Next week’s Allam British Open Squash Championships in Hull mark the return of the world’s most prestigious squash tournament to Yorkshire for the first time for almost 40 years – and the county’s top player Nick Matthew, the world No2, is banking on local support to carry him through to a record fourth title.
The 2013 Allam British Open, the fourth PSA World Series event of the year, will take place for the first time at the KC Stadium in the English city of Hull from 20-26 May.
It was in 1974 that the British Open was last staged in Yorkshire – in Matthew’s home city of Sheffield, where distinguished Australian Geoff Hunt won his second of a then record eight titles.
In last year’s British Open final at the London O2 Arena, Matthew beat Egyptian Ramy Ashour to become the first Englishman in the event’s 82-year history to win the trophy for a third time.
Ashour, now the world No1, went on to win seven Tour events in a row – and build up a 36-match unbeaten run which he will look to extend in Hull. He and Matthew are seeded to meet again in the KC Stadium climax on Sunday 26 May.
“I am very excited for the world of squash to descend on Yorkshire,” said second seed Matthew as he fine-tuned his preparations to compete in his seventh British Open since 2002. “I’m not really focussing on a fourth title – it’s just exciting to be playing so close to home and hopefully I will get a lot of local support!”
With three British Open titles, two World Championship titles and two Commonwealth Games gold medals to his credit, Matthew has become one of the country’s most successful squash players of all-time.
“I began preparing for Hull as soon as I knew it was going to be there a year ago,” continued the 32-year-old. “It’s always been an event I have tried to peak for no matter where it is held and my preparations have taken a more specific feel these past six weeks.
“I am trying to time the good form to come at the right time!”
A full-time professional since 1997, with 26 PSA Tour titles to his name and 54 final appearances, does the Yorkshireman still enjoy playing as much as ever?
“I’ve really enjoyed these past couple of months,” explained Matthew. “I think I played too many tournaments at the start of the year and it’s been lovely to be able to get some consistent work in. It’s helped me enjoy my squash again.”
Matthew begins his 2013 British Open campaign against a qualifier – and hurdles thereafter could include Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, then fifth-seeded Egyptian Karim Darwish, before a predicted semi-final clash with in-form Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the world No3.
Matthew admits that he is looking forward to returning to Hull: “Hopefully this visit to Hull will be as good as my last one, when my beloved Sheffield Wednesday beat Hull 3-1.
“I will remind Dr Allam of that – in apologetic fashion, of course!”