Double World squash champion Nick Matthew today joins Sheffield’s aristocracy.
At 1pm his name will sit alongside those of Michael Palin, Derek Dooley, Jessica Ennis and Joe Cocker when his star is unveiled on the Walk Of Fame outside the Town Hall.
His triumphs at the sport’s highest level mean his name, like that of Jonah Barrington a generation before, will always be synonymous with squash.
But it almost didn’t work out that way at all.
Five years ago there were days when Nick Matthew thought he would never play the game again.
After extensive surgery to repair a long-standing shoulder injury he was struggling.
He kept hitting the same wall of pain and frustration as he tried to battle his way back to match fitness. It got so bad that at one stage he began looking for coaching jobs in the US fearing he might never be match fit again.
But, despite the setbacks and fears he eventually came back better than ever and now he’s thrilled to be honoured by his home city after being nominated by public vote.
“It’s brilliant, I think that playing a sport like squash you get used to living outside the limelight,” said 33-year-old Nick.
“I make a living out of squash and I’m not complaining but it’s not like being a tennis player or a footballer. It was a lovely surprise when I first heard about it. When you think about the other people who are on there it’s quite humbling, it’s a great honour.”
In his 15-year career, Nick has won 25 World Tour titles, has twice been crowned world champion and has been British Open champion three times, making him England’s most successful player.
As he prepares for the $50,000 World Championship in Manchester next month he believes that overcoming his injury problems gave him the motivation to raise his game to a new level and become the best in the world.
“The biggest thing and the turning point in my career was the shoulder injury,” added former High Storrs schoolboy Nick.
“It had been bothering me for months and I knew it was a career threat to have the surgery but I felt I had no choice.
“I had the operation in 2008 and was out of action for more than eight months.
“There were lots of times I thought I would never get back to playing again, lots of dark moments.
“I got to the point where I was starting to look out for coaching jobs in America I was that sure I wouldn’t be able to play again.
“But looking back that was the best thing that happened to me. It allowed me to take a break from the routine of playing, training and travelling and gave me a chance to look at what I was doing and how I was doing it.
“Gradually I got my hunger back and I think that experience of being out of the game for so long gave me the desire to step up a gear.
“There were lots of times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to carry on. I kept breaking down in training. There were a lot of tantrums and smashed raquets.
“I threw the toys out of the pram on more than one occasion and I just wanted to pack it in. Throughout that time running kept me sane really. When things got bad I would put my running shoes on and go out for 40 minutes and it would sort my head out.
“It was very depressing at times, but sometimes you need something to threaten what you have to make you realise how much you love it. It made me realise how important squash is to me.
“I eventually entered the Dutch Open in 2008 but the week before it I felt like pulling out, the demons were at work in my head but I played and during that tournament something clicked in my head and I found my way back.
“Although I was off the pace physically things turned round mentally. Without the operation and the time to step off the treadmill I don’t think I would have been able to achieve as much as I have.”
Nick got married at Grindleford in June to Esme, a physiologist for the Great Britain Cycling team who supports riders like Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott.
The couple live in Totley and are members of the Hallamshire Tennis and Squash Club where Nick first went with his parents as an eight-year-old.
Nick tells the full story and charts his career in a new book Sweating Blood: My Life In Squash - The Official Nick Matthew Autobiography, published by internationalSPORTgroup
2006 First home-grown winner of the British Open for 67 years
2009 Reclaims British Open trophy after career-threatening shoulder surgery in January 2008.
2010 Title triumphs in four successive events – Swedish Open, North American Open, Canary Wharf Classic and Sky Open
2010 Tops world rankings to become first English World No.1 for six years
2010 Gold Medals in Men’s Singles and Doubles at Commonwealth Games
2010 First Englishman to win World Open Championship and wins PSA Masters
2010 PSA Player of the Year
2011 Wins record fifth British Nationals title, a third British Open crown and successfully defends World Open title
Yoga is the answer.
Nick Matthew is following football legend Ryan Gigg’s’ example as he looks to extend his sporting career by taking up the discipline in an attempt to recover and prepare better between games.
Giggs, the 39-year-old Manchester United and Wales star who has played more than 900 senior games for club and country, took up the oriental exercise around five years ago after suffering for years with hamstring injuries.
Although Sheffield’s Nick Matthew does not suffer from specific injury problems he’s hoping that the stretching and strengthening exercises will help extend his career.
“Squash players don’t always go on too long,” said 33-year-old Wednesdayite Nick.
“The wear and tear on the hips and gluteal muscles (buttocks) with all the twists and deep lunging is tough and I have started doing yoga, around 20 minutes in the morning and already I have noticed a difference physically and mentally.
“Once the season gets under way it’s about peaking at the right times and staying sharp and yoga helps with that. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it a few years ago. I’ve made a few tweaks to the diet as well which has helped.
“I do around 20 minutes yoga in the mornings and everything feels better when I’ve done it.”