Yorkshire’s Nick Matthew marked his return to competitive squash with a hard-fought first-round win on the opening day of the $150,000 Allam British Open in Hull last night.
The third seed, a three-time winner of the tournament, defeated Dutch qualifier Laurens Jan Anjema 3/1 in his first match since injuring an ankle in last month’s El Gouna International in Egypt.
“I’m delighted to get off the court in one piece today,” said the 34-year-old from Sheffield after his 6-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-9 victory in 61 minutes.
“It feels like I’ve just won a tournament at the minute, because you can take being healthy for granted at times. A lot of work has gone in with my physio and the team behind the scenes to get me here to the start line.
“I’ve got 48 hours’ rest and recovery now, and the amount of improvement my ankle has been making every day this week is great, so hopefully we can keep that moving on now over the next 48 hours.”
Matthew, who now faces Frenchman Gregoire Marche, was the only English winner at the Airco Arena, as fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop bowed out along with Essex duo Peter Barker and Ben Coleman.
Willstrop, the former world no.1 now ranked 15th, battled bravely against current world no.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy, but in the end bowed out 11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 11-7 in 49 minutes to the Bristol-based Egyptian.
Barker, the sixth seed, succumbed to injury in round one of the event for the second successive year, following last year’s retirement against Anjema with another against France’s Mathieu Castagnet because of knee problems when trailing 10-12, 2-11.
Meanwhile, Coleman’s superb run from qualifying ended when he fell 11-5, 11-5, 11-7 in 40 minutes to Simon Rösner, the world no.7 from Germany.
An English second-round presence in the bottom half of the draw is assured, as Essex’s Daryl Selby faces Surrey’s Tom Richards tonight.