When the British players arrived in Philadelphia to compete in the Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships at Drexel University, they were outnumbered only by the Egyptian contingent—15 to 12—both nations dominating the men’s and women’s draws which included players from twenty-one different nations.
As the week has progressed, so have the British and Egyptian players with three of the four quarterfinal matches scheduled on Thursday featuring three Egyptian and three British stars. What makes things even more interesting is that the two British males will play two Egyptians—No. 2 Nick Matthew (ENG) v. No. 17 Fares Dessouki (EGY) and No. 6 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v. No. 14 Daryl Selby (ENG).
“It’s an honor to help bring a truly global event to Philadelphia,” said Shawn Lytle, president of Delaware Investments, the event’s title sponsor. “There are very few events in this area where professional athletes from so many countries compete, and compete with such visceral intensity. For people who thrive on seriously intense competition, come watch squash!”
Egyptian and British players rank among the top players in the world on the men’s and women’s tours, with Egyptians Mohamed Elshorbagy and Raneem El Welily currently holding the No. 1 ranking followed by British veterans Nick Matthew on the men’s tour and Laura Massaro on the women’s tour at world No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
At 35, Matthew is the dean of the men’s top 10 and en route to Philadelphia made a stop on October 7 at Buckingham Palace to be presented with the Order of the British Empire adding to his list of honors.
Massaro and world No. 2 Nicol David, both born in 1983, are the doyennes of the women’s top 10 followed closely by 31-year-old world No. 5 Alison Waters, who is also British.
Due to the fact that tournament seedings and draws are made one month in advance of current monthly rankings, No. 3 Massaro and No. 2 David will meet in a highly anticipated Thursday quarterfinal. (The third Egyptian in Thursday’s quarterfinal round is No. 6 Omneya Abdel Kawy who faces No. 16 Dipika Pallikal.)
Three-time World Open and three-time British Open champion Matthew noted that his peers have been retiring—most recently former world No. 1 Amr Shabana. However, Matthew has no plans to retire.
Nor does Massaro intend to lay down her racquets in the foreseeable future. Among her fifteen titles are U.S. Open, British Open and WSA World Tour championships.
Matthew and Massaro, who sat together for this interview and who share a coach and physiotherapist, are keenly aware of the importance of physical fitness.
“Every time you go on the court, you have to prove yourself,” said Matthew. “There is no time for what you have done. It is a fun challenge.”
“I have had no surgeries, and I feel that I am improving physically,” said Massaro. “You have to continue improving just to stay at the same ranking.”
“In addition to quality physical training, we focus on psychology, analyzing statistics that are now readily available, and, of course, nutrition,” added Matthew.
They described the newest training techniques that have helped them maintain their edge.
“Now they point an overhead projector at the front wall, and they project our match, and we have to shadow our movements.” recounted Massaro.
With age and experience on their side, Massaro and Matthew are planning to continue to overshadow their opponents for years to come.