Six-times champion Nick Matthew makes farewell appearance at the East Wintergarden
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
The Canary Wharf Squash Classic will enjoy a boost in status as the popular London tournament celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018 with a significant rise in prize money.
A dazzling array of the world’s leading players, led by new world champion Mohamed ElShorbagy, will appear at the spectacular East Wintergarden venue based in Canary Wharf from March 5-9 to compete for a total prize fund of 100,000 dollars (US).
Nick Matthew, who has won Canary Wharf title six times, will be making an emotional farewell appearance in his final season on the PSA World Tour.
Tickets sold out within weeks of going on sale in October and Tournament Director Tim Garner is delighted that the increased rewards to the star players will result in a boost to the event’s status.
He said: “The extra prize money, and the extra ranking points that accrue from it, will mean that the event is back among the top ten tournaments in the world. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate our 15th anniversary year and we are pleased to see that the event has again attracted a top-quality field.”
Garner was pleased to reveal that a strong entry list includes seven players from the world top ten, including Egypt’s world champion Mohamed ElShorbagy and his brother Marwan, the world No.5 who he beat in the recent AJ Bell World Championship final in Manchester. Ali Farag, the world No.3 who recently won the US Open and was a semi-finalist in Manchester, will be making a first appearance at the East Wintergarden.
Three-time world champion Matthew, still playing great squash at the age of 37, is sure to receive a rapturous welcome back to the scene of so many top-class successes.
Matthew last year won his sixth Canary Wharf title to overtake the record of five wins by his great rival, James Willstrop, who will be making his 14th appearance in the event.
Garner added: “It is sure to be an emotional and entertaining occasion when Nick steps back on to the court. As for ticket sales, we have now sold out seven years in a row, more than three months before the event. We sold 400 tickets in the first hour of them going on sale, and it’s little wonder that the event effectively sold out within four weeks. It shows the interest and appetite for world-class squash in the capital.”
As well as being one of the most popular squash tournaments in the world, the Canary Wharf Squash Classic also has a reputation for innovation in the sport. For the 2018 edition, matches in the early rounds will be played to a best-of-three-games format, with the semi-finals and final best of five.
This system has been successfully trialled at the PSA World Series Finals in Dubai and has proved popular among players and spectators alike. This follows a number of innovations at the tournament down the years.
One major breakthrough for the sport followed the installation of a jumbo screen inside the spectacular East Wintergarden venue by host sponsors Canary Wharf Group, which allowed the tournament to trial video reviews for referees.
Garner is convinced the new format will provide more entertaining matches. He said: “Throughout our 15-year history the Canary Wharf Classic has embraced new technology and developments, forging a reputation as one of the most innovative events on the PSA World Tour.
“The best-of-three format brings a new dynamic to the sport. The shorter format means players must battle it out for every single point, so spectators will bear witness to some of the most intense and explosive matches ever to take place at East Wintergarden. The best-of-three format will also grant players extra recovery time in between matches, ensuring that the high-octane action will continue into the semi-finals and the final.”
PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough said: “The Canary Wharf Classic is one of the most highly-regarded tournaments on the PSA World Tour calendar and we are pleased to see that the 2018 edition will feature a significant increase in prize money.
“Prize money on the PSA World Tour was at an all-time high throughout the 2016-17 season and, with the Canary Wharf Classic prize money increase coming off the back of a number of increases at World Series level in particular. It is encouraging to see the sport’s premier tournaments continuing to grow.”
All matches from the main draw will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
The Canary Wharf Classic will again have a waiting list for anyone who has missed out on a ticket. To join the waiting list, fans can email this address: [email protected]
Tournament website: www.canarywharfsquash.com
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON, STEVE LINE and PSA