NICK MATTHEW feels he is swapping one home from home for another this week as he sets about defending his British National title in Manchester.
He may still enjoy living in Sheffield, where he was born back in 1980, but it is in the Swedish town of Linkoping and the North West’s biggest city where he has enjoyed most success in his career.
On Sunday, Matthew clinched his fifth Swedish Open title in seven years, defeating top seed and current world No 2 Gregory Gaultier in straight games. Since Matthew first enjoyed success in Sweden back in 2009, Gaultier is the only other player to lift the title.
As usual, it is another quick turnaround between the two events with Matthew only having two full days to recover before he begins the defence of his crown.
It will take something special to deny Matthew a remarkable seventh title at the National Squash Centre, the 34-year-old world No 3 lifting the crown five times in the last six years. Familiarity certainly breeds contentment for Matthew in both Linkoping and Manchester.
“There’s certainly something about playing in Linkoping that makes it special for me,” said Matthew. “The organisers do their best to make the players feel comfortable while they are over there and it certainly works.
“It’s the same in Manchester – you’re made to feel very comfortable there, it’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere and I’ve got a very good record there.”
Understandably, Matthew enters the event as top seed, but is aware he is the scalp every up-and-coming player wants to take.
“When I was younger the Nationals were always a great chance to take on one of the top British players,” he added. “It was also a good stepping stone to the PSA World Tour and it’s no different for the younger players coming through now.”
James Willstrop – winner in 2007 and 2008, but runner-up to Matthew the last three years – is also in action later today, as is Harrogate-based Chris Simpson.
Leeds-based Eddie Charlton takes on Mark Fuller, while Hull’s James Earles is in action against Tom Ford.