Matthews in magical start to world squash hat-trick bid
DOHA - Nick Matthew gave an early answer to those who claim he is too old to complete a hat-trick of world titles, delivering an impressively rapid opening win from a difficult first round draw on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Englishman overcame the top 20 Swiss player Nicolas Mueller in less than 40 minutes, a sturdy effort given his early nerves and his opponent’s hard-hitting potential.
Matthew also finished his 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 win with a brilliant stream of volleying winners, underlining his threat as still one of the sharpest lateral movers in the game.
“I felt a bit more nervous than usual because it was one of the toughest opening matches you could get,” the world champion admitted.
“It’s also an unusual court — things can go well one minute and quickly change.”
Matthew was referring to the combination of a fast front wall with contrasting ball-slowing cool air, but he found that when changes did come they were changes in his favour.
“I was told it’s a court on which you either feel like a million dollars or like zero dollars, ” Matthew said of his chat with his compatriot Lee Beachill, who held a match point on the same court in the 2004 world final before losing to Frenchman Thierry Lincou.
“I found exactly that when I practised,” he added. “I could win ten points in a row and then I could lose them. But in fact I played okay and he didn’t seem to have so much in the tank today.”
Matthew may be more relaxed for his second round, against Zac Alexander, the world number 49 from Australia, who saved one match point in the fourth game and four more in the fifth game while surviving 11-9, 8-11, 5-11, 13-11, 14-12 against Peter Creed, a qualifier from Wales.
The titleholder might though have a hard last-16 meeting with Tarek Momen, the Egyptian who beat him on this court in the Qatar Open last year.
If he survives that Matthew should have a quarter-final with Amr Shabana, the four-times former world champion whose baby son Adib was born while he has been away on this latest trip.
The 33-year-old Egyptian legend made a webcam inspection of the new arrival before and after an encouraging 11-6, 11-4, 11-9 win over Ivan Yuen, a Malaysian qualifier.
Shabana’s performance suggested he has recovered from the bruised ribs he sustained when diving during the Hong Kong Open last week.
“It was on the left side, just under my heart. It was dodgy – I want to live!” he joked.
Earlier two other former world number ones, Ramy Ashour, the unofficial favourite for the title, and Greg Gaultier, three times a finalist, both won well, and moved to within two wins each of a quarter final meeting.
Ashour started with a 11-7, 12-10, 11-8 first round win over his Egyptian compatriot, Marwan Shorbagy, the world junior champion, and Gaultier’s opening success came 11-5, 11-5, 11-1 against Mohammed Abbas, yet another Egyptian.