TWO-time world champion Nick Matthew believes all the pressure is on undisputed world No 1 Ramy Ashour ahead of this week’s World Squash Championships in Manchester.
The defending champion, from Egypt, arrives in Manchester for the first round on Monday enjoying a 10th month as the world’s top player and on the back of a 44-match unbeaten record, enjoying title triumphs in the last eight Tour events in which he has competed.
The enthralling 90-minute triumph over fellow Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy marked Ashour’s second world title, coming four years after he first won the most coveted title in the game when beating Karim Darwish in Manchester.
Matthew’s last victory over Ashour on the PSA World Tour came on home turf last year in the final of the British Open but, as he eyes a third title, he admits it will take something special to deny the Egyptian a third triumph of his own.
“Ramy’s the clear favourite for the worlds,” said Matthew.
“I think it’s the first time for a few years that there has been an undisputed No 1 in the game.
“Myself and James (Willstrop), Greg (Gaultier) and Ramy have all been world No 1 in the last few years, but we have lost to other players while we’ve been up there so it’s never been really undisputed.
“He’s about 50 matches unbeaten or something like that and has won for a full calendar year so he’s the undisputed No 1. All the pressure will be on him which is not necessarily a bad thing for the rest of us.”
Following a longer than usual summer break – made necessary by the Sheffield-born world No 4 getting married – Matthew returned to the Tour earlier this month and, while disappointed to lose to Gregory Gaultier in the final, was pleased about his performances at the US Open in Philadelphia.
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His latest bid for glory in Manchester begins on Monday at the National Squash Centre against as-yet unknown qualifier, with fellow Yorkshireman Willstrop on court later in the day.
“I think perhaps towards the end of last season, I was struggling for form and I was struggling, perhaps, for a bit of passion for the game, which is something that I perhaps lost through playing too much.
“So I wanted to keep my schedule a little bit lighter this year, play fewer tournaments but perhaps try to get the peak performances up and being over in Philadelphia for the US Open was a good start to that.”