Matthew: 700 Up & Still Winning!
16 May 2018
Three-time Allam British Open champion Nick Matthew celebrated the 700th PSA World Tour match of his career in fine style - putting his retirement on hold for another two days at least after rolling back the years to upset world No.5 Tarek Momen in a gruelling five-game epic on day one of the 2018 edition of the PSA World Series event at Airco Arena.
The 37-year-old veteran is appearing at his last ever British Open and will retire at the end of this season. Whether or not his final professional match takes place in Hull or not depends on whether he qualifies for next month's ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals - but defeat to Momen would have seen him pushed out of the top eight on the PSA World Series Standings by former World No.3 Omar Mosaad, who would have qualified in Matthew's place.
A thrilling 80-minute battle went the way of Sheffield's Matthew, however, who put in a valiant display that epitomised the grit and determination that have been hallmarks of the three-time World Champion's glittering 20-year career to win 11-4, 10-12, 11-4, 8-11, 11-2.
"That was my final, I'm not used to not being seeded, it's hard work," said Matthew, who will play Germany's Raphael Kandra in the next round.
"Every first round is tough but it's totally different when you're not seeded. It's only this month that my ranking slipped out. I knew it was going to be tough and I feel over the moon at the minute.
"The good thing is that I've got a day off tomorrow so I think that will give me a chance to reset mentally as much as anything. That was a bit emotional and it was potentially my last one, so I didn't want to go out on a Tuesday night. I want to go all the way to the weekend so fingers crossed I can keep pushing and I'm sure the crowd will be behind me."
Elshorbagy, a two-time British Open winner, was in all sorts of trouble as an out of sorts showing from the Egyptian saw him go two games down against a composed Elias. But the Alexandrian came onto court a completely different player in the third as he stepped up the court and forced Elias into some brutal movements to record an 5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4 triumph.
"To be the best in any sport, you don't win matches because you play your best every match, you find ways to win when you're not playing your best and today I found a way to win," Elshorbagy said afterwards.
"The British Open is our 'Wimbledon of Squash' and you don't want to lose a match easily. If someone is going to take me out I'm going to make sure that they have to be at their best."
Three-time runner-up James Willstrop departed in round one after losing to world No.3 Marwan Elshorbagy, while 2013 winner Ramy Ashour is also out after falling to Colombia's Miguel Angel Rodriguez in four games.
There were also wins for second seed Ali Farag, defending champion Gregory Gaultier, former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad and world No.10 Paul Coll, with the latter pair set to face off against each other.
In the women's event, England title-holder Laura Massaro earned her spot in the last 16 courtesy of a 3/0 victory over Egyptian qualifier Mayar Hany which will see her play Yathreb Adel in the next round.
34-year-old Massaro and Hany - 13 years Massaro's junior - had met at the second round stage of last year's British Open, with Massaro taking a comfortable 3/0 win in just 29 minutes, while the pair met last month at the El Gouna International, with Massaro again triumphing in straight games.
While the scoreline was the same this time around, Massaro didn't always have it her own way as the Lancashire lass was forced to overturn three separate game balls in a dramatic 25-minute opener, eventually prevailing 21-19, before following that up with 11-6 victories in each of the final two games.
"I haven't won a World Series event this season but I've made the semi-finals in all of them apart from Chicago I think, so my ranking being at seven feels a little bit harsh because I feel like I'm making regular semis," said Preston-based Massaro when asked about her season so far.
"Having said that, the tour is as strong as ever and my level just hasn't been strong enough to win those titles this season.
"We've got this event to go and I'll have to adapt as quickly as I can over the summer ready for next season otherwise my ranking will be even further down."
World No.3 Nour El Tayeb began her attempts to lift a third World Series title with a 3/0 win over Australia's four-time champion Rachael Grinham, who was appearing in her 21st consecutive British Open.
"She is a legend of my whole world, everyone around me knows how big of a deal Rachael is to me," said El Tayeb.
"I got most of my tricks from her and she's the first professional squash player I grew up watching. She was the world No.1 at the time and she always played with me when I was around 12 back home in Cairo so I look up to her in every aspect."
United States No.2 Amanda Sobhy awaits El Tayeb after upsetting fellow American Olivia Blatchford at the University of Hull and Sports Fitness Centre - which hosted 23 of the 32 first round matches - while world No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World Champion Raneem El Welily beat Salma Hany and Victoria Lust, respectively.