8:33 am
16 Jul 2024

Matthew In Historic British Open Hat-Trick Bid

2 May 2012

When Yorkshire's world champion Nick Matthew begins the defence of his title in this month's Allam British Open Squash Championships in London, he will be bidding to achieve a first in the event's 82-year history: become the first Englishman ever to win the world's most famous squash title for a third time.

After a two-year gap, the 2012 British Open - the fourth PSA World Series event of the year - will be staged at the O2 Piazza in London's O2 Arena, from 14-20 May.

British squash legend Jonah Barrington, representing Ireland, won a historic six British Open titles from 1967 - and in 2009 Matthew won the trophy for a second time, three years after ending a 67-year drought by becoming the first English winner since 1939.

But it was in 1932, two years after the inaugural men's championship, that Don Butcher became the first two-time English winner - beginning an illustrious history which included champions from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and also from Egypt (including FD Amr Bey and AA AbouTaleb), Pakistan (from brothers Hashim Khan and Azam Khan through to Jansher Khan and record 10-time winner Jahangir Khan) and Australia (including seven-time champion Geoff Hunt and more recent four times winner David Palmer).

Matthew, who topped the world rankings throughout last year and is currently ranked two in the world, is the event's third seed - behind fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop, the world No1, and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the second seed.

"Winning my first British Open in 2006 was my major breakthrough in the sport," admitted Matthew on the eve of his ninth appearance in the championship since trying to qualify in 2000.

"I think I played pre-qualifying at Lambs and made it through to the actual qualifying when I was about 17 - only to get well and truly beaten by Aussie John Williams in the first qualifying round. Even those qualifying rounds had an amazing atmosphere back then and I'm glad pre-qualifying has been reintroduced this year.

"After winning it, I couldn't believe my name was on the same trophy as the likes of Jonah Barrington, Geoff Hunt and Jahangir Khan, not to mention others. To become the first English winner for 67 years was something that will live with me forever.

"The manner in which I won in 2009, after my shoulder surgery in 2008, was also equally memorable and I would dearly love to get my hands on the trophy for a third time in 2012. All of this year's training has been building up to this event," added the 31-year-old from Sheffield.

Matthew recalls his earliest memories of the British Open as "travelling to Wembley Conference Centre every Easter to watch the likes of Jahangir, Jansher, Rodney Martin, Chris Dittmar and Chris Robertson fight it out for the biggest title in squash.

"I remember one particularly brilliant weekend in 1991 when we went to the squash at the Conference Centre on the Saturday, then watched Sheffield Wednesday win the Rumbelows (League) Cup against Manchester United over the road at Wembley Stadium on the Sunday!"

Were those early visits to the British Open inspirational? "Absolutely - it was the pinnacle of the sport and was the first time I thought 'I want to do that'."

Matthew meets a qualifier in the first round and is expected to progress to the semi-finals where he is scheduled to meet Gaultier.

Willstrop, runner-up to Matthew in 2009 and to Palmer the previous year, opens his 2012 campaign against German number one Simon Rosner. The 28-year-old from Leeds is expected to meet Ramy Ashour, the third seed from Egypt on semi-finals day.

The pair contested last month's final of the El Gouna International Open, the third World Series event of the year in Egypt - where Ashour prevailed in three games.

1st round draw:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)
Alister Walker (BOT) v Qualifier
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Adrian Waller (ENG)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Qualifier
[5] Amr Shabana (EGY) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Borja Golan (ESP)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Qualifier
Tom Richards (ENG) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v Qualifier
[8] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Qualifier
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Qualifier
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v Qualifier
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)

For all the latest Tour news: www.psaworldtour.com