NICK MATTHEW is approaching his final British Open as if he has nothing to lose.
The three-time winner will retire from playing at the end of the season and is determined to bow out with one big, final flourish.
Last year’s runner-up, a drop down the rankings has seen Matthew come into the prestigious PSA World Tour event in the somewhat unusual position of being unseeded.
And while that may relieve some pressure on his shoulders, it ensures he is handed a tougher-than-usual opponent in the early stages of the competition in Hull, with Egypt’s world No 5 Tarek Momen standing in the 37-year-old’s way in today’s first round.
“Being unseeded does make a big difference when it comes to the early rounds,” said Sheffield-born Matthew, who last week agreed to take up a coaching and ambassadorial role with England squash starting in September. “Tarek is playing really well but I know that if I get the level of my game right, I can still compete with anybody.
“Maybe the pressure is on Tarek and he might be wondering which Nick Matthew is going to turn up because consistency is something I’ve lacked this season. I’m trying not to get too sentimental about it being my last British Open which I was guilty of over in Australia at the Commonwealth Games, where I ended up putting to much pressure on myself.”
Elsewhere in today’s first round, Matthew’s fellow Yorkshireman, James Willstrop has been handed an equally tough first-round draw against Momen’s compatriot, Marwan Elshorbagy, the world No 3.
“I’ll treat it as a final really, because it is a big ask,” said Willstrop. “But if I can put things together I know that I am still capable of beating many players in the world at the minute.”
Harrogate’s Chris Simpson yesterday made it through qualifying by beating Scotland’s Alan Clyne, winning 11-7, 11-2, 11-8. His reward? An first round encounter with No 2 seed.
In the women’s draw, unseeded Jenny Duncalf, from Harrogate, is handed a tough opening encounter against fifth seed Nouran Gohar, from Egypt. Wild card entrant Fiona Moverley, from Hull, faces 14th seed Victoria Lust.
Maybe the pressure is on Tarek and he might be wondering which Nick Matthew is going to turn up because consistency is something I’ve lacked this season.Nick Matthew