Mighty Matthew Makes World Series Finals Semis
7 Jun 2018
The chance of winning a title in the final professional squash event of his career is still on the cards for Nick Matthew after the 37-year-old Englishman defeated British Open champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the second pool round of the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals to ensure a place in the semi-finals of the season-ending PSA World Tour event in Dubai.
Matthew thought his career was over after a disappointing second round loss at the Allam British Open last month - but the Sheffield-based Yorkshireman received a late reprieve after the withdrawal of world No.3 Marwan Elshorbagy.
The oldest player in the event is now one win away from a third appearance in the World Series Finals final after claiming an epic 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 victory in 72 minutes over the in-form Colombian to ensure that he qualified from Group A of the men's event alongside defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy, who beat fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen.
"I was just summoning every ounce of sweat, experience, willpower, knowhow and a little bit of technique here and there," said Matthew. "That was so, so tough, I don't know how long it was but I'm glad it was best of three.
"The sport's come a long way in the last 20 years that I've been on the tour. I think about when I started - you had Perspex courts which wobbled in the wind, so look how far we've come. We've got equal prize money, Chicago [the 2018/19 PSA World Championships] is up at the half a million [dollar] mark [for both men and women] and beyond.
"It makes me wonder if I'm retiring at the wrong time really because the tour is only going in one direction but my body is only going in one direction too, so I think we've met half way."
Germany's Simon Rösner is the other player to qualify for the semi-finals of the men's tournament after he came back from a game down to defeat world No.2 Ali Farag - a result which sees the world No.5 from Paderborn guarantee top spot in Group B.
Rösner's superior head-to-head record over both Farag and 2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad means that he qualifies top of the group. Gawad ended three-time winner Gregory Gaultier's semi-final hopes and he will take on Farag next to decide who joins Rösner in the last four.
"It's more than I could have wished for to be in the semis after two matches by beating two really good players," said Rösner, who won the Tournament of Champions earlier this year.
"It feels amazing, just like it did last year, but last year there was a difference because I wasn't sure if I would be in until the very last point that I played against Nick [Matthew] so getting through is amazing."
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini is the only player so far to have qualified for the semis in the women's event after the Egyptian cruised to a quick-fire 2/0 triumph over world No.3 Nour El Tayeb to claim victory in just 15 minutes, making it two wins out of two.
El Sherbini and El Tayeb are the only women to have won multiple World Series titles in the 2017/18 season and it was El Tayeb who prevailed the last time the pair met, in the quarter-finals of February's Windy City Open - a tournament El Tayeb went on to win.
El Tayeb made a strong start here yesterday as she eased to a 13-minute win over world No.6 Nouran Gohar but she was on the back foot from the off today as El Sherbini held her compatriot at arm's length and gave her very little opportunity to show off her impressive shot-making skills, with the 22-year-old storming to an 11-7, 11-5 victory to qualify from Group A.
"I'm so happy to win this match, I think last time I lost to her and she's doing really well this season," said El Sherbini, who was runner-up at last year's event.
"She's up to No.3 in the world but I'm really glad I managed that I didn't lose a game, it was really important to win this in two games.
"She can kill any shot from anywhere and, no matter how good a shot it is, she can get it back. I had to be ready for any surprises from her because I don't know what she's going to do, so I needed to be ready."
Preston-based Massaro is eyeing up a women's record hat-trick of World Series Finals titles after winning the previous two editions of the event and she moved to within one win of a semi-final berth after a 2-1 victory over Perry in a feisty match which saw the pair have some heated words at the end of a captivating contest.
"How you can blame me for trying to back in more when I'm crowded to try and create space is just a joke," said Massaro.
"I'm quite angry to finish that match like, especially in comparison to how I ended yesterday. At the end of the day I won."
World Champion Raneem El Welily defeated French world No.5 Camille Serme in the day's other match to ensure that it's all to play for in Group B. If Serme beats Massaro and El Welily gets the better of Perry, then it will come down to the percentage of games won to decide who qualifies for the last four.