Great year for Matthew sealed with No 1 return

VINTAGE YEAR: Sheffield's Nick Matthew plays a backhand shot on his way to victory over Borja Golan in the final of the Hong Kong Open. The victory means the 33-year-old begins 2014 as world No 1. Picture kindly supplied by Steve Cubbins/Squashsite.com.
VINTAGE YEAR: Sheffield's Nick Matthew plays a backhand shot on his way to victory over Borja Golan in the final of the Hong Kong Open. The victory means the 33-year-old begins 2014 as world No 1. Picture kindly supplied by Steve Cubbins/Squashsite.com.
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IF a third world title hadn’t already made 2013 a memorable year for Sheffield’s Nick Matthew, his triumph yesterday in the Hong Kong Open surely did.

Not only was it the first time the 33-year-old had won the prestigious event but, more importantly, his 65-minute 11-1, 11-8, 5-11, 11-5 victory over Spain’s Borja Golan at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre ensured he will return to the world No 1 ranking for the first time in 22 months.

It marks another remarkable achievement for the Yorkshireman, who was forced to reach the final the hard way after being kept on court for nearly 90 minutes in Saturday’s semi-final against No 2 seed Gregory Gaultier before prevailing 11-13, 11-4, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3.

Golan had been somewhat of a surprise opponent in the final, having defeated Pontefract’s James Willstrop in the other semi-final, the Yorkshireman failing to recover adequately enough following his two-hour epic quarter-final against Mohamed El Shorbagy the previous day.

“It feels amazing,” said Matthew, who now boasts 28 PSA World Tour titles and will replace fierce rival Ramy Ashour as world No 1 on January 1 after the Egyptian has occupied the top spot all year.

“I’ve been coming here since 2001 and I’ve struggled to get out of the squash centre before now so to end the year on a high, with this title and going back to No 1 is an amazing feeling.

“It’s been a great year for me: I got married this year as well so it’s been really special for me. I think Ramy (Ashour) has shown that he is the best player so I’ll take the ranking with a pinch of salt.

“I have to beat him on a regular basis and that’s the next goal but I have had my share of injuries and know what it’s like for him.”

In the women’s draw, defending champions Nicol David made it nine titles in a row after defeating Egypt’s Raneem El Welily 11-7, 
11-7, 12-10.

“Hong Kong is a lucky charm of mine, I guess,” said David. “It means the world to me to win in Hong Kong. Having won here since the 2005 World Open, it’s really a special experience for me.”