Nick Matthew & Tesni Evans Crowned British National Champions

Whilst Nick Matthew collected a record tenth title in his last appearance at the British National Championships, Tesni Evans of Wales produced a scintillating performance to overcome England’s four-time champion Alison Waters to make her the first non-English woman and first Welsh player of either gender to claim a trophy in the championships’ illustrious history.

Matthew strengthened his status as Britain’s greatest ever player following an epic showdown with long-term rival James Willstrop who he eventually overcame 11-7 12-10 8-11 11-6 in a tightly-contested and at times feisty final.

Remarkably before their confrontation on the all-glass court at Manchester’s National Squash Centre, Willstrop had never triumphed over his bitter rival in any match at the British National Championships - falling short on seven occasions, including five final defeats.

However, with Willstrop enjoying a rich vein of form throughout the 2018 tournament, including a comprehensive semi-final win over 2011 winner Daryl Selby, the 34-year-old Englishman was hopefully of troubling his illustrious compatriot as he made his emotional farewell.

With the sound of Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ ringing in his ears, Mathew leapt into action, but after establishing an early lead was forced to dig deep to overcome a determined Willstrop reargued with a gruelling sequence of long, lung busting rallies eventually earning him the opening game 11-7.

With the scores level at 10-10 in an equally competitive second game, the English pair began an enthralling duel of cat and mouse until two-time National champion Willstrop made the first slip, enabling Matthew to double his lead.

As tensions rose between the pair, Willstrop refused to take a backward step and pressed on to take the third game 11-8.

Where many would have faltered under the pressure, Matthew regained his composure and doubled his effort to extend the rallies, often scrambling frantically to counter his opponent’s trademark and increasingly confident short game, before eventually forcing his rival into a succession of uncharacteristic unenforced errors. Having earned five match balls, Matthew utilised every inch of his six-foot frame to close-out a deserved and emotional 69-minute victory.

Speaking after the match, the record breaking Englishman expressed his disbelief at attaining a record ten titles: “I didn’t think I would get one to be honest. I had three goals this year, one of them was to win the World Championships in December and the second was to try and get a tenth National title.
“As James said, I can be a pretty horrible person on court, but James is pretty tough on there as well. We are both tough and that is why we have had such a good rivalry over the years.”

“It was a great match, I really enjoyed the squash on there,” added Willstrop. “It is a good job he wins more than he loses, but he is a wonderful player, a wonderful ambassador for toughness and an incredibly hard player to compete against. I love playing the game – I am really enjoying it and if my body allows me to do it, I will keep going.”

Evans earned her place in her first final after knocking out the defending champion Laura Massaro and former champion Sarah-Jane Perry in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, but any nerves that the 25-year-old might have had were far from obvious as she hit to a good length from the outset and raced into a commanding 10-3 first game lead.

Waters, contesting a record-breaking tenth women’s final, saved two game points with outright winners but was unable to prevent her Welsh rival taking the ascendancy 11-5.

Evans raced to a six-point lead in the second, but Waters, seeking a fifth title that would draw her level with Sue Cogswell and Cassie Jackman as the most successful woman in the competition’s history, fought back admirably. However, with the game poised at nine-all, the 33-year-old English woman hit out of court to hand the advantage back to Evans, who then played a tight backhand drop shop to double her lead.

Despite beginning the third game in fine style to establish an early 4-1 lead, a series of mistakes from the four-time champion allowed Evans to draw level, and the Cardiff-born player never fell behind again - earning championship points at 10-6 with a sublime cross-court shot to the back-left corner. Waters saved the first with a tight volley, only for Evans immediately to respond in kind with a title-winning shot to the front forehand corner.

Having lifted the trophy without dropping a single game all week, Evans conceded that she had gone on to court with a few nerves: “I was so excited to have made the final and tried to bluff that I wasn’t nervous but I was, so just decided to go off as fast as I could.”

“I’m so proud to have won the match and to become the first Welsh person ever to be champion. Thank you to everyone who has supported or helped me - it means so much,” added the Welsh No.1.

Dunlop British National Championships
National Squash Centre, Manchester
Men’s Final:

[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-1 [2] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6

Women’s Final:
[3/4] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0 [3/4] Alison Waters (ENG) 11-5, 11-9, 11-7

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