Matthew gunning for super six at British Nationals in Manchester
World number one Nick Matthew will be returning to the city where he enjoyed his third World title success when the British National Squash Championships gets underway in Manchester next month.
The Yorkshireman, who advanced into the last eight of the Tournament of Champions on Sunday afternoon, will be aiming for a record-breaking sixth title when he takes to the court at the National Squash Centre – a feat only achieved by Squash Mad columnist Cassie Thomas (nee Jackman) in the event’s 39-year history.
Matthew said: “I can’t wait to compete in Manchester again. Obviously I have very special memories of playing in the city after winning the World title there last year. The atmosphere in Manchester is always electric and hopefully we’ll give them plenty to cheer about.
Matthew’s biggest threat is expected to come from long-term rival and world number five James Willstrop, who he beat in the 2013 final in straight games (pictured left).
World number eight Peter Barker will also be looking to continue his comeback from a calf injury suffered at the World Championship in November, while Daryl Selby will be hoping to win his second National title after triumphing in 2011.
Matthew begins his campaign against a qualifier but could meet his two England teammates – Adrian Grant and Selby – in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Elsewhere, Willstrop faces Atlanta Open semi-finalist Declan James in the first round, with a potential last four showdown with Peter Barker anticipated in a repeat of their Canary Wharf Classic final last year.
In the women’s draw, all eyes will be on the battle between English duo Laura Massaro and Alison Waters. Massaro, who is ranked the higher of the two at world number two, will be gunning for revenge after losing last year’s final to Waters in five tight games.
Top seed Massaro (pictured right) faces Tesni Evans of Wales in the first round but could face a tricky last eight encounter against the returning Sarah-Jane Perry, who made her comeback from a fractured vertebrae at the Tournament of Champions.
New world number seven Madeline Perry could await Massaro in the semi-finals, but the 36-year-old Irishwoman may need to overcome rising teenager Emily Whitlock in the last eight.
In the bottom half of the draw, former world number two and two-time National champion Jenny Duncalf meets a qualifier in the last sixteen but is seeded to face Sarah Kippax in the following round.
Likewise, second seed Waters also begins against a qualifier but could meet Emma Beddoes in the quarter-finals, who kept Msssaro on court for over an hour last year before succunbing to a four game defeat.
Hundreds of Masters squash players will also have the chance to compete in Manchester, alongside the professionals, as men and women in the over-35’s to over-75’s battle it out for age group titles.
Manchester also boasts the country’s largest legacy programme with over 2,000 local school children expected to attend during the week.
Pictures by Michael Catling