NICK MATTHEW continued to defy the odds by reaching the semi-finals of the PSA World Series Finals to ensure he remains in contention for the perfect career-ending moment.
The 37-year-old Yorkshireman believed his career to be over after an early exit from last month’s British Open in Hull prompted his planned-for retirement. But an injury to world No 3 Marwan ElShorbagy handed him a lifeline and a place after all in the traditional season-ending showpiece event for the world’s top eight players in Dubai.
And, after beginning his Group A campaign with an 11-8, 11-9 victory over Egypt’s Tarek Momen on Tuesday, the Sheffield-born former world No 1 – ranked eighth for the event – iovercame British Open champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 to clinch a place in the last four with top seed and world No 1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, who he faces in today’s final group encounter.
“I was just summoning every ounce of sweat, experience, willpower, knowhow and a little bit of technique here and there,” said Matthew, who will take up a coaching consultancy role with England Squash in August. “That was so, so tough, I don’t know how long it was but I’m glad it was best of three..
“The sport’s come a long way in the last 20 years that I’ve been on the tour. I think about when I started, you had perspex courts which wobbled in the wind, so look how far we’ve come. We’ve got equal prize money, Chicago (the 2018/19 PSA World Championships) is up at the half a million (dollar) mark (for both men and women) and beyond.
“It makes me wonder if I’m retiring at the wrong time really because the tour is only going in one direction but my body is only going in one direction too, so I think we’ve met halfway.”
Germany’s Simon Rösner is the other player to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s tournament after he came back from a game down to defeat World No.2 Ali Farag, a result which guaranteed the World No 5 guarantee top spot in Group B.
Both Farag and 2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad will meet on Thursday to determine who joins Rösner from Group B.
World No 1 Nour El Sherbini is the only player so far to have qualified for the women’s semi-finals after she cruised to a quick-fire 2-0 triumph over World No 3 Nour El Tayeb in just 15 minutes. New Zealand’s Joelle King and World No 5 Nouran Gohar were the other players in action in Group A, with the former winning to set up a semi-final play-off with El Tayeb next.
Group B sees defending champion Laura Massaro lead the way courtesy of a 2-1 victory over England tea-mate Sarah-Jane Perry on Wednesday. Preston-based Massaro is eyeing up a hat-trick of titles and moved to within one win of a semi-final berth after a 2-1 victory over Perry in a feisty match which saw the pair have some heated words at the end of a captivating contest.
I was just summoning every ounce of sweat, experience, willpower, knowhow and a little bit of technique here and there.Nick Matthew
“How you can blame me for trying to back in more when I’m crowded to try and create space is just a joke,” said Massaro. “I’m quite angry to finish that match like that, especially in comparison to how I ended yesterday. At the end of the day I won.”
World Champion Raneem El Welily defeated French World No5 Camille Serme in the day’s other match to ensure that it’s all to play four in Group B. If Serme beats Massaro and El Welily gets the better of Perry, then it will come down to the percentage of games won to decide who qualifies for the last four.
Day Two results - ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals. Group A:  Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 2-1: 11-9, 9-11, 12-10 (72m);  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-1: 11-8, 2-11, 11-9 (39m). Group B:  Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 7-11, 11-9, 11-3 (40m);  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 (41m). Women’s Group A:  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (15m);  Joelle King (NZL) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 14-12 (26m). Group B:  Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-1: 15-13, 7-11, 11-8 (48m);  Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-1: 8-11, 11-7, 11-5 (34m).