Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-2: 10-12, 9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 14-12 (109m)
Defending Champion Nick Matthew was forced to come from two-games down and save three match balls to overcome a red-hot Borja Golan in an edge-of-the-seat thriller that treated fans inside the University Club of Chicago’s Cathedral Hall to 109-minutes of the highest calibre squash earlier today.
Coming into the encounter Matthew led the pair’s head-to-head record 6-0 but the capacity crowd at the PSA World Series tournament would have been forgiven for thinking the record was incorrectly displayed as Golan produced arguably the best squash of his career to open up a two-game advantage courtesy of some wonderfully composed aggressive play that saw him outmuscle and outmanoeuvre Matthew.
Golan was playing with crisp accurate lines and length to keep Matthew on the back foot but in the kind of fashion that has become the foundation stone of his career the ‘Wolf’ clawed his way back into proceedings in the third game when Golan dropped slightly off the pace, gaining a foothold in the match going into the fourth.
As momentum swung back and forth throughout a monstrous 30 minute fourth game it was Matthew who earned first sight at the line as he went ahead 10-9 after an inch perfect drive. But Golan displayed the characteristics that have earned him the nickname ‘The Bull’ as he charged back, saving three game balls, before Matthew finally managed to set up the fifth courtesy of a sublime lob-drive combo.
The fifth saw Golan get off to a positive start to take the first few exchanges but the match continued to swing back and forth like a pendulum as they traded points like heavyweights in a brutal middle of the ring slug fest. Golan emerged with match ball before Matthew hit an outrageous crosscourt kill that hit just millimetres above the tin to achieve parity once again.
Golan struck back immediately to earn another match ball, which he quickly squandered after hitting the tin, before he saw a third match ball go begging. Then, at the first opportunity presented to him, Matthew snatched the victory from the Spaniard’s hands after a blistering rally that belied the 100+ minutes the duo had spent on court dragging each other from corner to corner.
Matthew’s ability to withstand Golan’s fightback towards the closing stages on the fourth game, when the Spaniard fought off three game ball, to force a decider proved crucial in the outcome of the match but his all-or-nothing crosscourt kill when facing his first match ball was the sort of shot that only the very best players in the world would consider, never mind execute.
Shot of the match
Staring down the barrel of match ball Matthew’s backhand volley stayed deep forcing Golan to hit an imperfect straight drive down the forehand side, as the ball bounced Matthew unleashed a ferocious low crosscourt kill that connect millimetres above the tin in an all or nothing shot that kept the match alive and led him to victory.
Nick Matthew: “I feel like a bit like I’ve won the tournament right now, it is mad that that was only a second round match.
“In the first two games, especially the first game, it was the best I’ve ever seen him play. He was so aggressive, taking the T away and I didn’t think I played badly but was 2-0 down.
“I didn’t want an early flight out – I won here last year and the thought of losing second round, I just kept fighting and fighting.
“Sometimes you just have to do whatever you can to win. You have to find plan b or c and I went all the way to plan z and I just kept digging it back and digging it back and he made a few errors there at the end.
“Those mistakes gives you hope but overtime I relaxed and though I had my tactics nailed he came back. Now it’s all about looking after my body and refocusing for the next match.
“As players we train day in and day out for tough matches so there’s no excuses that I can’t come back and play well tomorrow.”
Borja Golan: “Nick showed again today how mentally strong he is. I am a bit frustrated, because I had 3 match balls, and those opportunities that do not come often in a life time. But I’m exhausted, I gave it all I had, and I cannot have any regrets.
“It was a good game, a fair game, and we both gave it our maximum.”