England’s world number two squash player Nick Matthew achieved “the most important thing in my career so far” when he beat fellow countryman James Willstrop in the men’s Commonwealth Games singles final at the Siri Fort Complex inDelhi to win his first gold medal in his second appearance in the event.
In the sport’s first 1-2-3 in the Games, third-seeded Englishman Peter Barker clinched the bronze medal when he beat Malaysia’s sixth seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar 11-5, 11-4, 11-2 in the third place play-off.
Matthew, the 30-year-old from Sheffield who topped the world rankings in June, then suffered an illness setback last month, struggled earlier in the tournament – but was on top form to beat fellow Yorkshireman Willstrop, ranked four in the world, 11-6, 11-7, 11-7 in 67 minutes.
Cheered on by a boisterous crowd of more than 2,000, Matthew and Willstrop produced an exhilarating display of world-class squash on the spectacular all-glass showcourt in the Indian city’s new sports complex.
“This is the most important thing in my career so far,” enthused Matthew after his triumph. “This was a massive goal. Four years ago I came fourth and saw what it was like. It’s amazing to get gold – I’ll savour it for a long time.
“I remember sitting at home watching Peter Nicol win gold in 1998 – then saw him win it again in Melbourne four years ago when I came fourth, which was quite hard to take. I’ve worked such a long time for this.
“I’m also so happy for Pete, winning bronze. I was at the same stage last time. I’m captain of the team and I’m so proud of them.
“The match was so tough – after all James is four in the world. I had to try and forget it was a Commonwealth Gamesfinal. I was a little bit lucky as James had played two tough games earlier.”
When asked what his thoughts were of Delhi, Matthew replied: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s fantastic – I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.
“The crowd were right behind both of us today – they were fantastic. They were cheering for squash.”
Willstrop, from Leeds, was full of praise for his England team-mate: “I’m disappointed with the result – but that was some performance from Nick. He has a fantastic record. He played too well for me – I really had no answer.
“He played out of his skin, though I thought I played pretty well too. He’s playing at a standard that’s higher than anyone else. He keeps asking more questions of me.
“It might be the best he’s ever played against me – so that’s a nice thing to take from the match. He’s dismantled me the last few times. So whilst it’s disappointing, I’ve got to keep learning.
“I have no regrets – I’ve won the silver medal,” added the 27-year-old. “It was a great atmosphere today.”
Peter Barker was also delighted with his bronze medal achievement. “I played really well today. Winning this medal has to be one of the highlights of my career.
“It’s a strange feeling – normally when you lose (as in the semi-finals), you pack your bags and go home. Nick said to me yesterday ‘don’t make the same mistake I did last time’. I took his advice and got my head together and told myself it’s a massive match.
“It’ll take a little while to sink in – but not many people win a Commonwealth Games medal. My Mum and girlfriend are here. This’ll probably mean more to my Mum!
“Azlan did incredibly well to get here. He and I are good friends. We train together in London. It’s never easy, playing a friend. But I wanted to show something for my efforts,” added the world No8 from London.
When asked to comment on England’s success, the left-hander said: “We’re pretty strong in squash at the moment – we really wanted a 1/2/3 and hope this will help get us some media coverage back home. To get all the medals in the men’s event really shows the dominance of our players.
“What a lovely position for England to be in.”
England men’s coach David Campion highlighted the background to the country’s success. “This is the culmination of a lot of effort over the last 18 months by a number of people. It’s testament to all the hard work and effort that all the players have put in.
“We’re absolutely delighted to bring home all three medals in the men’s event,” added the former junior international. “And it’s a great shame that Alison (Waters) had to pull out of the women’s bronze medal match. She looked in great form yesterday and was a great prospect in the doubles too.
“The Commonwealth Games is such a big occasion for any squash player – something to cherish for life. It’s big for England Squash and the English Institute of Sport – and a lot of people there have contributed to this success.
“I am very proud to be part of it.”
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 11-6, 11-7, 11-7 (67m)
Bronze medal play-off:
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt  Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 11-5, 11-4, 11-2 (45m)