Friday, March 1, 2024

Canary Wolf Nick Matthew makes it six of the best at his favourite tournament

Joy of six for top seed Nick

Nick Matthew made it a super six at the Canary Wharf Squash Classic, claiming an 11-9, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8 win over an “unbelievably tough” Fares Dessouky.

The Sheffield player once again belied his 36 years with a typical display of high-tempo, pressing squash and, as he said about himself earlier this tournament, some of the best movement of his career.

Even many of Dessouky’s classiest, tightest and most deceptive shots, which had already put paid to Tom Richards, Mathieu Castagnet and Borja Golan this week, came back from the racket of Matthew, who showed great power and touch to make it five unbeaten contests against the rising Egyptian star.

He said: “I didn’t know what to expect because Fares had such an amazing match last night, length-wise anyway. I mean, I think everyone agrees that we didn’t want as many lets as there were last night.

“It’s so hard to come back mentally from a match like that and push to the level needed again.

“I accused him halfway through the match today about being a bit soft when he was holding his ribs and stuff, but he really showed that he’s actually unbelievably tough. How he came back in that third game. I think he broke the nick on one shot – it was ridiculous!

“I know exactly on this court what it’s like to back up a semi-final like that. I did it many moons ago and it’s so, so, so hard. So it’s a lot of credit for him to push me as deep as he did.

“After last night he could have been forgiven for feeling that quad in the first rally so enormous credit to him and I don’t look forward to playing him when he’s totally fresh.”

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The win is extra special for Matthew, partly because it came in front of what he described as the best crowd in squash, and partly because it means all of his £9,300 prize money will go towards the #Sunshine4Sumner cause.

This is a fund for the treatment of Sumner Malik, an 11-year-old from Sussex who has a rare type of brain tumour but still plays squash with his family in Crawley – and was lucky enough to share a court with Matthew in his home town of Sheffield during the British Junior Open.

“I just thought we should do something,” Matthew said. “The family lives and breathes squash as do I. We’re so fortunate to do what we do so healthily for a living. We’re so lucky, we take it for granted sometimes.

“I really wasn’t trying to get any press for it – I was just trying to do a good thing. I wanted to raise awareness I guess for his plight, that was the important thing. It was the least I could do.

“I probably thought about it too much. The first night I was putting pressure on myself and I said publicly maybe it’s not so much a good idea if I put pressure on myself and go out first round, so I’m glad that I’ve given him a good fund.”

Reflecting on a sixth triumph in one of the sport’s most iconic locations, Matthew added: “It’s such a pleasure to play here. I really, truly missed this event last year. This Friday night crowd…you know…they like their beers.

“It’s easy to go to every tournament and say they’re the best crowd, but this one really is.”

He certainly gave them a lot to shout about. The game started, as would be expected, with some very high quality rallies, with Matthew taking the ball early and aggressively, while Dessouky often looked to kill points with his trademark extravagant winners.

But many of Dessouky’s shots which might have been outright winners against other players, or at least come back with little interest, were dealt with brilliantly by Matthew.

This meant that, as the rallies went on, Dessouky found himself having to hit with ever more trickery and ever tighter above the tin to put Matthew away.

The telling statistic was that in the first two games respectively the Egyptian hit six winners and six errors and then five and five, while Matthew hit four winners to two errors and then three winners to just one error in the second game.

In the third, Dessouky made the winners pay, hitting seven, including a few beautiful drop shots rolled near enough horizontal across the court and an audacious backhand volley return cushioned into the opposite nick.

These helped him to a 10-4 lead, but Matthew, warrior that he is, is definitely not the type to just give up mentally on such a game and focus on the next, and he saved all six game balls to force a tiebreak.

Here, Dessouky got a bit of help from the video referee as he reviewed his let and was granted a stroke – a tough decision which split the crowd. But there was no debate about the way he sealed the game and gave the crowd a much wanted fourth – a fine forehand volley kill.

Matthew stayed mentally strong to take an absorbing match 11-8 in the fourth – Dessouky bowing out in typical style with a behind-the-back winner attempt which crashed into the tin.

Dessouky said: “It was a great week for me and I have played my best squash at this tournament.

“I feel that I have played really well because so many people in the crowd have been supporting me. I am happy to have been in the final and maybe next time I can win the title. Why not? I’m pretty close!”

Canary Wharf Squash Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England.

(1) Nick Matthew (England) beat (4) Fares Dessouky (Egypt) 3-1: 11-9, 11-7, 10-12, 11-8 (70 minutes) 

Pictures by STEVE LINE (


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