Despite crashing out of last week’s Qatar Classic in the second round – ending a sensational run of ten successive Tour finals in a row for the world number one – England’s Nick Matthew is confident of his form as he prepares to defend his title in next week’s PSA World Open in Rotterdam.
Featuring a stunning line-up including five former world champions and seven world number ones, the premier PSA World Tour championship will be held for the first time in Rotterdam, from 30 October to 6 November. After qualifying (28/29 October) and early rounds at the renowned Victoria Squash club, the event will move onto an ASB all-glass court which will be erected on the podium of the New Luxor Theatre in the Dutch City of Sports.
“Losing so early in Doha obviously wasn’t part of the plan, but it could well prove to be a blessing in disguise,” said Matthew. “It has enabled me to have more time at home preparing for the worlds. You need a reality check sometimes and perhaps mine was in Qatar.”
Matthew has enjoyed a remarkable run since becoming England’s first ever world champion in Saudi Arabia last year. The 31-year-old from Sheffield went on to pick up two PSA World Series titles at the PSA Masters and North American Open, in addition to winning the Swedish Open and Canary Wharf Classic.
But the double Commonwealth Games gold medallist met his match in Doha, going down in straight games to Tarek Momen, a 23-year-old Egyptian ranked 25 places lower.
Matthew is expected meet his greatest rival Ramy Ashour, the world No2 from Egypt, in the Rotterdam final. Does he feel any added pressure – going into the event as favourite, defending champion and the world’s leading player.
“I don’t think that’s an issue really, particularly after Qatar,” said the Yorkshireman, who is hoping to become the first man to retain the World Open title in 15 years. “If anything, that result has probably taken a bit of pressure off me really.”
Matthew begins his title defence against a qualifier – and is expected to meet his England team-mate Peter Barker, the world No7 from London, in the quarter-finals. And Egyptian rival Karim Darwish, the No3 seed from Cairo, is his expected semi-final opponent.
The dream final between the world’s top two players would mark Matthew and Ashour’s fifth meeting in 2011 – with the Egyptian boasting a 3/1 advantage over the year, and a 9/6 career lead.
Ashour, winner of the 2008 title and already champion of three PSA World Series events in 2011, also begins his Rotterdam campaign against a qualifier. The 24-year-old from Cairo would expect to meet top-ranked Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals, before a semi-final clash with England’s James Willstrop, the fourth seed.
Gaultier, the sixth seed from Aix-en-Provence, is currently riding high on the PSA Tour after emerging as the 2011 Qatar Classic champion in Doha, where he beat Willstrop in the surprise final.
Dutch interest will be led by Laurens Jan Anjema, the six-time national champion from The Hague who is the 12th seed. Anjema, winner of the recent PSA International 35 NetSuite Open in the USA, will be making his eighth appearance in the event – and looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Anjema will be joined by wildcard Dylan Bennett, the 27-year-old former world No43 from Eindhoven who lines up against Gaultier in the opening round. Bennett will arrive in Rotterdam fresh from winning the Leinster Open trophy last week in Ireland.
Main draw, 1st round:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Qualifier
Tom Richards (ENG) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
Simon Rosner (GER) v Qualifier
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Jonathan Kemp (ENG)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Chris Ryder (ENG)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)  David Palmer (AUS) v Alan Clyne (SCO)
Joey Barrington (ENG) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Qualifier  Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Qualifier
Borja Golan (ESP) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
Wael El Hindi (EGY) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Qualifier  James Willstrop (ENG) v Qualifier
Shahier Razik (CAN) v Qualifier
Farhan Mehboob (PAK) v Qualifier
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v Qualifier  Hisham Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
Jan Koukal (CZE) v Martin Knight (NZL)
Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) v Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Qualifier  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Dylan Bennett (NED)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Qualifier
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Qualifier
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Qualifier  Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
Alister Walker (BOT) v Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
Qualifying draw, 1st round:
Stephane Galifi (ITA) v Rasool Hashim Abdullah (IRQ)
Dick Lau (HKG) v Lucas Buit (NED)
Eric Galvez (MEX) v Gabor Marges (NED)
Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN) v Aqeel Rehman (AUT)
Max Lee (HKG) v Tomas de Paauw (NED)
Joel Hinds (ENG) v Tom Lucas (NED)
Zac Alexander (AUS) v Piedro Schweertman (NED)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Joan Lezaud (FRA)
Adrian Waller (ENG) v Rick Penders (NED)
Shaun le Roux (RSA) v Marc ter Sluis (NED)
Jens Schoor (GER) v Stephen Cooke (NED)
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) v Rene Mijs (NED)
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) v Kim Are Killingberg (NOR)
Kashif Shuja (NZL) v Amr Ramsy Swelim (ITA)
Siddharth Suchde (IND) v Sander van Tour (NED)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) v Michael Ernst (NED)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Charles Sharpes (ENG)
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) v Fabien Verseille (FRA)
Wade Johnstone (AUS) v Neeraj Aggarwal (AUS)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) v Philip Nightingale (ENG)
Robbie Temple (ENG) v Joe Chapman (IVB)
Clinton Leeuw (RSA) v Guido Ploem (NED)
Christopher Gordon (USA) v Eddie Charlton (ENG)
Joe Lee (ENG) v Roshan Bharos (NED)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v Mazen Gamal (EGY)
Yann Perrin (FRA) v Lewis Walters (ENG)
Leo Au (HKG) v Raphael Kandra (GER)
Julien Balbo (FRA) v Frank Hartkoren (NED)
Henrik Mustonen (FIN) v Reiko Peter (SUI)
Ivan Yuen (MAS) v Sebastian Weenink (NED)
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) v Bart Ravelli (NED)
Mark Krajcsak (HUN) v Steve Finitsis (AUS)