Nick Matthew is enjoying a Glasgow 2014 campaign that has exceeded his “wildest dreams” and it can get better still for the man who barely a month ago was told he needed a knee operation.
Three-time former world champion Matthew moved one step away from retaining his Commonwealth Games gold medal on Sunday as he powered past England team-mate Peter Barker at Scotstoun to reach the singles final.
The 34-year-old from Sheffield will be bidding for another title to add to his collection on Monday, just five weeks after undergoing surgery that cast doubt over whether he would be fit to compete.
He fended off Barker 11-3 13-11 11-6 to guarantee at least silver.
“I couldn’t have wished for any more, to be honest. A few weeks ago I would have signed a million pieces of paper for that. I need to enjoy it and then really refocus ahead of the final,” Matthew, a close friend of Jessica Ennis-Hill, said.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would feel as good as I do with the knee, and I can’t get carried away.
“I feel as good as I ever have, which is testament to the guys that work with me. I said to them to keep me fit and my squash will come back quick and it seems that way.
“I am conscious I don’t want to fall short of the line - I want to run through that tape.”
Once he battled through a tough second game, the outcome was in little doubt, but Matthew gave Barker every respect.
“I read a quote online saying that Peter Barker was looking ominous and I thought the same thing. He looked on great form. He was flying under the radar,” Matthew said.
“I guess I was getting the headlines for being the flag bearer, 100th cap and it was my birthday (on Friday). I was conscious this might play into his hands, that I had a lot of things happening this week and he had been able to fly under the radar.
“The second game was crucial. If he had won that game it could have been a very different match.”
Londoner Barker, 30, offered gripes about the refereeing and the mopping of the court as he chewed on the sour cud of defeat.
“Reffing and mopping is not good enough and hasn’t been for a long time,” he said. “They’re doing their best, but until they’re professional like we are, the standard is not going to go up.
“All credit to Nick. He didn’t let me play well and then there were - in my opinion - a couple of poor calls by the ref. That’s the difference between winning and losing the game.”