Nick Matthew column: Next generation ready to challenge old guard for honours

Mohamed Elshorbagy
Mohamed Elshorbagy
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It was great to reach the final of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions for the fifth time in my career.

I gave it everything and really enjoyed the occasion but lost 5-11, 11-9, 11-8, 12-10 to Egyptian world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy last week.

When I last played Elshorbagy in the World Championships, I lost in straight games. In New York, I got off to a good start, had chances in every game and it was much closer.

Normally I play the big points well and use my experience but I made a couple of poor decisions at crucial times against Elshorbagy which is unusual for me but that’s credit to Elshorbagy for the pressure he puts you under and the pace he plays the game at.

He had a patch in the third game where he was unplayable for five minutes. I weathered that storm, came back and actually thought I finished the stronger player. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be.

Considering I had a very tough draw, I was pleased with how I played. I was challenged from the first round and fully extended by the likes of former top 10 player Daryl Selby, Omar Mosaad and Simon Rösner.

There’s a theme on tour at the moment. Selby, Mosaad and Rösner are ranked just outside the top eight but they are all making a bit of a push. These are guys who have been jostling for position over the last four to five years but they are all starting to reach their peak and challenge the established guard. It just shows the strength in depth in our game.

What squash bosses did last year was change the seedings in major events. There used to be 16 seeds but there are now just eight which means you can get a bit of a free for all. You can now draw number nine in the world in the first round so it makes the draw really tough.

My route to the final consisted of playing an Englishman, an Egyptian, a German and a Colombian! That’s surely got to be a first playing a German in the quarter-finals and a Colombian in the semis?! I think that highlights how many countries are playing squash now. The sport is becoming more global which is a great sign. In the British Junior Open in Sheffield over Christmas, Peru’s Diego Elias lifted the trophy!

It can only be a good thing for the tour seeing players from different countries coming through and challenging for the big prizes.