NICK MATTHEW heads to Hull for the British Open this week believing it to be the most wide-open draw in a number of years.
At 36, the Sheffield-born three-time winner is the oldest player in action this week, but that has not prevented him going into the ‘Wimbledon of squash’ on the back of some notable tournament triumphs elsewhere, including February’s British National Championships in Manchester – which he won for a record ninth time – and the recent Canary Wharf Classic in London.
It all bodes well for another success on home soil, particularly in his native Yorkshire, but the former world No 1, ranked fourth for this week’s event at the Airco Arena, is determined not to place too much pressure on himself, as he admits to having done in recent years.
“Maybe with the British Open being in Yorkshire for the last few years I’ve possibly put too much emphasis on it and been too desperate to do well in front of a home crowd,” said Matthew.
“But this year I’m trying to play it down a little bit as I think I may have forced it too much in previous years.
“I’ve had some good recent wins, but that’s coupled with a second-round exit at the Tournament of Champions in January.
“That is still fresh in my mind and gives me a good balance in that, while I know I’m playing well, I’m fully aware of how much of a knife-edge that form and confidence is on given what occurred in New York. It reminds me that it is not all plain sailing.”
The Yorkshireman begins his quest tomorrow against former world No 5 from Spain, Borja Golan – currently ranked 21 in the PSA rankings and one of the toughest first-round draws imaginable in a strong field.
As usual, Matthew expects the higher seeds of Mohamed Elshorbagy, Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour to pose a significant threat in East Yorkshire, but is also expecting a few surprises along the way.
“I just try to concentrate on my own section of the draw and see where that takes me,” he added.
“But the Tour is very interesting at the moment, and we’re seeing in every tournament different quarter-finalists and semi-finalists. You just can’t pick some of the results at the moment and no one player is dominating.
“That probably helps make this one of the more open draws for some time.”
Fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop – back up to No 6 in the world – also gets his campaign started tomorrow when he takes on France’s Mathieu Castagnet.
In the women’s draw, Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf faces Hong Kong’s Joey Chan.
You just can’t pick some of the results at the moment and no one player is dominating. That probably helps make this one of the more open draws for some time.World No 4 and three-time British Open winner, Nick Matthew