Squash: Gutsy Matthew defeats Willstrop to seal gold

Three-time world champion Nick Matthew.
Three-time world champion Nick Matthew.
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Sheffield ace Nick Matthew used all his stubborn tendencies to produce the victory of his career and claim Commonwealth Games squash gold in Glasgow.

Life is a rollercoaster for Matthew at the moment – he underwent knee surgery just five weeks ago, led the English team out at last week’s opening ceremony, celebrated his 34th birthday and defeated arch rival James Willstrop to retain his title from four years ago.

And wife Esme is expecting their first child any day soon.

Matthew and Willstrop are teammates but certainly not mates, their relationship has been strained for years and this was always going to be a tetchy and feisty encounter.

They traded blows like boxers but world champion Matthew found a way to hang in, even when the momentum started to shift towards a player who hasn’t beaten him in a top level match in seven years.

“I’m a Yorkshireman, an only child and a Leo so put that together and you’ve got one hell of a stubborn character,” joked Matthew, after the 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-5 final win.

“I can’t play good squash against James – he brings out the worst in me. All I can do is whack it to the back because he’s running everywhere.

“If it was a boxing fight they would’ve stopped it – my corner would’ve thrown in the towel after all the rallies where he had me but I managed to dig in.”

Meanwhile there was also an impressive gold for Sophie Taylor in the 100m breaststroke as she obliterated the final field to win by almost a second in 1:06.35 minutes.

She said: “I wasn’t where I wanted to be in the first 50m, so I had to give it my all after the turn. I could see Alia Atkinson next to me. I could see she was dying, so I just gave it my all.”

Max Litchfield swam a personal best in the 1500m freestyle event, clocking 15:33.87 minutes, which was not good enough for the final but an improvement on his best.

Meanwhile, Chesterfield’s Liam Pitchford couldn’t upgrade silver to gold but insists his time will still come at the Commonwealth Games.

Four years ago the 21-year old was part of an English team that was beaten by Singapore in the final of the team event at Delhi 2010. And while Monday’s result was the same, Pitchford believes progress is being made as they seek to close the gap on a nation where table tennis is the national sport.

“We’re disappointed but it was always going to be very hard against a very tough team,” he said.

“It’s the same medal as four years ago but we’ve improved so much as a team and we can take satisfaction from that.

“We’ve got to keep working hard and keep the faith in our abilities. This is a good young team and the future is looking bright.”

*Commonwealth Games England (CGE) leads and manages the participation of the Team England at the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games. We work with sports, Sponsors and Sport England to support the development of athletes and their sports, and to achieve success at Games-time.