Sumner Malik is guest of honour at the East Wintergarden on Monday
By ALAN THATCHER, Squash Mad Editor
Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew has pledged to donate every penny of his prize money from next week’s Canary Wharf Squash Classic to the #Sunshine4Sumner campaign.
World No.4 Matthew, the top seed at Canary Wharf, is making this extraordinary gesture to help fund the treatment costs of 11-year-old Sussex boy Sumner Malik, who has a rare type of brain tumour.
Sumner was diagnosed after falling ill during a family holiday last summer.
Now Matthew is encouraging the worldwide squash community to support the family’s appeal to raise money to pay for treatment, which is not available on the NHS.
Nick said: “I was so moved by Sumner’s story that I just wanted to do what I could to help, especially as I have known his family for years. We need to raise as much money as possible to fund his treatment so I’d ask everyone to give whatever they can afford to help him.
“He is such a brave young man and I know he is a massive squash fan so it would be fantastic if everyone at the Canary Wharf Classic can pull together to help him with his fight.”
Despite his condition, brave Sumner still trains and plays squash with the rest of his family at the K2 Sports Centre in Crawley. He actually got on court with Matthew during the recent British Junior Open in Matthew’s home city of Sheffield.
One of six children, Sumner’s story has touched fans all over the world.
In November – as part of the #Sunshine4Sumner campaign, the PSA gave Sumner and his family a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Cairo for the PSA Men’s World Championship, where he attended the tournament as a VIP guest and stayed in the same hotel as the players.
Sumner and his five siblings were able to meet some of the world’s top stars, such as world No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, eight-time world champion Nicol David and Welsh No.1 Tesni Evans, before taking in the evening’s matches.
Sumner also joined SQUASHTV commentators Joey Barrington and Paul Johnson for the Ramy Ashour v Fares Dessouky match – and put the duo to shame!
The Maliks also made a visit to the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza, while their trip was rounded off by seeing Karim Abdel Gawad crowned world champion after beating Ramy Ashour.
His illness, known as DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) is a tumour found in a part of the brain stem called the pons. The pons controls essential bodily functions such as heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight, and balance. The illness, which usually strikes young children, has no known cure.
Sumner’s father, Camron, said: “We really appreciate Nick’s amazing gesture. It’s actually unbelievable that he has offered this, as we know that he’s only just recently moved home and has a young family of his own.
“We also know that squash players don’t earn what tennis and football players do. So this is huge in terms of scale to make an offer towards the treatment.”
As Sumner underwent treatment on Monday, Mr Malik revealed the enormous costs involved.
He added: “Our initial invoice was £86,000 for the trial at the Harley Street Clinic in London. We have just paid £60,500 today and we are still trying to raise £6,000 per month for the monthly infusion costs at the Harley Street Clinic. This could go up to £11,000 per month depending on which drug Sumner is more responsive to.
“As long as this trial works in inhibiting the growth of the tumour we may well be able to send Sumner on to immunotherapy in Germany at an additional cost of €40,000 per trip, which we believe could be every six weeks.”
Sumner will be a guest of honour at the East Wintergarden on Monday March 6 as Matthew begins his quest for a sixth Canary Wharf Squash Classic title. He faces Australian World No.12 Ryan Cuskelly on the opening night, which also features a mouthwatering match between 2015 runner-up Simon Rosner and New Zealand sensation Paul Coll.
The tall German Rosner warmed up for Canary Wharf with the best result of his career, beating Egyptian ace Ramy Ashour in the Windy City Open in Chicago.
England’s Daryl Selby, always a popular competitor, begins the 2017 tournament with a match against a qualifier. The No.7 seed from Essex said: “I went down with a fever in Chicago but I hope to be fully fit for Canary Wharf.”
Also in action on Monday is No.4 seed Fares Dessouky, from Egypt, who also faces a qualifier.
The bottom half of the first round draw takes place on Tuesday, with No.2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy in the spotlight after beating his brother, World No.1 Mohamed, for the first time in the quarter-finals of the Windy City Open. He then beat fellow Egyptian Ali Farag to reach his first PSA World Series tournament final, where he finished runner-up to Gregory Gaultier from France.
The qualifying competition takes place this weekend at the Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club.
Squash fans who want to help Sumner can do their bit by donating via the dedicated JustGiving page
You can also buy fundraising T-shirts where 100% of the profits will be donated to the Sunshine4Sumner fund.
Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS