‘Fantastic’ rivalry spurs on Matthew

Just in front: Nick Matthew
Just in front: Nick Matthew
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IT IS a close run thing between Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour at the top of the world squash rankings.

Double Commonwealth gold medallist Matthew leads the way after retaining his Swedish Open and North American Open titles in February.

But Ashour is breathing down the world champion’s neck and remains just 184 points behind the Sheffield ace.

In the head-to-head meetings, Ashour extended his advantage to 7-5 by defeating Matthew in the final of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York two months ago.

However, Matthew gained revenge for that loss by overcoming his arch rival in a five game thriller in Virginia.

“It is fantastic for the sport having this rivalry,” Matthew told The Star. “Throughout the eras of squash, there has always been great rivalries and I am honoured that we are being spoken about in the same breath as Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power.

“I am honoured that people are talking about it. When you are one and two in the world, for the rivalry to develop you have to get to the finals to play each other because you can’t play each other in the early rounds.

“We have been in the finals and it shows how well we have consistently been playing.”

This is the third month in a row Matthew has held off the challenge of Ashour and clung on to his world number one spot.

He said: “We are two contrasting personalities. He is a lot younger and possesses more flair in his armoury than I do. I have to work hard at my game.

“We have two completely different styles and I think that is why we match up well against each other.”

Elsewhere is the rankings, Karim Darwish retains his third position ahead of Matthew’s England teammate James Willstrop. Former world champions Amr Shabana and Gregory Gaultier are fifth and sixth respectively.

“Ramy and I have got a gap between ourselves and third place but then the gap between third and sixth is minimal,” said Matthew. “There are six to eight players who can win a tournament at any given time.”