Favourites Nick Matthew and Nicol David secured the gold medals in the World Games Squash championships today after straight games victories in the men’s and women’s finals, respectively, at the Chung Cheng Martial Arts Stadium in the Chinese Taipei city of Kaohsiung.
The finals, both of which featured the events’ top two seeds, brought to a climax the Squash competition in the 2009 Kaohsiung World Games – the eighth edition of the multi-sport event, staged under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which featured over 4,000 athletes competing in more than 30 sports not currently on the programme of the Olympic Games.
When asked earlier in the tournament about her chances in a possible encounter with top seed and world number one Nicol David, second-seeded Natalie Grinham, ranked three in the world, believed she would have a chance.
But in the final of the World Games women’s squash event, David – who has topped the world rankings for the past three years unchallenged – proved once again today that she is clearly the best in the game.
Grinham, who needed a gutsy comeback from two games down in the semi-final against Great Britain’s Alison Waters 24 hours earlier, scored more points against the Malaysian than any of her other victims this week – but David still triumphed in straight games 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 in 35 minutes.
David never trailed in the match and, after failing to concede a single game throughout the entire tournament, went on to make history by becoming the first player to successfully defend a World Games Squash title.
The 31-year-old from the Netherlands had lost eight consecutive times to David on the WISPA World Tour – but had hoped to draw inspiration from the last time they met in a non-tour event, in the Commonwealth Games in 2006, when she defeated David in five sets before going on to win a record three gold medals
In the women’s bronze-medal match, David’s semi-final victim Omneya Abdel Kawy dealt fourth seeded Waters her second consecutive five-game defeat.
The fifth-seeded Egyptian rallied from a two sets to one deficit and delivered when it mattered after the final game went to ten-all to beat Waters 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 12-10 in 51 minutes and capture the bronze.
The men’s climax was an all-British affair – between two England and Yorkshire county team-mates Nick Matthew and James Willstrop. Matthew, who will celebrate his 29th birthday tomorrow (Saturday), is enjoying a fine run on the international circuit where he stands at a career-high world number five ranking – yet reached the final after surviving a 90-minute marathon against third seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar, in which he saved a match ball against the Malaysian!
By contrast, second seed Willstrop has slipped to 12 in the rankings – from a best-ever world number two – and was making his international comeback after undergoing ankle surgery in April. But, the 25-year-old from Leeds barely broke sweat in his semi-final clash when long-time Tour rival Stewart Boswell, from Australia, retired with a back injury after just 10 minutes into the first game.
“I felt bad for Stewart,” said Willstrop after the match. “We seem to be bad luck charms for each other as we always seem to get injured playing each other. I did my ankle playing him, and he did his rib playing me two or three years back!”
But it was nip and tuck in the first game of the final, before Matthew pulled ahead from 9-8 to take a 1/0 lead. The Sheffield man built up a 6-0 lead in the second before Willstrop got off the mark and pulled back the deficit to 7-4, before Matthew extended his lead to 2/0.
Willstrop took the early lead in the third, but it was short-lived as Matthew bounded back to maintain the lead through the game before recording his 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 title triumph in 42 minutes – and the World Games gold medal for the first time.
Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar claimed the men’s bronze medal after gaining a walkover from the injured Boswell.
 Nick Matthew (GBR) bt  James Willstrop (GBR) 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 (42m)
Bronze medal play-off:
 Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) bt  Stewart Boswell (AUS) w/o
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Natalie Grinham (NED) 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (38m)
Bronze medal play-off:
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (GBR) 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 12-10 (51m)