World champion eyes 'home' title

SHEFFIELD has another world champion and he is coming home to try and add another trophy to his already burgeoning cabinet.

Squash star Nick Matthew will this weekend begin his quest to win the Mamut English Open at the English Institute of Sport just days after leading England to the World Team Championships in India.

Matthew, aged 27, fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop and Peter Barker beat Australia in the final after defeating France in the semi-finals.

It has been a long road to his current world ranking of five but Matthew, a former High Storrs student, has made his mark on the sport made famous by the Khans in the 1980s and more recently by one of his mentors Peter Nicol.

And it is in the Nicol promoted Mamut English Open at the English Institute of Sport, which starts on Saturday, that gives Matthew his next chance of winning one of squash's major crowns.

After four attempts to win the English Open when it was staged at the Crucible, Matthew is hoping a move to his fitness and conditioning base at the EIS will change his fortunes.

"I would love to win it this year. Going on seedings James Willstrop and myself are favourites, but John White is always dangerous and there's some good young players so it's going to be hard.

"I appreciate it's a new unknown venue (for squash) and not an ideal time of year but hopefully we can drum up a lot of local support for me as I feel I'm approaching my peak years at the sport and there's not many sportsmen who are fortunate enough to compete in their home city at somewhere they train on a daily basis."

Although Matthew is the highest ranked British player, and only bettered by one other in Europe – Greg Gaultier who he brilliantly beat in the World Teams semis on Tuesday – , he is under no illusions as to where the sport currently sits in people's perceptions.

"I get comments all the time like 'what do you do for a full time job?' followed by 'can you earn a living at it?'", he said: "I think it's great that people from less mainstream sports have been nominated in the top 10 for Sports Personality the past couple of years, so hopefully one day soon a squash player will, hopefully me! Getting Olympic recognition would help."

It has taken time for Matthew to rise to the top of his profession and even now he still battling to be the best.

"I'm still not better than my peers. The world number two is 20 years old and the number three is younger than me at 24

"I thought I was good when I played my first ever tournament in the under 10s because I was the best for my age at Hallamshire but lost 9-0, 9-0, 9-0, so got taught a lesson never to think you're better than what you are at an early age.

"My first success was I'd say getting on to the junior national squads at age 14 when a year previously the kids had been way better than me. Then probably winning the British open under 19s as I'd never really won anything major prior to that. It was extra special with it being in Sheffield."

The English Open takes place at the English Institute of Sport - Sheffield from December 15 to 18.

Tickets, priced from 12.50 - 25.00, are available from Ticketmaster, either via the website www.Ticketmaster.co.uk or by telephone on 0870-150 0541..