Saturday, March 2, 2024

War of words from Nick Matthew and Mohamed Elshorbagy sets up World showdown

As Matthew and Elshorbagy trade insults, top seed Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour slip under the radar in World Championships
By ALAN THATCHER, Squash Mad Editor

The Lion roars: Nick Matthew lets it all out as he powers past Mohamed Elshorbagy
The Lion roars: Nick Matthew and Mohamed Elshorbagy during the British Open

A war of words has erupted to add extra spice to an eagerly-awaited confrontation in the men’s World Championship semi-finals between reigning champion Nick Matthew and the new world number one, Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt.

Elshorbagy, at 23 years old 11 years younger than Matthew, has claimed that his rival is “past his peak” and will not be able to withstand the pace he generates, and has advised him to sit down between games to conserve energy.

nickwhisperHis comments have clearly got under the skin of Matthew (right), who has stated that the Egyptian has been number one “for just a few minutes” and that the result will all come down to who handles the pressure on the day. 

“I know what to expect from Mohamed tomorrow,” said Matthew, who booked his place in the last four with a resounding 3-0 win against four-time world champion Amr Shabana.

“He is an extremely strong player and I’ll be preparing myself to deal with that. I’m going to enjoy the way I played tonight and then I’m going to refocus.

“I’ve proved that I still have the hunger to compete this week and I’ve not come here to end my run at the semi-finals. I’ve probably not got a million years left in these events so I’m going to try and make the most of it.”

The duo last met in the semi-finals of the Allam British Open in May, when Matthew used his experience to get past the Bristol-based man from Alexandra 3-2 in a brutal 104-minute encounter, but Elshorbagy expects a different outcome tomorrow.

“Nick looked in great form in his match today and I know he wants to break another record and become the oldest world champion,” said Elshorbagy, conqueror of South African Stephen Coppinger in the quarters.

“But he made a comment before the tournament that I have only been number one for a few minutes and I think he needs to be a little bit careful.

“He likes to stand up a lot between games and my advice to him is that he should sit down and get that rest tomorrow because I’m going to play at a pace that he won’t be able to handle.” 

Rarely has a squash match generated such verbal vitriol between two opponents, not even between Matthew and his English rival James Willstrop.

It all adds spice to a tournament which may serve as a changing of the guard in the upper echelons of the sport if Elshorbagy is emerge triumphant at the end of the week.

The winner of their crunch encounter will face either two-time world champion Ramy Ashour or four-time runner-up Gregory Gaultier, the number one seed who has slipped under the radar all week as other protagonists have hogged the headlines.

Gaultier worked his way past Australian No.1 Cameron Pilley in straight games and will face an injury-prone opponent who battled back from two games down to beat Borja Golan of Spain in a punishing affair lasting 75 minutes.

While much of the media attention has focused on Matthew and Elshorbagy, Gaultier is hungry to gain his first world title and Ashour is desperate to rescale the heights he achieved in a long unbeaten run that was brought to an end by a body that was unwilling to meet the physical demands required at the very top level.

While Matthew and Elshorbagy trade some entertaining trash talk, Gaultier and Ashour will hope their skills do the talking for them. With Elshorbagy reaching the pinnacle of the game and remising much more to come, Gaultier must surely know that this is his final chance of winning a world championship. 

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2014 Men’s World Championships, Doha, Qatar. Quarter-Finals:

[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-5 [41m] [4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [6] Borja Golan (ESP) 3-0: 9-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 [75m] [3] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [5] Amr Shabana (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 12-10, 11-7 [42m] [2] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Steve Coppinger (RSA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 [46m]

[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [4] Ramy Ashour (EGY)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [2] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY)

Main image courtesy of British Open


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