Stalwart squash professional Nick Matthew won the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open 2013 by beating Spaniard, Borja Golan in five games to take the title on the picturesque harbour front open air court on Sunday Dec 8.
The Open continues to attract the world’s top squash players. Based on world rankings prior to the commencement of the tournament, the top 5 (8 of the top 10) players in the world featured in Hong Kong. The win to Matthew—the Englishman’s first at this tournament—reaffirms the current and three-time world champion’s status as one of the players to beat on the men’s global professional circuit.
Matthew first played in the HK Open in 1991 and has competed each year except for one or two due to injury. He was delighted to win after so many years of waiting and, although flying back to the UK in just a few hours after the match, took the time to meet and talk with many of the spectators and well-wishers together with the women’s tournament winner Nicol David.
Matthew—entering the tournament as world’s No.3’s—beat charismatic Amr Shabana in the Quarter Finals. Then he had a difficult test against world No.2 Gregory Gautier in a five set Semi-final match, but came through to win 11-13, 11-4, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3 in 87 minutes. With Ramy Ashour out of the tournament, both Gaultier and Matthew were in a position to move to world No.1 position by winning this Hong Kong tournament, so it was very important to both players. Matthew, who is quite used to long matches, took the fifth game comfortably.
On the way to the Final, Golan—ranked world No.8—beat Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia and Chris Simpson of England before coming up against world No.1 Ashour of Egypt in the Quarter Finals.
Ashour had won the first two games comfortably displaying some spectacular shots, but he suffered a re-occurrence of his previous leg injury heavily restricting his movement and he lost the next game 11-7. Ashour tried to carry on in the fourth game, but he was not moving well and retired with a show of anguish and disappointment after failing to get to one of a number of front wall drop shots played by his opponent.
Another of the world’s top players, James Willstrop of England—who has dropped to No.5 in the world rankings—came through a very hard 122 minute 5-game match against world No.4 Mohamed Elshorbagy. Willstrop lost to Golan 11-6, 11-3, 11-9 in the Semi-final to move Golan into the Final.
English squash, although still strong at the moment, is now in dire need for some new top talent to emerge. Matthew, who is expected to jump to the No.1 ranking in the world when the monthly rankings are released at the end of December, still has plenty of squash left in him, but is now 33-years-old; while Willstrop and Peter Barker have just reached 30, so one wonders how long they will continue to play squash at this top level.
Australia is also in this position, with few players competing in top international tournaments.
Egypt currently seems to be the only nation prominent in producing top world class players.