A SECOND-round exit on a Thursday afternoon was almost the last way Sheffield’s Nick Matthew wanted to exit a showcourt at the British Open for the final time.
A three-time winner and two-time runner-up, the 37-year-old’s wish was that he could at least make it to the weekend at the Airco Arena in Hull and a place in the final four.
But in the end the former world No 1 was forced to admit that although his mind was still willing his body was telling him different.
And so, after a 9-11 11-7 11-9 11-8 defeat to German qualifier Raphael Kandra in just under an hour, Matthew – who still hopes to qualify for the end-of-season PSA World Series Finals in Dubai – bowed out to rapturous applause.
A career as a coach and ambassador with England Squash beckons later in the year for the Yorkshireman, who is keen to help bring through the next generation of British players to help break the current Egyptian dominance of both the men’s and women’s world tours.
“It’s not how I wanted to go out, on a Thursday afternoon,” said Matthew. “I said it on Tuesday – I wanted to make it to the showtime at the weekend, I had my eye set on that. I had that great performance on Tuesday and then my body let me down a little bit.
“I have so many good memories of playing in England and that’s why I’m disappointed that I didn’t get on a bit further.
“Mentally I still have that desire and I know how to beat all the top guys, but my body hates playing them now, so maybe now is the right time to go, my body’s quitting on me.”
While Matthew was left to reflect on a career that will see him widely regarded as the best English player of all time – he also has three world titles and three Commonwealth gold medals to his name – he needs results to go his way in today’s quarter-finals in order to make it to the Dubai showpiece.
Defeat for Matthew means there will be no British presence in the last eight while, by contrast, half of the remaining competitors in the women’s quarter-finals are home-grown.
Wins yesterday for Wales’ Tesni Evans and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry sees them join English duo Laura Massaro and Alison Waters.
Evans takes on France’s Camille Serme, while Waters faces top seed and 2016 winner Nour El Sherbini from Egypt.
Two-time winner and defending champion Massaro is up against Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb, while Perry takes on second seed Raneem El Welily.
Mentally I still have that desire and I know how to beat all the top guys, but my body hates playing them now, so maybe now is the right time to go, my body’s quitting on me.Nick Matthew