‘So many special memories of following in the footsteps of my squash idols’
By SEAN REUTHE
Three-time Allam British Open champion Nick Matthew has admitted that he will have to work hard to keep the emotions at bay when he makes his final appearance at the sport’s longest-running tournament next week at Hull’s Airco Arena.
Taking place between May 15-20, the British Open will offer up one of the sport’s most coveted titles and Matthew has tasted title success at this tournament on three occasions – 2006, 2009 and 2012 – with the former seeing him become the first English-born player since 1938 to capture the crown.
Matthew, the only Englishman to lift the trophy three times, made his British Open debut back in 1998 but his association with the iconic tournament goes back to the 80s when he regularly made the trip down from Sheffield to London to watch the world’s greatest stars in action.
“It’s a tournament that holds special memories for me before I was even old enough or good enough to take part in it,” said the 37-year-old.
“The British Open at Wembley was an annual homage for myself and my parents and watching the likes of Jahangir and Jansher Khan, Rodney and Brett Martin and Susan Devoy inspired me to want to become a professional player.
“To follow in the footsteps of my idols and lift that trophy was something I could only have dreamed about. When I heard I had become the first English [born] player to have won such a prestigious title… it made an incredible moment even more surreal.”
Those British Open triumphs, alongside three World Championship titles and three Commonwealth Games gold medals, have ensured that Matthew is one of the most successful players of the modern era, while his bitter rivalry with fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop has been one of the hallmarks of the sport over the last decade – with that rivalry stemming from the 2009 British Open final between the pair.
The two-hour battle went all the way to the wire in a feisty affair which, after Matthew had claimed a 12-10 victory in the decider, laid the foundations for one of the most absorbing rivalries the sport has ever seen.
“Obviously it’s a match that has made headlines for all the wrong reasons over the years which is a shame as it took some of the gloss off the achievement and overshadowed what was a really great squash match,” Matthew reflected.
“It’s the match that really cemented the rivalry I’ve had with James over the years.”
Matthew lost out to World No.4 Gregory Gaultier in last year’s final and will be up against it from the off this time around as he takes on the in-form World No.5 Tarek Momen in a difficult first round fixture.
Depending on the result, that match could be Matthew’s final professional appearance on home soil and, after falling to a disappointing quarter-final exit at the Commonwealth Games last month in Australia, the man known on tour as ‘The Wolf’ insists that he is determined not to let those thoughts get to him in Hull.
“I made the mistake of building up the Commonwealth Games into the potentially perfect fairytale-type scenario and ended up putting unnecessary pressure on myself in the process,” he said.
“I’m determined not to let this happen in Hull and trust myself to perform as if it was any other day. We are all humans and despite the best laid plans there’s bound to be a bit of nostalgia for me surrounding the event.
“It’s impossible not to be aware of it but I’m trying not to think about it as much as I can and let my squash do the talking.”
Matthew still has a chance of securing a top-eight berth on the PSA World Series Standings, which would see him qualify for next month’s ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals, thus extending his career by another month.
He currently occupies eighth spot on the standings and needs to equal or surpass the result of Egypt’s Omar Mosaad, who sits at ninth place, to earn his place in the season-ending tournament, which will be held between June 5-9 at Emirates Golf Club.
Matthew’s match against Momen in Hull will take place at 18:30 local time (BST) on Tuesday May 15 and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
He headlines an English quartet in action at the Airco Arena that day as Willstrop, defending women’s champion Laura Massaro and World No.23 Emily Whitlock all begin their tournaments.
Squash fans wanting to watch Matthew kick off his final British Open on Tuesday night can purchase tickets via Ticketmaster with tickets still available for every day bar the semi-finals on May 19.
Qualifying for the tournament takes place from May 13-14 at the University of Hull Sports and Fitness Centre, while the main draw will be held at the Airco Arena between May 15-20, with the exception of 23 of the 32 first round matches, which will be staged at the university on the opening day of main draw action.
Matches held on the glass court at the Airco Arena will be shown on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player throughout the tournament, while the semi-finals and finals will be shown live on mainstream broadcast channels around the world, such as BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro.
Follow the 2018 British Open at www.allambritishopen.com and on Twitter: @BritOpenSquash
2018 Allam British Open, Air Arena, Hull, England.
Men’s First Round Draw:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Qualifier]
Paul Coll (NZL) v [Qualifier]
Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v [WC] Declan James (ENG)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Qualifier]
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Borja Golan (ESP) v [Qualifier]
Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Max Lee (HKG) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Women’s 2018 Allam British Open, First Round Draw:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Emily Whitlock (ENG)
[Qualifier] v  Salma Hany (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v Joey Chan (HKG)
Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Rachael Grinham (AUS) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Joelle King (NZL) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Donna Urquhart (AUS) v Mariam Metwally (EGY)
[Qualifier] v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
[Qualifier] v  Annie Au (HKG)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v [WC] Fiona Moverley (ENG)
[Qualifier] v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
(Article by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager). Edited by ALAN THATCHER)
Pictures courtesy of PSA