Nick Matthew: The best is yet to come

Richard Eaton reports from Kuwait

World Open champion Nick Matthew, who is trying to win the Kuwait PSA Cup as part of his bid to become year-end world number one again, has warned that the best is yet to come.

The Englishman surprised some people by winning his second World Open title at the age of 31 a fortnight ago in Rotterdam, but Matthew believes he is still improving.

“I’m nowhere near the finished article,” he insisted. “At this stage of your career you start to make invisible improvements and that’s what keeps me motivated, working with David Pearson (his coach).

“I try to improve for improvement’s sake. The game’s psychology is an infinite thing and I can improve in that way.”

Matthew’s remarkable progress after a career-threatening shoulder injury in 2008 happened partly because he was courageous in being honest about any weaknesses – and he is the same here.

“There are a lot of things I can do better,” he says. “There are four areas – tactical, technical, physical and mental, and out of the four, technical is the weakest for me.

“That is something I always like to stay on top of, no matter what. It’s exciting. And as long as it still excites me I will be hungry for success.”

Matthew completed the defence of his World Open title by overcoming Gregory Gaultier in the final, although the Frenchman gained some revenge in Hong Kong last week.

Despite a wise reluctance to talk too much about winning a third, it is evident that Matthew thinks it is possible. “It seems strange to be talking about it already now,” he said. “I just want to get back in and get this year done.

“I would be delighted to win one of these two (Kuwait and the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in Delhi). And consolidate being world number one, first and foremost. Then I will sit down and draw up my list for 2012. But there is no doubt the World Open will be top of that list.”

However Matthew knows that further improvement may not be enough, as rivals may improve more – notably Ramy Ashour, the 24-year-old former world champion from Egypt who is sidelined with a chronic hamstring problem.

“It can be a fine line winning a squash match. I could still improve and not win many tournaments,” Matthew acknowledges. Between the summer and now the World Open is the only tournament I’ve won – yet I feel like I have improved as a player.”

That’s only one reason why winning here is central to his immediate focus. “At this tournament I have never got to the later stage,” he pointed out. “I would like to show the public of each country that I am there (at number one) for a reason. And that’s something I would really like to do here.”

Last week’s loss to Gaultier has indicated why he can do that. “It was a difficult match but the desire to win and the hunger were there,” he asserted. “That’s an important measure at this point of my career. It bodes well.”

Matthew later learned that he will start his campaign to win the title over the next six days with a match against Nicolas Mueller. The developing Swiss player beat Gregoire Marche, the world number 53 from France, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6.

And Gaultier’s first opponent will be Omar Abdel Aziz, the Egyptian who overcame his compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad 8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 12-10.

Meanwhile Amr Shabana, the four-times World Open champion from Egypt and a former champion here too, will face Simon Rosner, the German who is pushing towards the top 20 for the first time and who had a good win over Marwan El Shorbagy, the world junior champion.

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