New goals: Vintage Nick Matthew delighted he’s now ‘back on it’

Nick Matthew celebrates victory over James Willstrop in the final of the British Squash Grand Prix in Manchester (Picture: PSA).
Nick Matthew celebrates victory over James Willstrop in the final of the British Squash Grand Prix in Manchester (Picture: PSA).
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NICK MATTHEW is well aware that time is not on his side when it comes to making any long-term career plans.

The 36-year-old Yorkshireman, who has acknowledged for some while that he is in the twilight of a career that has brought him three world titles and a record eight British National crowns, is happy to play the short-term game and not get too far ahead of himself.

It is an approach and philosophy that paid dividends at the back end of this year, the Sheffield-born star extending his unbeaten run over fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop to 19 matches to win the British Grand Prix in Manchester, a venue across the Pennines that has served as his second home.

That victory and what it meant to Matthew was captured in a superb celebration photograph, the emotion and relief of overcoming a troubling start to the season as well as ending an 18-month wait for a 34th PSA World Tour title bursting out of an ecstatic Matthew.

Matthew has spent the majority of his time since winning at the National Squash Centre earlier this month assessing his goals for 2017, at least for the second half of the season, which he hopes will culminate in his participation in the World Series finals in Dubai in June.

Beyond that, Matthew will not plan. In fact, he admits his desire to be in the UAE come June 6 may itself be looking too far ahead – his years of experience helping him adopt a more pragmatic and realistic approach to what can be achieved.

Not that any of this means Matthew is considering retirement. Far from it; he is just determined not to get too far ahead of himself.

“I admit, winning the British Squash Grand Prix meant a lot to me,” said Matthew.

“There are obviously a lot harder things that happen in life, but everybody in their own way goes through their own little battles and turmoil, if you like.

“When you have a lot of injuries and you get to a certain, shall we say, vintage you start questioning everything. But when you then come out of the other side and you realise all the hard work, emotions and soul-searching that has gone into all that has paid off, then it all just comes out.

“Maybe when you look at that picture of me celebrating, you could say I got a bit carried away but it’s purely because of everything that has gone into achieving something like that.”

Next up for Matthew will be the Tournament of Champions in New York in January, with the British National Championships following closely behind – an event he will be trying to win for a ninth time when he returns in February to defend the title he has won for the last five years in Manchester.

After winning in Manchester earlier this month, Matthew said in his post-match interview that he wanted to be back at the venue 12 months on when the World Championships return to the UK for the first time since 2013, the last time Matthew won the sport’s most coveted title.

While Matthew would love nothing more than to return to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs, he is not looking much beyond the first few months of the year.

“I would really love to be around for the worlds in Manchester next year, but I am not looking that far ahead,” said Matthew.

“What’s been working quite well for me has been taking the year a quarter at a time.

“I’m just going to take next year in small chunks, but I’m not going to put any pressure on myself.”

While his training schedule outside of tournament play is not as it was, say, five years ago, Matthew’s winning end to the year left him feeling on top of his game, believing that he could still cut it with the best around.

“I had a really shaky start to the season,” he admitted. “I knew I needed a really good off-season, which I managed to do, but then I still started poorly and I was worried that the way I was performing was going to be par for the course now and that maybe it was getting a bit beyond me.

“But the way I performed in Manchester left me wishing that the top one and two in the world (Mohamed) Elshorbagy or (Karim Abdel) Gawad had been there because I really felt like I would have taken some beating.

“I’ve been around long enough and I’ve played enough matches to know when I’m on it and I was on it in Manchester and I felt ready to take those top guys on.

“But I need to pace myself, I need to come back in January in New York and, hopefully, have a crack at those guys then.”