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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nick Matthew wins Cambridge Cup

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Nick Matthew and Omar Mosaad after the final
Nick Matthew and Omar Mosaad after the final

Matthew masters Mosaad to win the famous robe in Toronto
By CHRIS HOLLOW in Toronto


It was Finals night in Toronto and there would be a new Cambridge Cup champion by the end of the night. In a heavy-weight engagement, World Number 3 Nick Matthew battled World Number 4 Omar Mosaad for the title.

First on court was a highly entertaining undercard featuring four-time World Champion Amr Shabana, now the Egyptian National Coach, going head-to-head with one of his disciples, 24 year-old World Number 22 Ali Farag in the 7/8 match. They showed us every shot in the book (and then some) but in the end youth prevailed over experience with Farag besting his childhood idol and current coach in five games 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 10-12, 11-3.

The pump was primed for the Main Event. The top two seeds achieved their rankings and stepped on court at 748p local time to battle for Canada’s most prestigious squash title.

The opening rallies were long and measured. It became apparent early that they weren’t here to impress the crowd with flair but rather to win the title. Matthew got out to a 3-1 lead when Mosaad couldn’t scrape a tight backhand off the left wall at the end of a long rally, providing the Englishman a straight-drop winner. Playing through some interference in the front right cost Matthew a point when he teed up a drop for Mosaad that was three feet high. “Should have asked for let…punished,” he’d mutter to himself.

Matthew maintained a small lead until a poor trickle boast at 6-4 never fooled Mosaad, who took one step forward and crunched it into the open crosscourt to pull within 1. Mosaad hit a forehand winner and followed up with a crowd-pleasing crosscourt kill to take his first lead of the game at 7-6.

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They stayed deadlocked to 10-10 when both players, sensing the importance of the moment, upped the pace significantly. Mosaad got bailed out when a loose ball got straightened out by the crevasse, sending it back wallpaper tight. As we all know, crevasse giveth and it taketh away and on the very next rally, it spat one out back into Mosaad’s chest for a stroke. Matthew won the game 13-11 on the next point.

The big Egyptian was moving his opponent well in the early-going of Game Two, getting out to a 3-1 lead on a drop-cross-drop combination that would put some mileage into the legs of Nick Matthew. Starting to feel it, Mosaad fired in a couple of near-miss backhand crosscourt kills in a row. He’d pay for it on the second when Matthew pushed in a simple drop in response. Matthew played a down-the-middle crosscourt at 7-5 catching Mosaad off guard.

But the World No. 4 got just enough on it to get it back to the wall and Nick Matthew crossed the next shot out of court. “He’s so big!” was the only thing the Yorkshireman could say after his lob at 9-6 ended up in the crosscourt nick at warp speed.

They played it tight into extra points again but MicK Matthew’s experience showed through, stringing together three excellent shots in a row at 11-10, eventually forcing his opponent into a backwall boast. A straight drop later and it was 2-0 in games for the Englishman.

They’d jab their way to 5-5 tie in game three when a questionable Mosaad pickup was followed by an even more questionable stroke call against Nick Matthew. The crowd groaned, audibly voicing their disagreement. One fan wondered aloud if the ref’s badge read WSF or WTF?

No one giving an inch, they’d fight their way through 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 ties. But the softest of crosscourt gravity drops by Mosaad sent Matthew chasing from the front right to the front left, only watch the balls roll out DOA in front of his outstretched racquet. Mosaad on the board with an 11-9 ‘W’ in game three.

Not wanting to see a fifth, Matthew came out firing in Game Four, burying a crosscourt winner to take an early 1-0 lead. The intensity was ratcheted up as evidenced by the three let calls in a row at 3-all.

A correct guess to the forehand volley by the Englishman kept him in the rally on the next point but Mosaad hit the shot of the match off his weak return, backhanding a spectacular wide-angle crosscourt roller from just in front of the front left corner.

Mosaad got a generous stroke call with a broken string moving him to 6-5, much to the chagrin of Nick Matthew. “He’s allowed to play with a broken racquet,” the referee would respond to his complaint.

A new racquet wouldn’t be enough for the Hammer of Thor, though. Feeling hard-done by, the Englishman seemed to step up the court and step up the pace, effectively neutralizing the colossal power game of his larger opponent.

Knotted at 7-7, Matthew leaned on the experience of winning three World Open titles and put the pedal down. He’d win the match on his first game ball, smashing a loose offering for a crosscourt winner to secure the match 13-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-7 in 59 minutes.

With his first Cambridge Cup title, he won a lifetime membership to the Cambridge Club. “With no Gaultier and no Shorbagy, I saw this as a great opportunity to get my hands on that bathrobe,” he’d joke in his victory speech, referencing the famous Cambridge Club robe that came part and parcel with his prize package. 



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