Wolfman still on the prowl for another world title in Qatar
By NATHAN CLARKE – Squash Mad PSA Correspondent
Defending squash World Champion Nick Matthew says he is looking forward to beginning the defence of his title when the 2014 Qatar PSA World Championship gets underway in Doha, Qatar on Friday November 14.
The 33-year-old from Sheffield, who claimed his third world crown in front of a partisan home crowd in Manchester last November, goes into the 2014 tournament under the radar after falling to No.3 in the World Rankings behind Egyptian powerhouse Mohamed Elshorbagy and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the man he beat to glory last year.
But the resilient Matthew, known on tour as ‘The Wolf’, says he is happy to be considered the underdog ahead of the most prestigious tournament in the squash calendar.
“The World Championship is the reason you play,” said Matthew. “Everything else takes a back seat when you look at the calendar at the start of the year – this is the one that everybody wants.
“Every year you try and peak for the worlds but this year, with the Commonwealth Games and arrival of our first child, preparation hasn’t been as fine tuned as perhaps last year but in the last few weeks I’ve started to feel that things are coming together.
“There’s no pressure on me though – I’m old enough now to be past the stage where I put unnecessary pressure on myself and I know that you can’t win every tournament.
“I know that if I never win again I can look back and be happy with my career but that said, if I’m in my best form in Doha next week and do myself justice, then I know I can be challenging in the latter stages and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Having made history by becoming the first man to win back-to-back Commonwealth Games Gold Medals in Glasgow this summer, followed shortly after by the birth of his first child, Charlotte, 2014 has been a year to savour for Matthew so far but he knows he will have his work cut out to cap it all off with a fourth World Championship triumph.
Elshorbagy (right), the Bristol-based Egyptian, has been is sublime form so far this season, winning his last four consecutive tournaments and recording impressive victories over Gaultier in the process, and Matthew says he’s the man everyone else has to beat in the heat of the Middle East.
“Mohamed has been the hunter throughout his career so far but now he’s become the hunted,” he said.
“It’s how you react to that challenge and that position that determines a lot and I remember that when I got to number one for the first time it was quite tough. I think I dealt with it better second time around but to be No.1 at his age is pretty special.
“Doha is also a venue that he enjoys and it’s a pretty difficult place for western players to go to and win because it’s sort of a home venue for the Egyptians – they get a lot of vocal support there and I remember the 2012 final between Ramy (Ashour) and Mohamed was a crazy atmosphere.
“There’s a new court though this year and that could change the dynamic of the competition. Mohamed especially has said before that he would have taken the old court to any tournament in the world as he likes it that much, so that might have a bearing on what happens next week. Either way, I’m really looking forward to it.”
The 2014 Qatar PSA World Championship takes place at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar from Friday November 14 – November 21 with Nick Matthew beginning his campaign on Saturday November 15 against a qualifier.
Entry to all matches is free-of-charge and the competition will be screened live in its entirety on SquashTV: www.psasquashtv.com
Pictures courtesy of PSA