Nick Matthew has been one of the most consistent names in the top WSF rankings. Having stayed in top 10 almost uninterrupted during last twelve years itself an exhibition of excellence, Nick has achieved almost everything- British Open thrice, World Championship and Commonwealth Games Gold. Nick spoke with SportsCrunch on his career, feats and more.
Reaching to the top of the world rankings- how difficult is to reach there and how difficult is to maintain the same level?
Getting to World number 1 is the hardest thing in any sport, but staying there is even harder as everyone is chasing you and you become the hunted not the hunter. As I get older and other players get closer to their peak, it becomes harder to stay in the top 5 but I’m proud of being at the top so long.
I’ve been World no. 1 for 20 months & in the top 10 pretty much uninterrupted since 2004
First in 67 years to win the prestigious British Open title in 2006 as a home grown player, and then another British Open title in 2009, the first British player to win PSA World Championship in 2010 and then retaining the world champion title in 2011.Your career snippet in your words…
You always look at the rankings & titles as a gauge of success but my main motivator has been to improve as a player every single day and gain the experience to be a contender at the top.
When I look back I can’t believe the titles I’ve achieved along the way.
Squash player you found tough to compete against & your favorites from those whom you have grown up watching and those you have played against…
Ramy Ashour has been my most difficult opponent in my career. He presents a unique challenge compared to anyone else I have ever played because of the speed he plays at and the creativity he displays.
You are always on the edge of your game & he inspires you to reach a new level.
I have always enjoyed playing Amr Shabana; a great Champion and always a fair battle. He always presented unique tactical challenges and our head to head was pretty 50/50.
How difficult is to maintain the level of fitness required for longevity of career?
Incredibly difficult. I’ve suffered with injuries in the last few seasons despite all of the yoga, training and expertise from my team. The conclusion is that squash is a very tough sport!
David Pearson & Neil Guirey, their roles in your career…
I couldn’t have done it without them it’s as simple as that. DP has been my main coach & mentor since I was 18.
We totally changed my technique at a young age which was the hardest thing I have ever done in my career. It was a very strange feeling going back to hitting the ball like a beginner after being a good junior but the way DP coaches made it an enjoyable experience at all times.
I bought in to the bigger picture that he imagined for me.
Neil is my best friend as does some of the harder hitting sessions with me at my home club of Hallamshire in Sheffield. He has offered invaluable support throughout my career and squash life. We have been best friends since we were 9 years old & I am the best man at his wedding this summer. He is also the Head Coach of the Nick Matthew Squash Academy which we officially launched this year.
Hurdles and things which kept you moving forward…
I mentioned changing my technique at 18 which was an incredibly difficult thing to do especially as it meant I was losing to people I had beaten in the short term but it was all for long term gain.
The hardest times in any athlete’s career are undoubtedly injuries but if you use the time wisely you can learn so much about yourself from such situations and use the time to get stronger in a non injured area.
For example when I injured my shoulder I was out for 7 months but there was nothing wrong with my legs, lungs or core so I turned myself in to the fittest player in the game.
Training for Game readiness…
To be game ready you need to tailor your training to be more specific in the build up to events. Shorter intervals with less rest and of course there is nothing better than practice matches.
It’s always nice when you have a period of 8/10 weeks like in the off season where you can plan your training and progress it with patience over that time.
You start with the base work; aerobic fitness and strength and build in the specifics over the summer.
In the season it is tougher as you only have sometimes 10 days/2 weeks in between events so you need to factor in more rest & recovery and top up the fitness with shorter, sharper sessions.
Memorable performances, your personal favorites…
My favorite 3 performances are winning the British Open at the O2 in London in 2009 because I implemented the perfect tactical game against Ramy in the final; something that doesn’t happen very often in the course of a career.
Winning the World’s against Greg Gaultier in Manchester in front of a home crowd in 2013. The atmosphere was incredible.
And winning Commonwealth Gold in Glasgow was incredible after having had knee surgery 4 1/2 weeks before made it even more special.
To this day my physio & I always laugh when we reminisce as neither of us knows quite how we did it.
Message to young squash players on their international career quest. Things one should keep in training regime to have a prolonged career…
That it is a marathon not a sprint but also time goes quickly so there are no shortcuts to the hard work required. Surround yourself with a good team & good people from a young age and it always help if training can be made enjoyable as there will be plenty of it!!