ISS Canary Wharf Classic 2009
Matthew in fine Nick
By ALAN THATCHER
Nick Matthew is playing the best squash of his life and is
determined to produce a massive performance in this year’s ISS Canary
Wharf Squash Classic.
has risen to No.5 in the latest world rankings after a sensational
return to form following a long lay-off last year with a shoulder
After an operation in January 2008, it was not until June that he was
able to get on court and hit a squash ball.
Following a slow and frustrating recovery period, Matthew eased his way
back into competitive mode by winning the
Dutch Open in September.
A month later, he exceeded his seeding to reach the semi-finals of the
after upsetting fourth seed David Palmer 11-3, 11-9, 10-12, 13-15, 11-6
in 111 minutes, which proved to be the longest match of his Tour career.
Making rapid improvement since his lay-off, eighth seed Matthew also
made the last four of the Saudi
International in December after upsetting new World Open champion
Matthew celebrated the first anniversary of his appointment with a
surgeon’s scalpel with a sensational run of form early in 2009, firstly
by making the final of the
Tournament of Champions in New York as the No.8 seed (upsetting
Shabana, Ashour and Willstrop before losing out to fourth seed Gaultier)
then securing the Swedish Open trophy for the first time after
despatching title-holder Willstrop in the semi-finals.
a week, he had claimed the
crown for a second time, and by the end of the February the rejuvenated
Englishman had battled through a high quality North American Open field
to reach the final of the new Super Series event in Virginia, this time
losing to Ashour in the 26th PSA Tour final of his career. His
consistency propelled Matthew to a career-equalling-high No.5 in the
world rankings in March, interestingly enough after the seedings and
draw had been done for Canary Wharf!
To say that Matthew is delighted to be back on top of his game is
something of an understatement.
“I was off court for five months and there so
many different stages to go through during the recovery process.
when I got back on court in June, it was a case of how hard and how
often I was allowed to hit the ball. It was a very frustrating time. I
was training hard away from the court but every time I played and
stepped up the intensity my shoulder got sore, so I had to be extremely
careful. There were so many different hurdles to overcome.
“It was great to start 2009 so well and I was able to improve my ranking
from 12 to five with some good results. It was definitely the best form
of my career and I won my National title back as well, which was a
“I try not to worry about the rankings, though. The key things are your
performance and preparations, and if they are OK then the rankings
should take care of themselves.
“I was at five in 2004 but it feels like a different world now to what
it was then. From a personal point of view, my own game has developed
and matured. I can’t put my finger on one thing; it has just been a
“Much of it is down to attention to detail and hard work, day in and day
out, and hoping things will improve.
“There was one unexpected bonus to being off court, and that was the
time I was able to train away from the tournament circuit. Alister
Walker said to me it was like I had done three summers’ worth of
training back to back.
when you are playing tournaments you do not have a lot of recovery time
to work on any weaknesses. And if you do well in a tournament and get to
the semi-finals or the finals, you have even less recovery time. It is a
double-edged sword, really, but I am not complaining.
“Your whole body is affected by the lunging you do on a squash court:
the knees, back, hips and glutes. So you have to work on your core and
be able to cope with the workload.
“Because of my injury I am doing specific physio and rehab drills every
day and this has now become part of my daily warm-up, training and cool
down. The important thing is to learn how to manage those situations and
not take your health or fitness or granted.”
“It was brutal at the end of 2007. We had Saudi, and Qatar, followed by
Hong Kong, Bermuda, the World Teams in India and then the English Open.
You always get niggles in most tournaments you play, but now I am more
aware of it and what needs to be done to take care of my body.”
Matthew is convinced the game has changed
dramatically in the five years since he last held the No.5 ranking
“Is the game changing? Yes, it is a very different sport to five years
ago. The Egyptians have come along in a big way and changed things.
Suddenly a lot of the angles are different.
“In a recent tournament there was Ramy Ashour and Karim Darwish from
Egypt in one semi-final and Gregory Gaultier and me, two Europeans, in
“The Egyptians have are playing a new kind of game, but the basis is
still the same. Karim Darwish has got to be world No.1 by playing
immaculate length and width so the basics are still the same. A lot is
made of the shot-playing ability of the Egyptians but they have such a
strong basic game that enables them to set up the openings in the first
“Much of what we are seeing now is a marriage between the Egyptian flair
and European fitness.
“As the game develops, courts are becoming truer and truer, and training
methods and support systems are improving, so the standard will continue
to rise, as in all sports.”
Matthew knows he is overdue a major performance at Canary Wharf.
“Last year I was injured, the year before I was exhausted after winning
the Nationals and the year before that I had an ankle injury, so I am
looking forward to playing my best.”