IT’S probably the wrong time of year but Sheffield’s Nick Matthew is hoping that squash finally has its moment in the sun after watching from the outside as the Great British summer of sport unfolded.
Matthew, who won the British Grand Prix on Monday night in his first tournament of the new season, is a close friend and training partner of two of the city’s biggest success stories of the summer - Jonny Marray and Jessica Ennis.
Based at the same Hallamshire club as Wimbledon doubles champion Marray and part of the elite group that perfects their strength and conditioning at the English Institute of Sport where Ennis is an almost daily visitor, Matthew explained he has revelled in their success.
He said: “It seems like it has been a long summer. There was the Olympics, where squash should have been at, and I moved house as well. So there has been lots happening but it was great to get back playing again.
“It was a tough tournament in Manchester - it was a bit of a shock to the system. But it was a great way to start the season. This is a big year for squash. We have the decision of whether it will an Olympic sport at the 2020 Games in May and there are IOC test events.”
Beating his great Yorkshire rival,, James Willstrop in the final will have made it extra sweet for Matthew, who was competing in his 50th Professional Squash Association final. Aged 32, the former High Storrs school student says he is still evolving his game.
“I’ve always been known as one of the fittest players on the tour,” he said. “But I can’t keep relying on that.
“I’m trying to play more intelligently so I can use my fitness more as a last resort.
“I’m still excited about making improvements and still excited about getting up each day to train. The tournaments are the easy bit. It’s the training that can be hard. But I’m still loving it.”
Matthew’s enthusiasm and hard work has made him one of the sport’s most feared opponents. Ranked second in the world behind Willstrop, he’s prepared to be patient as he aims for the top spot again.
“It’s (World No 1) kind of something you never want to talk about. The only thing you can look after is the individual matches and tournaments,” he said. “After that your ranking takes care of itself. I was more pleased with reaching 50 finals. When I heard that I thought ‘that’s a lot!’”
Matthew flies out to the Philadelphia next Thursday for the first major tournament of the season - the US Open.
“It’ll be a very tough event. I was runner-up last year and won there in 2007, which seems a long time ago now,” he said.