Monday, April 15, 2024

World Final: Why Nick Matthew needs a punch in the head

nickram13By JOEL DURSTON

Nick Matthew claims someone might have to take him in a room and punch him to get his head in gear for his World Championships final against Grégory Gaultier today, after the disappointing way he got through yesterday’s semi-final against Ramy Ashour.

He lost the first game 11-6 and won the second 11-2, then Ashour had to retire with a calf injury, which had been bothering him all week, but, in hindsight, obviously to a greater extent than he had let on.

A victory would have marked Ashour’s 50th straight win. But Matthew, to his credit, does not consider that run broken, and was generally very humble about the situation, even admitting that, all things being equal, Ashour would have won the match.

“If it makes Ramy feel better, I still consider him unbeaten. I want to beat him properly – not beat him like that,” he said.

“It’s certainly not how you want to get to the final. I’m disappointed for Ramy, and for the crowd.

“In some ways, you’d rather lose, after having given your all. Like Ramy said, if we’re both fit and can play 100%, you know who deserves to win.

“I’m a bit flat now. My thoughts are with him, the crowd, everyone else apart from myself. So I can’t let that hangover carry through to tomorrow.

“I don’t feel selfish – at some point I feel I am going to have to get selfish and prepare for tomorrow.

“But I just to need to digest that because it’s an awful way for things to happen, and I’m just coming to terms with it.”

“It’s a strange feeling, but I’ve got to move on quite quickly. It might take locking me in a room and someone punching me around the head to wake me up…I feel like I’m in a trance. So I need to snap out of it pretty quickly.”

While Ashour has not been at his best all week – nearly going two games to love down against Laurens Jan Anjema in the first round and nearly taken to five by Cameron Pilley – he did not look like he was dealing with the major injury worries it now transpires he has been.

Matthew added: “He’s been telling everyone all week he’s had a problem, but I’ve been trying to shut that out, really, and concentrate on my game.

“Maybe that affected my game in the beginning [of the semi-final], as I was aware of that and didn’t get my basic game going.

“I was bit nervous because of that, but I told myself to not look and him and just have tunnel vision, because that can put you off. All of a sudden you can play the wrong shot and all of a sudden he might feel good.”

“Because potentially there’s mind games at play – there wasn’t, but there could have been.

“I had to be aware of my own game and stay in my own little bubble, really.”

“It’s a horrendous first game, great second game. I need to string that together under pressure, because [Gaultier] is at the top of his game.

Matthew will face Gaultier in the final, after the Frenchman beat Mohamed Elshorbagy in four thrilling games.

“Greg gave me a good beating last week in the US Open, where he was on top of his game, and I had visions of the same thing happening today against Ramy in the first,” Matthew said, between the two semi-finals.

And, jokingly, he added: “So let’s hope they play they can play for five hours and they’re tired and I can make the most of this fortunate bit of news for them.

“I’ll digest what just happened for an hour, and then I’ll come out and put that behind me and concentrate on tomorrow.

“Because it is a great occasion, I’ve enjoyed the other two, and the crowd were brilliant today. They were lifting me, especially when I was getting outplayed in that first game.

“And I was thinking just don’t lose in 30 minutes when everyone is shouting and cheering for you. So hopefully more of the same in the final, and pull myself across the line.

“I had a day off yesterday and two games, and they weren’t really tough either way – he hammered me and then I played well in the second. So I am not going to get a better chance to come to a World Championships final as fresh as this.”

Manchester will be eagerly awaiting to see whether it helps him against the red-hot Gaultier.

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