Article by Kristi Maroc
At almost 32 years old, England’s Nick Matthew has achieved virtually every accolade there is in professional squash, including the U.S. Open title in 2007 and finalist in 2011, plus an unfaltering world number one ranking for the entire year in 2011.
In a recent interview following his impressive win of the British Open, the current world number two confirmed he will again play the Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships in October this year.
Nick also says he has hopes to reclaim the world number one position once more in his career.
“That would probably be my main goal now – just to have one more turn at the top,” says Nick, settling back into his seat for the interview just minutes after walking off the court from beating Egyptian Ramy Ashour in the British Open final.
“Obviously James Willstrop – my big rival – is there right now, but before I retire I’d love to get it back one more time.”
Winning the esteemed British Open title for a third time would certainly have contributed to that mission, and Nick's excitement about the triumph is clear.
He is the first Englishman to win the British Open three times, one more remarkable addition to Nick’s already impressively long list of career highlights - not to mention attaining it by defeating the exceptionally skilled Ramy, another of Nick’s long-term rivals, for the first time in five successive matches.
“When I win three nil in the first round of a tournament I’m surprised, never mind against somebody like Ramy in the final,” says Nick.
“I’m over the moon, absolutely delighted. I don’t have many more of these finals in me, I’m getting on a bit now, so I’ll enjoy it while I can.”
After Ramy’s ruthless performance against James Willstrop in the semi-final the day before, many expectations were that the 24-year old Egyptian would win the British Open. However on finals day Nick dispelled any illusions of who deserved to take home the trophy, overthrowing Ramy in straight sets in just 33 minutes.
“I’m nearly 32…but I’m a young 32 some days!” Nick chuckles.
“I played great today, one of my best performances ever, so on such an occasion I can’t wish for anything more really.
“I don’t feel like I’m ready to stop yet though. Hopefully after a good summer, starting back probably with the U.S. Open, I can have a good start to the season and get some more titles under my belt.”
With his unwaveringly strong game style and consistently solid performances, Nick’s chances at the final of the 2012 U.S. Open are evident.
“I’m at a point now where I’m trying to peak for major events – the big ones in the calendar like the British Open, World Open, U.S. Open, Tournament of Champions – ones that I’m passionate about winning,” he says.
“It’s sometimes hard to play every single week, but to be the number one in the world you have to be the best player over 12 or 13 tournaments over the year, and that’s something I’ve got to get better at if I want to win get that number one spot back.”
As a PSA and WSA World Series event, and with total prize money of $185,000, the U.S. Open in October will bring all of the world’s top players to Philadelphia to compete for the prestigious title.
“I love playing in the US – some of the best atmospheres are at tournaments we play in the States,” says Nick.
“It’s a relatively new sport there so the crowds are always really passionate and really loud, and they always seem to be packed out every day. They love the dynamic and athletic nature of the game and they really get behind us.”
Nick started playing at the age of eight, and says he realized the potential to be a professional player when he was about 15 or 16.
“As a kid, I played every sport under the moon and then fell in love with squash. It suited my personality, with the one-on-one combat. I loved the dynamic nature too, where you had to think a lot and think for yourself. It made you independent at a young age.
“I realized from coming to the British Open as a kid that you could make a living out of it if you were good enough, and willing to work hard enough – and so I’ve been working hard ever since.
“In the United States, the number of kids you see attending the big tournaments like the U.S. Open and the Tournament of Champions is great. And they’re all so keen to play!
When asked what he would say to those young players who have dreams of turning professional like him, Nick says:
“Get to the big tournaments! See that atmosphere and get inspired to play in one of these amazing venues – it is very different from playing behind closed doors.
“The sport is growing on television, so you can really do well out of it. This is the professional game and where you want to be.
“I’ve made a few sacrifices along the way, but I’ve enjoyed every minute and it’s beyond my wildest dreams what I’ve done up until this point.”
“I think there’s an opportunity there to be that American superstar – not taking anything away from the current players – but to be that first real top ten world champion from the US," says Nick.
“When that happens, I think squash is really going to take off in the States."
To see Nick Matthew live at the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open, you can buy tickets at http://www.usopensquash.com/tickets/. Tickets are on sale now!