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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Simpson: World champ is man to beat

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Simpson lavishes praise on Matthew and targets last-eight meeting with Barker

World number 22 Chris Simpson believes defending champion and top seed Nick Matthew is the overwhelming favourite to win his sixth British National Championships in Manchester this week.

Matthew, who beat Egyptian Ramy Ashour to win the Swedish Open on Sunday, has won the last two titles at the National event and will compete at the National Squash Centre for the first time since his World Championship success in November.

“I think the safe money has to be with Nick,” the joint fifth seed from Guernsey told the British National Championships website.

“He has an unbelievable record in Manchester with British Closed, British Open and World Open titles. But there are a lot of us chasing him and trying to take the title.”

Simpson, who is in the opposite end of the draw to Matthew, begins his campaign against Gloucestershire left-hander Robbie Temple, whom he has beaten in all their three career meetings.

The 26-year-old could then face Joe Lee in the last 16, before potentially meeting world number seven and injury worry Peter Barker for a place in the semi-finals.

“I have a particularly tough last-16 match against Joe Lee, who has beaten me a few times before,” admitted the reigning Jersey Classic champion.

“If I get through that, I would most likely play Peter Barker, who I haven’t played for many years now. It’s a very strong draw overall with the strength of players in Britain at the moment.

“I wouldn’t like to say how far I’ll get. I like to take it one match at a time, as there are no easy matches. If I concentrate well and perform to the best of my abilities, though, then I am confident I can do well.”

Simpson last competed on home soil at the London Open where he lost to Adrian Grant in the final. But after reaching the second round of the Tournament of Champions and progressing past the qualification stages at the Swedish Open last week, Simpson is optimistic about the state of his game.  

“I feel I am playing quite well, a lot more consistently than I did in the past.” revealed the Yorkshire-based ace. “I’m now regularly getting to play the ‘big boys’ in tournaments, which is helping to push my game forward.

“Each time I play a Matthew, [James] Willstrop, [Amr] Shabana etc I learn something new and go home with a list of things to work on. I see most changes to be more of a gradual evolution. I’m working hard to be more attacking and have more options on my forehand side.”

British Nationals draw

Source: British National Squash Championship website; Pictures by Michael Catling 

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