Finals Day in Philly
It's Finals Day in Philadelphia, with two champions of the PSA and WSA World Series events — offering equal prize money for the first time ever— crowned tonight in Drexel University's John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Nicol Still the Champion
It was a meeting of the world No. 1 and world No. 2 and Nicol David retained her U.S. Open title with a thrilling five-game victory over Laura Massaro—eighty-four minutes of captivating play that could have been choreographed to say to to the men's finalists "follow that if you can!"
For five games they traded blows, testing each other out with long, patient, well-crafted rallies, then one or the other would prize open an opportunity and pounce on it. Unforced errors were few and far between, the quality was unfailingly high and the tension palpable throughout.
Hardly a point between them in the first two games—Massaro gets first chance at game ball 10-9, David seizes her first chance to take it 13-11. At 9-all in the second David gets first shot, but Massaro takes the game 13-11 on her second game ball. (on her first at 11-10 to Massaro, David gets a let as she runs into her opponent's knees, Massaro appeals hoping for a no let, video ref says 'stroke to David!').
David leads early in the fifth, Massaro levels at 2-all, but David has the momentum now, and two rare errors from Laura's racquet take it to 7-3. The end comes quickly—a winning boast for 10-5, then a ball driven into the deep that Laura can't retrieve and Nicol, still the champion, leaps in delight.
"It feels fantastic, it means a lot to win that match and to win another U.S. Open title," said David.
"It's been such a journey this year. I knew Laura was playing well, and I would have to dig deep. When I was down in the fourth, she maybe stepped off it a little, I just knew I had to keep going and going to the last point.
"Liz [Irving] helped me such a lot, she gave me the confidence to go in there, to know I could do it, and she and the team in Amsterdam have been doing that for the last ten and a half years.
"This is such a fantastic event, all credit to US Squash, the sponsors and the venue, making the prize money equal is putting the women's game where it deserves to be and we all look forward to coming back for the next ten years!"
Masterclass From Greg
What followed was a masterful performance from Gregory Gaultier as the French top seed added to his U.S. Open title of 2006 with a straight games win over Nick Matthew, the third seed and 2007 champion.
In yesterday's semifinal with compatriot James Willstrop, Matthew was the one in charge, but tonight the boot was firmly on the other foot as Gaultier assumed early control and only on sporadic occasions could Matthew break free.
It was never as easy as that makes it sound of course—that second game took over 20 minutes to complete, and there were plenty of fiercely competitive rallies—but it truly was a masterclass from Gaultier - watch the video.
"It's amazing," said a delighted Gaultier. "The last time I won this was 2006 so to win it again here in this great venue is like a dream.
"For me it's my fifth tournament in a row, Nick has only just started after five months off, so I have the matches in my legs—maybe that was the difference tonight. I'm sure he'll come back strong, maybe we can have another match in the World Open final next week!
"The sponsors, the organization and the venue here are all fantastic, and they're doing great things in helping to raise the women's game too."
David v Massaro
Malaysia's Nicol David, just turned thirty, is the undisputed world No. 1—a position she's held since January 2006, during which time she's accumulated every squash title on offer: seven World Titles, British Opens, World Games, Commonwealth games, WISPA Grand Prix, WSA World Series, Hong Kong, Qatar...you name it, she's won it, including a record sixty-eight WSA titles from eighty-seven finals.
It wasn't until last year, however, that she properly completed her collection with victory here at Drexel to claim her first U.S. Open title. She'll be looking for another one tonight.
Aiming to stop her is England's world No. 2 Laura Massaro, just a year younger at 29, and champion here in 2011.
The raw head to head figures don't look good for Massaro, training as she does—5-18 in their meetings since 2005. But look a little more closely and you'll see that David won the first nine before Massaro scored a couple of wins in 2011. David avenged those with seven wins on the bounce, but since then Massaro has won three of the last four.
They shared wins in January's World Series Finals—Massaro won the group match, David took the Final—but in their two full-blown WSA meetings this year, Massaro first beat David on her home turf in the Malaysian Open semifinal, and then took her British Open title from her in the final in Hull. Those are two of Massaro's twelve WSA titles from twenty-four finals.
David's route to the final has been more clinical—she's yet to drop a game, whereas Massaro's matches have been getting progressively tougher and longer: 211 on-court minutes compared to David's 132, but who adds a second U.S. Open title to their tally tonight is truly anyone's guess.
Gaultier v Matthew
"He's already played seventy-five matches this season and I've only played four," joked Nick Matthew after winning through to the final last night. The statistics are somewhat exaggerated, but it's certainly true that Frenchman Gaultier, thirty, is well into his routine, having already competed in the European Individuals, PSA Netsuite in San Francisco and PSA Abierto Mexicano (two wins, one runner-up) before heading to Philadelphia. So the world No. 2's form speaks for itself.
Matthew's four matches have all been in Philadelphia, but there's been nothing to suggest he's not in good form, even if he's spent 208 minutes getting to the final compared to Gaultier's 169.
Their records are exemplary—Gaultier has been world No. 1, has won seven European titles, been in two World finals, and has won many of the major tournaments including the British Open and the U.S. Open in 2006, twenty-four PSA titles from fifty-three finals. At thirty-three, Matthew's CV is more impressive, with a longer run at No. 1, two World titles plus Commonwealth and World Games gold medals, more British Open titles, plus the 2007 U.S. Open crown included in twenty-six PSA titles from fifty-four finals.
Gaultier has the edge on the head to head though—in PSA matches at least—and leads 14-10. This decade though it's Matthew who leads 6-5, and you have to factor in wins for the Englishman in European and Team Championships too, notably their epic in the World Teams semifinal in Mulhouse this June. You could also look at their 2013 PSA record, which Gaultier leads 3-1.
So, just as with the women's final, it's not clear cut, not clear cut at all.
The bottom Line
The probability is that we're going to have two tremendous finals.
The certainty is that, for the first time ever, not only will the winners' trophies be the same size, so will their checks.
Stats and head to heads from SquashInfo.com