Time is of the essence for reigning world champ Nick

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NICK Matthew is a realist at heart.

Just days before the start of the 2012 World Championships, which takes place in Qatar, the defending champion admits he has just “two to three” more opportunities to win the biggest prize in the sport.

The Sheffield right-handed player, who is aiming to win the prestigious title for a third successive year, has told The Star: “I am conscious at 32 that I might not have many more worlds left in me. I will probably have two or three shots at best so I want to make the most of them.”

Matthew, who was beaten in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open by arch rival Ramy Ashour last week, begins the defence of his crown against the highest-ranked Swiss player of all time in Nicolas Mueller on Saturday.

The tournament, which boasts a $325,000 prize-fund, the second biggest in squash’s history, always figures high up on Matthew’s priority list.

But there will be fierce resistance to the predicted all-English final between James Willstrop, the World No 1, and second seed Matthew.

Former champions Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana are both in Matthew’s half of the draw.

“It is a really tough draw,” admitted Matthew.

“Anyone to win coming from the bottom half will have their work cut out but it is possible.”