AS starts go, it would be difficult to make it any tougher for Nick Matthew at this week’s World Championships in the United States.
The 35-year-old world No 2 from Sheffield opens his campaign for a fourth world title against Australian Cameron Pilley – the highest-ranked player outside the top 16 seeds playing in Bellevue, Seattle from tomorrow.
Seeded No 2 for the event, Matthew will still be expected to book his place in the second round when he takes on Pilley on Monday, but is fully aware of the tough examination that awaits him.
“Regardless of what Cameron is ranked, I regard him as one of the big names in the sport, he’s like a box office name and always capable,” said Matthew.
“He’s had a few ups and downs and has lost to a few qualifiers when he’s been the seeded player but, to me, but when he’s the unseeded player or the underdog going into a game, it frees his game up and when he gets on a roll, he gets full of confidence and he’s a real tough player to play against.
“But, sometimes, when you get a first round match as tough as this one will be, it can be helpful because it gets you into tournament mode from the off, rather than building up throughout the week.”
Illness saw Matthew miss the recent Qatar Classic which was won by Mohamed Elshorbagy, but his most recent trip to the US proved to be a relative success when he reached the semi-finals of the US Open in Philadelphia.
He was beaten by Egypt’s Omar Mosaad, who went on to lose in the final to Gregory Gaultier, but the Yorkshireman is pleased to be returning to a country where the game is growing in popularity – on both coasts.
“It’s great and really exciting that we’re taking this event out to the west coast in the States because it has always tended to have traditionally been more on the east coast, with the Ivy Leagues and the colleges,” he added.
The tournament gets underway tomorrow for Matthew’s fellow Yorkshireman, James Willstrop, who will face an as-yet-unknown qualifier.
Harrogate-based Chris Simpson, who like Matthew is coached by David Pearson, is also in action and faces a tough first round opponent in the shape of 15th seed Stephen Coppinger from South Africa.
Defending champion Ramy Ashour, who missed Qatar through an injury suffered in Philadelphia last month, begins his defence tomorrow against fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham.