Nick Matthew & James Willstrop To Contest Historic Nationals Final

A hard-fought victory by world number one Nick Matthew over defending champion Daryl Selby in tonight's semi-finals of the British National Squash Championships at the National Squash Centre in Manchester has set up the first ever domestic final between the top two players in the world.
 
Three-time champion Matthew will face fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop, the world No2 from Leeds who beat England team-mate Adrian Grant 11-9, 11-6, 11-9.
 
Lancashire's defending champion Laura Massaro will face Londoner Alison Waters in the women's final. In the first semi, world No3 Massaro saw off Irish rival Madeline Perry 11-4, 11-9, 11-3. Later Waters romped to an 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 victory over Essex's Lauren Briggs.
 
James Willstrop claimed the first men's semi-final slot after his revenge victory over left-hander Grant. The Yorkshireman boasted a 6/2 career head-to-head record over Grant, but the Londoner came out on top the last time they met - on the same Manchester all-glass court five months ago.
 
It was neck and neck up to five-all in the first game before top seed Willstrop moved ahead to game ball at 10-6. Grant was able to save three, but Willstrop stopped the rot to take the game - and then
the second to lead 2/0.
 
Grant had several leads in the third and saved one match ball at 10-8 before a miss hit by the left-hander gave Willstrop an 11-9, 11-6, 11-9 victory after 54 minutes.
 
"Adrian made it really hard as he plays well on this court. I had to really be on my game, I had to push. He beat me the last time on this court," said Willstrop, now in his fifth final.
 
"It means a lot to be in the final - it's such a prestigious event. All the players enjoy coming back here –
it's great to come and show people what it's all about.
 
"It's fantastic to be back in the final again after a couple of years," Willstrop continued. "I'm playing well and feeling good. Hopefully I can put on a good show tomorrow."
 
After being in control for the first two games against title-holder Selby, 31-year-old Matthew saved a game ball in the third before closing out the match 11-8, 11-3, 14-12 to avenge his shock defeat in last year's final.
 
The third game was full of drama and debate with the referee. Matthew led 5-1, but Selby dig deep to claw back the deficit before moving 8-5 up.
 
The second seed from Sheffield then took four points in a row before putting the ball into the tin to hand the advantage back to Selby. But a stroke led Matthew to match-ball - and a series of lengthy and dramatic rallies, including several unpopular decisions from the officials - before Selby gained his
own game ball.
 
And, after numerous attempts to close out his third match ball at 13-12, Matthew finally clinched victory after 67 minutes to move into his fifth national final.
 
"He seems to get better when he's behind," said Matthew post-match. "He's like a dog with a bone.
 
"But all credit to him - he's the defending champion and wanted to keep that trophy.
 
"Last year, he deservedly won the title - and I took it on the chin. I bounced back strong immediately afterwards and doubled my determination to get back this year and win it back.
 
"There's been talk all week about the final between me and James - and now we've done all the work to set it up. I'm looking forward to it."
 
Laura Massaro, the world No3 from Preston who last year became the first Lancashire winner of the women's title, moved into her third final after seeing off Irish rival Madeline Perry, the world No4, 11-4, 11-9, 11-3.
After winning the 2011 national crown, 28-year-old Massaro went on to enjoy the best year of her career - leaping from ten to three in the rankings and winning the 'WISPA Player of the Year' award ahead of the record six-time world champion.
The head-to-head record between the semi-finalists showed Massaro 8/6 ahead, with the champion beating Perry en-route to her Manchester success last year - but Perry came out on top most recently in Singapore last July.
But Massaro put in a commanding performance - leaping to a 9-0 lead in a one-sided first game before going behind in the second as Perry changed her tactics. The local star then won five points in a row to retake the lead - and led throughout the third before closing out the match in 37 minutes.
"I managed to stay strong," said Massaro. "It was much tougher than it might look from the scoreline - I'm really glad I came through 3/0.
"The second was brutal - she was 6-3 up and we had a really hard rally and I broke my racket. But I managed to push on.
"Madeline is such a tough competitor - that match was never easy, even though it was 3/0.
 
"The event has such a rich history - and it's good to get your name on that trophy alongside all those greats. I want to get as many titles as I can before I retire."
 
Perry, who was celebrating her 35th birthday, admitted: "I felt old! It certainly wasn't the best birthday present!"
 
When asked to sum uo the match, the 13-time Irish champion said: "I just didn't expect her to go short so early. In the second game I moved up the court and managed to push her back - but I made a couple errors at crucial times.
 
"It didn't feel as if I was playing well on that court."
 
Winner of the National title in 2008 and 2010, Alison Waters suffered an Achilles injury in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India and, after failing to respond to treatment, underwent surgery in May last year. After a long period of rehabilitation - during which her world ranking plummeted from three to 44 - the 27-year-old from London is making her long-awaited comeback in Manchester.
 
It was a spritely eighth seed Waters who despatched surprise opponent Lauren Briggs to claim her sixth appearance in the final since 2005.
 
"Six finals? That sounds quite good doesn't it," said Waters when reminded of her achievement.
 
"I really wasn't sure what would happen when I got here, but the atmosphere's been good and I've just come back into my game.
 
"I'm fresh and relaxed - sometimes a break makes you come back stronger.
 
"Laura's had a good year and reached a highest ranking of three - but I haven't played her for ages.

It's going to be tough - but I'm feeling fresh and I'm ready for it."
 
Men's semi-finals:
[1] James Willstrop (Yorks) bt [4] Adrian Grant (Kent) 11-9, 11-6, 11-9 (54m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Yorks) bt [3] Daryl Selby (Essex) 11-8, 11-3, 14-12 (67m)
Women's semi-finals:
[8] Alison Waters (Middx) bt [7] Lauren Briggs (Essex) 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 (26m)
[3] Laura Massaro (Lancs) bt [2] Madeline Perry (Ireland) 11-4, 11-9, 11-3 (37m)
 
Tickets for the British National Squash Championships - Manchester 2012 can be booked online at www.isportgroup.com/ticketing, or by telephone on 0844-870 0000 - or for further help and information email: info@isportgroup.com