Underdog Matthew Wins World Series Finals Opener In Dubai
6 Jun 2018
Nick Matthew, a late entry to the season-ending ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals following the withdrawal of world No.3 Marwan Elshorbagy, began the final PSA tournament of his professional squash career with a shock straight games victory over Egypt's world No.4 Tarek Momen which has sent the Englishman to the top of Group A, ahead of world No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy.
The World Series Finals brings together the world's top eight male and female players who qualified through the PSA World Series Standings with the opening three days of action seeing players compete in a best-of-three games, round robin group stage as they bid to qualify for the knockout semi-finals and beyond.
Matthew thought he'd played his last professional match after bowing out of last month's Allam British Open due to a shock defeat to German qualifier Raphael Kandra which saw him finish ninth on the PSA Men's World Series Standings - one place outside the top eight, which would have guaranteed him a spot in Dubai.
But a hamstring injury suffered by third seed Marwan Elshorbagy saw 'The Wolf' called up at the last minute - and the 37-year-old underdog grasped the opportunity with both hands as he put in a polished performance to overcome Momen at the Emirates Golf Club three weeks after beating the Egyptian in the opening round of the British Open.
"It's been a very topsy-turvy couple of weeks," said Matthew.
"I desperately wanted to go out here and have my swansong on this stage. I felt like I could have done a little bit better, losing out in the second round of the British Open was disappointing in my backyard.
"I made peace with it when Miguel went on and won. If he'd made the quarters and edged me out by five points then maybe it would have been 'what if' - but when someone wins a tournament like that and goes to six in the rankings then you have to hold your hands up and say it's incredibly well-played. I had made my peace and then I got the call!"
Matthew goes top of Group A courtesy of dropping fewer games that Elshorbagy senior, while there were also wins for Egypt's Ali Farag and Germany's Simon Rösner, who beat Gregory Gaultier and Karim Abdel Gawad, respectively.
Defending champions Laura Massaro and Mohamed Elshorbagy both claimed opening day wins on day one - against World Champion Raneem El Welily and British Open winner Miguel Angel Rodriguez, respectively.
Massaro, who is eyeing up a third successive women's World Series Finals title, recovered from a game down to defeat El Welily - wrapping up an 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 victory to take a step closer to a fourth final appearance in a row in the World Series Finals.
"I didn't think I would win it last year to be honest, everyone keeps saying 'how do you feel about three times?' and I can't believe I won it twice," said Massaro, who beat world No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the final of last year's event.
"It really is one match at a time and as Mohamed said yesterday, every match that you play can be like a World Series final and you prepare as if it is a final.
"It's nice to know you're coming back for three days in a row regardless of results."
Massaro tops Group B in the women's event, jointly with Camille Serme after the French world No.5 saved a match-ball in the second game to defeat England's Sarah-Jane Perry 8-11, 12-10, 12-10 in 50 minutes.
The newly-crowned PSA Women's Player of the Year laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament after a sterling display saw the two-time World Champion claim an 12-10, 11-7 victory in 27 minutes.
"Joelle's been playing so well and she has come back after the [achilles] injury so well and has beaten a lot of top players," said El Sherbini.
"It's the first match and you could play Joelle in the final of a World Series event, so it's hard to play her in the first round. I'm glad I fired myself up and won the first game."
Elshorbagy, who was crowned PSA Men's Player of the Year at the PSA Awards dinner, avenged his defeat to Colombia's Rodriguez in the final of last month's Allam British Open in a match that saw both players wow spectators at Emirates Golf Club with some blistering rallies throughout the 49-minute clash.
Rodriguez became the first South American ever to win the British Open title when he stunned Elshorbagy in Hull's Airco Arena in one of the most dramatic matches ever to light up the sport's longest-running tournament.
The pair picked up where they left off in Hull as they went toe-to-toe in some high-octane exchanges and both players took a game apiece to set up an exciting third game showdown, in which the Egyptian pulled away from 3-3 to build up a commanding lead before wrapping up the 2/1 victory.
"He's been playing really well recently," said Elshorbagy.
"Whatever happened today, it was never going to change that he is the British Open champion and what he did was great and he did his country proud. He's such a nice guy and we're really great friends.
"I'm just happy we played another great battle, our matches have been clean and fair and today was another one."