Matthew makes Open history

Nick Matthew with British Open trophy 2012
Nick Matthew with British Open trophy 2012
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FOR Nick Matthew history will have to take its time to sink in as he contemplates the sort of things that normal 30-something-year-olds do.

Sheffield born and bred, Matthew, aged 31, is the first Englishman ever to win the British Open three times.

The tournament is the gold standard of squash and the one that is considered the most prestigious to win.

Matthew not only defended his title with straight games wins over England’s Peter Barker (11/5, 11/8, 11/6) in 45 minutes on Saturday and then Egypt’s Ramy Ashour (11/9, 11/4, 11/8) in a slightly longer 49 minutes yesterday at the O2 in London, he demonstrated that he’s the best player of his generation.

Celebrations are assured but they’ll have to wait as life, inevitably, gets in the way.

He said: “I’m off to America for a week for a stag do and then when I get back we’re (Matthew and partner Esmee) are moving house. So we’ll be doing lots of decorating.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet (winning three British Opens) but I’m sure it will. They’re all special in their own way. The first was because it was my first. Last year was special because of saving match ball and it being such an epic match against James (Willstrop, Matthew’s Yorkshire rival from Pontefract) and this year is special because it’s the most recent and most fresh in my memory.”

While Matthew is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, careful preparation in his home city is paying dividends.

He said: “This was a tournament I’ve had circled for peaking at all year. I have to give massive credit to my coach Mark Campbell at the English Institute of Sport.

“He’s planned for this for a long time. On days when I’ve wanted to do more he’s reined me in. And when I’ve felt tired, he’s pushed me through it.”

Matthew’s form improved throughout the week but he said he had to be at his very best to beat the excellent Ashour in the final.

“Ramy was a step up from the semi-final. You can never plan what you are going to do against Ramy, he plays shots with so fine margin, those shots that he tinned, had they been good, they would have been winners. I was lucky they found the tin.

“He is such a magician, a genius and I say that after I was at the wrong end of a few matches, he beat me the last five times we played.

“I knew by experience that I had to take the first game, that it would be crucial.”

Next year the British Open is at Hull City’s KC Stadium and Matthew has no intention of relinquishing his title.

He said: “It’s great that it will be in Yorkshire. A year is a long time but I would love to win it again on home turf.”