Nick Matthew Looks For Clean Sweep After Landing World No.1

Matthew, 30 in July, fit, healthy and happy travelling the world – expressed little concern. Come the end of the week at the Sky Open, Matthew had become the 16th World No.1, confirmed in June’s rankings, and only the second Englishman, after Lee Beachill in 2004, to top the rankings.
 
The Yorkshireman beat Karim Darwish, the defending champion, in the final and landed the coveted No.1 position after Ramy Ashour, the talented 22 year-old Egyptian lost to his compatriot in the last four. It ended a prolonged, intense spell chasing Ashour.
 
"I was so tense in the semi and was exactly the opposite in the final where I was able to relax," Matthew told Telegraph Sport. "There was no urgency to my game but half way through I found the fighting qualities. A lot of people might have thought that I rested on my laurels but I wanted to put down a marker."
 
Having turned pro in 1998, the Yorkshireman has spent only seven months outside the top 10 since 2004. It has included a dramatic turnaround after a hectic playing schedule caused a major injury to his right shoulder in 2008 and he was subsequently out of action for eight months.
 
Tentatively, Matthew returned to the world tour after the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, home to Jessica Ennis, nurtured him back to health. So far in 2010 he has won 28 matches in a row and landed six of eight titles on offer.
 
Matthew said: "It's a case of keeping up what I have been doing, namely being successful, and a chance of succeeding in other areas. It's a good time to be at No 1 because I am guaranteed to have it for a few months without doing very much which is nice.
 
"It's time to reflect and enjoy the moment as the last time the World No.1 has changed hands tournaments have come thick and fast."
 
Beachill, now chief operating officer of the men's tour after retiring in 209, was also on hand in Cairo to give Matthew some good advice.
 
But despite Beachill and Matthew's achievements – the advent of the world rankings came after the great Jonah Barrington's career ended – in the last six years, English squash has had little to shout about over the last decade. Dwindling media exposure, constant Olympic exclusion and the British Open, which has twice come close to folding have been at the forefront.
 
Matthew, playing on a revamped World Tour backed by a UK-based Saudi billionaire, is optimistic over the future. "Hopefully this period now for England Squash can inspire lots of people into the sport," he said.
 
"You worry when the Egyptians are dominating the sport whether we have the talent for future years but hopefully the next generation can come through."
 
So what next for a player who holds the rarest of phrases: British racket-playing World No.1? Simple really, His vision is "to keep it for as long as possible", become World Champion and aim for Commonwealth Gold before the end of the year.
 
He said: "To get to World No.1 is massive in the sport but to then strive on and achieve more success is the benchmark. It's rather like what Peter Nicol has done and over the weeks I will be looking to set out the building blocks to that path."
A path well-trodden by Egyptians in recent years and one Matthew aims to conquer for a while yet.
 
Best of British:
Lee Beachill ENG October 2004 – December 2004 (Total months 3)
Peter Nicol ENG May 2004 – September 2004 (Total months 60)
John White SCO March 2004 – April 2004 (Total months 2)
Peter Nicol ENG January 2002 – December 2003
Peter Nicol ENG August 2001 (Nicol switched allegiance under England flag after lack of funding in Scotland)
Peter Nicol SCO February 2000 – March 2001
Peter Nicol SCO October 1999 – October 1999
Peter Nicol SCO February 1998 – April 1999
Source: Squashinfo
 
Issued by telegraph.co.uk

A previous occupant at Nick Matthew's hotel room in Cairo last week had added "contemplating my future" beneath the 'Do not disturb' sign hanging from the England No.1's door.