By Howard Harding
England’s Nick Matthew regained exclusive rights to next month’s World No.1 Squash Ranking after securing a dramatic five-game victory over Ramy Ashour in Sunday’s final of the Case Swedish Open, the PSA World Tour International 70 event celebrating its 11th successive year at Linköping Sporthall in Linköping.
The three-time World Champion from Sheffield uniquely shared the top world ranking this month with Gregory Gaultier – but despatched the event’s defending champion in straight games in the semi-finals to move ahead of his French rival.
And in his sixth appearance in the Swedish Open final since 2004, Matthew Sunday recovered from a game down to upset the top seed from Egypt 11-13, 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-4 in 91 minutes to claim his first complete match win over Ashour, the World No.1 throughout 2013, since May 2012.
“I’m proud to be Swedish Open Champion,” said 33-year-old Matthew later. ”It was one of the toughest matches I ever played – it tested everything; physical, mental, technical and tactical.”
PSA SquashTV commentator Joey Barrington succinctly summed up the performance which guaranteed Matthew’s sole status as World No.1 in March: “The way he played was absolutely exemplary.”
Ashour made his PSA Tour debut in Sweden after an injury layoff since December. But, while disappointed with the loss, the 26-year-old from Cairo was delighted to survive the tournament unscathed.
“I was really pleased with my performance,” Ashour told the crowd after the trophy presentations. “I am just glad to get to the final and give it 100%. I was happy to finish the tournament without coming out disappointed.
“Nick was very consistent. He’s in top form right now.”
Ashour summed up his feelings later to his Twitter followers: “Not happy to lose, but happy to come out of the court in one piece ‘injury free’, and Nick was the better player today.”
Matthew’s triumph marks his fourth Swedish Open title – and takes his career Tour title haul to 29.