Ben Matthews takes first match against Bryn Sayers in World Challenge Eliminator

08 Feb 2012

Ben Matthews leads Bryn Sayers 1-0 after the first session at Prested

Result: 6/3, 3/6, 6/3, 6/3.

There have been elements of luck in Ben Matthews' appearance in this year's World Championship Eliminator process, most notably that now as World #7 player, he was the 5th ranked player at just the right time to take part. Last night however he left little to chance, exploiting his home court advantage well and sustaining attack on his world #3 ranked opponent Bryn Sayers throughout.

Matthews won a 24-point first game, in which it seemed both players shed any nerves, and despite losing the next two games to love Matthews used the 3-3 all mid-set platform to push on and win it; 6/3. He was particularly slick around the corners, picking up mainwall half-volleys at ease and using a heavily cut demi-piquet to extract a frequency of overhit balls from his opponent. No panic in the Sayers house.

Such as he's conjured seemingly countless times (already) on his way to last year's British Open final and this years US Open title, a Sayers rearguard action was inevitable. With more venom on his groundstrokes, as is his trademark, and greater accuracy on targets he almost imperceptibly shortened points and games to always stay ahead and level the match a set apiece.

In the past, this has been where Matthews has lost it. Get a set? No problem. His desire has often been sufficient to garner two sets, but hitherto last night Matthews simply hasn't demonstrated the resolve and mental fortitude sufficient to make his higher-ranked opponents believe they might not win. So at 3/3 in the critical 3rd set the sensible money was on Sayers - and it would have been completely lost. Emphatically, Matthews lost only 4 points to polish the set and in doing so put to bed some ghosts. Combining ferocious forcing, good patience in the longer points and implacability when things weren't quite going his way he gave little respite to Sayers, who in turn offered more unforced errors than is his norm. 6/3, two sets to one Matthews, but more tellingly with buckets of momentum.

With his increasingly rowdy supporters urging him to the finish line, Matthews stayed focused and put together a devastating 4 game streak that survived a mini Sayers fightback and the coasted to line, perhaps thinking it had been a bit easy? Neither man appeared to be at all physically effected by the undoubtedly world class display.

With the night's beaten player having disposed of this Eliminator's next opponent (World No 2 Steve Virgona) on the last two occasions, one might have heard a shrill of delight all the way from Philadelphia, but rest assured Sayers has plenty to summon and will show his own partisan crowd a deals more resolve at The Queen's Club this coming Wednesday.

World Championship Eliminator 1st leg at Prested Hall Racquet Club - Ben Matthews defeated Bryn Sayers 6/3 3/6 6/3 6/3   Ged Eden

The series continues at The Queen's Club on Wednesday 15th and Friday 17th February. To watch the next stage of this encounter call Nikki Rawden on 020 7386 3443 or

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