British National Championships 2013 – Finals
 Alison Waters bt  Laura Massaro 11/7, 7/11, 12/10, 6/11, 13/11 (78m)
Waters makes it three
Someone was bound to become National Champion for the third time in a row this afternoon, but would it be Laura Massaro claiming three in a row, or Alison Waters making it three wins from seven finals?
It was a repeat of last year’s final, and it was, in the words of the winner, “as close as it gets”.
Ranked three and five in the world you’d expect a high quality match with plenty of hard fought rallies, crisp winners and tremendous retrieving, and that’s what a packed NSC crowd got for well over an hour in a see-saw five-setter.
Waters pulled away from 6-all in the first to take the lead 11-7, Massaro struck back, leading the second all the way to level, 11-7 again.
The third was, in the end crucial. Massaro started out strong again, improved a 4-1 lead to 10-6, but Waters fired back with six points in a row to regain the initiative 12-10.
The fourth started out close, but it was Massaro’s turn to put a string of points together as she moved from 6-5 to take the game 11-6 and set up the decider.
And what a decider it was. It looked all over as Waters swept into a 7-1 lead, but that was the signal for Massaro to start fighting harder, while Waters seemed to go on the defensive, and we were at 7-all with Waters hitting a couple of dreadful tins.
From then on it was nip and tuck, Waters got match ball 10-9 with a lucky reflex volley, Massaro saved that, earned one of her own at 11-10 and thought she’d won it but ‘only’ got a let at the front.
Waters levelled with a flicked crosscourt drop, drove the ball deep to earn a second match ball, then claimed a third title punching the ball away as Massaro, having slipped at just the wrong time, was scrambling on the floor watching her title slip away.
“They don’t come much closer than that, do they,” said a delighted Waters. “At 7-1 up in the fifth it was looking good, then it was 7-all and it could have been anyone’s, no-one really deserves to lose a match like that.
“I was lucky she slipped at the end, but obviously I’m delighted to win a third National title, hopefully it will be the start of more titles this year.
“I’d like to dedicate this win to Harry Faulkner [the 18-year-old national junior who died on court earlier this month]. I was on court with him a few times, and he was a great talent. I thought about him during this week here at the Nationals – if you’re watching this Harry, this one’s for you.”
Matthew breaks the record
Given their head to head record, both in this and other events, plus the fact that Matthew’s route to the final had been easier, that was always going to be a tall order.
Willstrop was always a point or two behind in the first game, with Matthew making his opponent do a lot of work, as he always does, and it was the defending champion who took the lead 11-9.
The second was much easier, from Matthew’s viewpoint anyway, as he dominated the game, finishing it 11-3 with Willstrop hardly contesting the last two or three points.
Willstrop took a 3-minute injury break in the interval, and came out for the third competing well in the rallies again. He was still having to do the lion’s share of the work though, and dumped a handful of balls in the tin from good positions as Matthew tightened the screw even further.
Willstrop got a little breather at 6-1 when the central referee gave a stroke against him when James had seen three different decisions signalled, but it was only a temporary respite and soon enough Matthew had his full hand raised in triumph.
“I never thought I’d get to the point of having five National titles,” admitted Matthew at the end, “but I guess I’ve got them forever now!
“James obviously wasn’t right physically, he won’t make any excuses but I can make them for him – there’s not many players who would have finished that match.”
“All credit to Nick,” said James, “he put me under more pressure physically than anyone has for a long time. I don’t know if it’s the accumulation of tough matches or if I’m just not good enough physically at the moment to deal with what he always throws at you, but he fully deserves this fifth title.”
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