By Max Chesterton
Nine-time National champion Nick Matthew will take on long-time rival James Willstrop in the final of the 2018 Dunlop National Squash Championships at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.
Nick Matthew, who is set to retire at the end of the season beat Chris Simpson 3-1 in an enthralling semi-final match-up: 6-11, 11-2, 11-9, 11-6 (64m).
Against all odds, Simpson, who has only beaten Matthew once in thirteen matches, raced nine points clear in the first game, before a resurgent Matthew reduced the margin to 6-9.
The three-time world champion’s comeback remained short-lived however as the Guernsey underdog kept his composure to claim a surprise lead thanks to several uncharacteristic unenforced errors from Matthew.
Not wanting to relinquish his crown easily, Matthew took little time restoring order, forcing the 30-year-old Simpson into numerous gruelling rallies and rapidly clinching the second game with ease.
With the world no.8 far from his usual best, Simpson continued to disrupt the narrative, breaking back from 4-2 down to go 7-4 ahead before a temporary break in play after Matthew was struck by a flailing racket.
However, Matthew’s experience shone through and the nine-time British champion eventually came through to set up another titanic clash with James Willstrop in tomorrow’s final.
“It feels good to be in another final,” said Matthew.
“I thought Chris played really well – I had to get feisty and angry. We train a lot together and that is the best I have ever seen him play.
“I am pleased to get through and have another battle against James tomorrow. We played in New York recently, but I knew there would be a few more clashes.”
In the women’s championships, Alison Waters booked her place in a tenth British National Championship final after completing a 3-2 victory over compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry – 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5 (61m).
Waters will face Wales’ Tesni Evans in the final for the chance to earn a fifth National title and draw level with Sue Cogswell and Cassie Jackman as the most successful woman in the competition’s illustrious history.
Waters, who was appearing in her 13th consecutive British National Championship semi-final, started the brighter of the pair – pouncing on the slightest of Perry misjudgements to convincingly claim the first game with ease.
The world no.8 cut a frustrated figure in the second, sloppily forcing a number of unenforced errors and allowing Waters to take a 9-1 lead before her opponent wrapped up the game with seven points to spare.
With the tide turning against the Midlander, Perry came back with a vengeance, utilising her physicality to her advantage and overpowering the world no.10 to claim the third game.
With Waters looking set for certain victory and needing just one point to book her place in the final, a revived Perry broke back to gain four points in succession and draw level in the match.
After relinquishing a winning position once, Waters didn’t let her lead slip a second time – finishing off opponent in style with a sizzling drop shot to progress through to tomorrow’s finals.
After the match, Waters expressed her relief at reaching the final: “Thank god I won. We have had some battles over the years. Sarah-Jane is such an amazing player.”
“I think at the end we were both feeling it. I am really proud that I won, and I am prouder that I came back in the fifth game.
“I am delighted to be in the final. I come here every year hoping to win.
“I want a fifth title desperately and I will be giving my all to get it.”