Dunlop Legends v Futures Challenge
Six-time champion Nick Matthew back in action at Canary Wharf against rising star Jonah Bryant
BY ALAN THATCHER
Nick Matthew has won a record six Canary Wharf Classic titles, and he will be back in action at one of his favourite venues in a special challenge match at 18.00 on finals night against an opponent 25 years younger!
He will be up against national junior champion Jonah Bryant in a Dunlop Legends v Futures Challenge which three-times world champion Matthew describes as a ‘battle between different eras’.
Matthew, 42, is looking forward to meeting Brighton-based 17-year-old Bryant on the glass court at the East Wintergarden, scene of so many major triumphs for the Yorkshire legend down the years.
Last year Matthew enjoyed his time on court in a special Dunlop Challenge against France’s Gregory Gaultier, who he beat in a tough 2010 final at Canary Wharf 24 hours after an epic semi-final battle with James Willstrop.
“Beating Greg was my first win at Canary Wharf and I surprised myself by how well I backed up after a two-hour semi-final against James. That was the first of six titles but it was the least likely after what had gone on the day before!”
“Having a 100 per cent record in Canary Wharf finals is a very special achievement. Generally, I had just under a 50 per cent conversion rate in all of my other PSA finals but looking back at that era you were always likely to face guys like Gaultier, Amr Shabana, Ramy Ashour, Mohamed ElShorbagy or James at the quarter-final stage.
Matthew went on to beat Peter Barker in the 2011 final, overcame Willstrop in two finals in 2012 and 2014, stopped Germany’s Simon Rosner in 2015 and achieved his sixth title in 2017 against Egypt’s Fares Dessouky, the current reigning champion.
“I found it one of the hardest tournaments to play in the first round. The court was always super hot and bouncy, and with a packed crowd from day one every lower ranked player was out to impress. And there were no easy games.
“I used to travel down on the Sunday, have a little hit on the Monday morning and the first round was always a struggle.
“In later years we would have the Monday off because the draw was split over two days and then I’d go from strength to strength from the Wednesday onwards.
“By the time of the final I was firing on all cylinders, relishing it all and feeding off the amazing atmosphere generated by the crowd.
“The first day was always so tough but by the end I was loving it! It tested you, but also brought out the best in you.
“I will be down for the last three days and I am sure it will be another fantastic week as we celebrate the tournament’s 20th anniversary.”
Matthew, who supports national coach David Campion, was in Mohamed ElShorbagy’s corner last night but the fifth seed was clearly struggling with an injury as he lost in the quarter-finals to Ali Farag.
Bryant, whose father Ross played in the former National League for East Grinstead side Dunnings Mill, was named after squash legend Jonah Barrington.
He said: “I am very excited to be playing Nick a true legend of our game in such an iconic venue in front of one of the most atmospheric crowds in the PSA tour.”