Mighty Matthew Bows Out As Egyptians Dominate Dubai Semis
9 Jun 2018
England's Nick Matthew has played the final match of his glittering 20-year career after losing out to world No.2 Ali Farag in the semi-finals of the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals in Dubai on a day that set up two all-Egyptian finals of the season-ending PSA World Tour event at Emirates Golf Club.
37-year-old Matthew was set to retire after defeat to Germany's Raphael Kandra at last month's Allam British Open meant he failed to qualify for the World Series Finals - but a hamstring injury sustained by world No.3 Marwan Elshorbagy saw the Yorkshireman get a late call-up.
Three wins out of three saw Matthew top Group A - but his tournament, and career, came to an end at the hands of Farag when he fell to a 11-5, 11-7 defeat. Matthew, the most successful male English squash player of all time, bows out with 35 PSA World Tour titles - including three PSA World Championship crowns - to his name, while he also claimed a trio of Commonwealth Games gold medals.
"I dared to dream for a second that I could go all the way but Ali was slightly too good tonight. Even a week ago, if you'd have offered me a semi-final place here I wouldn't have believed it," said Matthew, who will now take on a coaching and ambassadorial role at England Squash.
"A few people this week have been trying to talk me out of retirement but that's not happening. I'm 100 per cent going to stay in squash, I'm going to have a rest this summer, I've got some camps in the US and I'll have a lot of family time and regroup.
"I've got a great role which I'm looking forward to doing with England Squash and I'll be growing my academy around the world. I'm still going to play, I'm not going to totally stop, I'm too competitive."
Farag said: "It's extremely emotional: I knew that if I was close to winning that they were going to be the last few points of Nick's career.
"I didn't want to talk about it at all because I think the more I talked about it the more it would have gotten into my head. Only such a legend would get a standing ovation for around 10 minutes."
Farag will play world No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy in the final after the defending champion came through a cracker of a semi-final encounter with Germany's Simon Rösner in a repeat of their meeting at the same stage of last year's event.
Rösner squandered match ball on that occasion to the Egyptian and, while he wasn't able to quite get in a winning position again, he made life difficult for the reigning World Champion, but ultimately succumbed to a 12-10, 10-12, 11-3 defeat which sends Elshorbagy through to the 50th Tour final of his career.
"Every time it gets tough in any match I always tell myself that I live for these kind of moments, these are the moments I was born for," said Elshorbagy.
"Ali's fresh, he's playing well and we haven't played since last November. It's great to have the last match of the season between the world No.1 and No.2, definitely."
The top two players in the women's game will go head-to-head in the final as Nour El Sherbini and Raneem El Welily claimed wins over France's Camille Serme and world No.3 Nour El Tayeb, respectively - results which will lead to the first ever Egyptian winner of the event.
El Sherbini, a losing finalist at last year's tournament, picked up where she left off after topping Group B with a 100% record as she overcame Serme by an 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 margin to ensure that she will take on El Welily in their eighth successive Tour final.
"It's always a tough match playing Camille," said El Sherbini.
"It was really hard from the first point and I have no idea what I would have done if it was longer than this [best of three] because I was tired.
"I'm really hungry to win it, I never won it before and this is my third year in a row coming here. It's the second final so hopefully this time it's going to be my title."
El Welily, meanwhile, came through a quick-fire victory over El Tayeb to reach the final of the tournament for the first time since 2016.
"Nour is a really tough opponent," said El Welily.
"This season has been great for her and we've had great battles. But it's the end of the season, it's the last tournament and the last push. We've all had tough pool matches and I'm happy with the way I pushed myself, even if at the end I let go and gave her a slight opportunity which she almost took."