Nick Matthew halts French resistance to reach British Open semi-finals
By NATHAN CLARKE in Hull
Three-time Allam British Open champion Nick Matthew reached the last four of the competition for the fifth consecutive year courtesy of an assured 3-0 win over Mathieu Castagnet at Hull’s Airco Arena today (May 15).
The 34-year-old Yorkshireman followed up his second round victory over French No.3 Gregoire Marche with a commanding display against French No.2 Castagnet to move one step closer to returning to the final for a second consecutive year where he will hope to avenge his defeat to French No.1 Gregory Gaultier 12 months ago.
Matthew came into the tournament with concerns over a niggling ankle injury that halted his bid to win April’s El Gouna International but sent out a strong message to his title rivals as he countered everything the World No.11 threw at him in a masterful display.
“The competitive animal that I am, I wouldn’t have played just to make up the numbers,” said Matthew.
“I guess if you’d offered me a place in the semi-finals before the tournament I’m sure I would have taken it because it means I would have been feeling healthy but once you get to a semi-final anything can happen – the four guys who get to that stage are all capable of winning it.
“I definitely need to start games stronger. I felt like in each game today I was four or five down before I got going, so considering that I was delighted to win in three.
“There’s not too many English players left in the draw so the crowd can save their voices for the home players that are left and hopefully it will be packed out tomorrow.”
Matthew will now face World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy in the semi-finals where he will hope to pick up where he left off against the Egyptian before injury brought their semi-final encounter in El Gouna to a premature end.
Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the World No.5, came through an enthralling encounter with dynamic Egyptian Tarek Momen to book his place in the semi-finals of the Allam British Open for the first time in his career.
The 29-year-old from Bogota, who reached his first ever PSA World Series tournament semi-final when he made the last four in January’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, has been in sublime form in 2015 and demonstrated his unbelievable athleticism and tactical maturity as he saw off the dangerous Momen – currently World No.10
It’s a win that will see Rodriguez line up against either ginat-killer Mazen Hesham or defending French champion Gregory Gaultier, the man be beat in New York to reach the TOC’s semi-finals, with a place in the title-decider at stake.
“I knew it was going to be very tough today against Tarek,” said Rodriguez.
“We’ve already played a few matches before and he’s a fantastic player. He’s very fast like me but I think I played well and my strategy was good so I think I did a great job today.
“I was seeded number four for this tournament so my aim was to reach the semi-finals. This season has been amazing for me – 2015 has been one of the most successful years of my career and reaching two World Series semi-finals and getting to World No.5 is something I’m very proud of and I’m really enjoying my squash now.
“This is my fourth time at the British Open and my first semi-final. This is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the tour – I’m feeling fresh and play either Mazen or Greg so will do my rest first and enjoy playing here again tomorrow.”
Defending champion Gregory Gaultier stormed past giant-killing Egyptian Mazen Hesham to keep alive his hopes of claiming back-to-back titles to join World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy, World No.2 Nick Matthew and World No.5 Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the last four.
The French World No.3 looked in imperious form as he dispatched the 21-year-old challenger 11-7, 11-7, 11-9 in 45-minutes and says he feels confident ahead of a showdown with Colombian live wire Rodriguez in tomorrow’s (May 16) semi-finals.
“Mazen is only 21 and he’s very skilful so you don’t expect what’s coming and that means you have to really focus and play tight against him,” said Gaultier.
“I really enjoyed playing him and that kind of match really activates me ahead of tomorrow. I beat Miguel two weeks ago but he played unbelievable tonight so I will try to use my experience and do my best and see what happens and hopefully it will be a great match in front of a full crowd.
“I’m feeling really relaxed at the minute. I enjoy coming here and for me it’s the last push of the season. I’ve been struggling this year with my Achilles but I’m really enjoying being back on court at the moment so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
PSA World Series, Allam British Open, Hull, England. Men’s Quarter-Finals.
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (37m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (50m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7 (66m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Mazen Hesham (Egy) 11-7 , 11-7, 11-9 (45m).
Draw – Semi-finals (To Be Played May 16)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)