01 December 2011


James Willstrop has won 2 World Series events in a row, first in Hong Kong then in Kuwait. In those 10 matches he's lost one only game in a tie-break to Karim Darwish in the Kuwait final (Darwish was the opponent also in the Hong Kong final). Both times, Willstrop beat convincingly a form-and-confindence regaining Gregory Gaultier in the semi-finals. In Hong Kong one could have thought that Gaultier had too heavy legs from his 90 minute quarter final match against Nick Matthew, but in Kuwait it was just clear that on such a cold court James is the better player (as I think on a hot court Greg is the stronger one). Willstrop's deaf touch is second to none and this coupled with the right discipline of steadiness (accurate length and width) and patience (right shot-selection) makes him almost impossible to beat when Ramy is not around on such a cold court as the one in Kuwait. I even presume that for the first time after uncountable beatings, in Kuwait, Willstrop could have fancied good chances against his nemesis Nick Matthew. Now that Nick has awful lot of points to save from last December, the battle for the year-end #1 spot will be decided in India, at the Punj Lloyd Masters in warmer conditions. The below rally demonstrates perfectly why Nick is such hard nut to crack for Willstrop, and even more so on hot courts. Let's consider also that for Matthew, this is just a normal rally, if required, he can go on like this for 90 minutes, whereas Willstrop can't cope with him in this rhythm for five games, at least he hasn't been capable to demonstrate the opposite in the last two-three years. This is an awesome rally, even if I think that at the winning volley drop Nick has blocked James in the same way as Ramy has blocked Nick in another famous rally in a very similar situation. Apparently the refs consider that the previous shot in both cases was loose, but I still think that this does not justify to clear into the genuine path of your opponent.