Canary Wharf Squash Classic: Matthew edges past Rodriguez
Canary Wharf Squash Classic: Nick Matthew beats Miguel Angel Rodriguez in a breathtaking first-round tie. Joel Durston reports
Nick Matthew and Miguel Angel Rodriguez produced some – often literally – breathtaking squash in their first-round match, with the Englishman by his own admission “lucky” to win.
At 70 minutes, it wasn’t quite the marathon the two had in their only previous encounter at last year’s North American Open – which Matthew won in five after a gruelling 92 minutes.
But Rodriguez probably deserved at least a fifth here, as Matthew himself acknowledged in a very honest post-match interview.
“He was faster than me, he was better than me,” he said.
“I’m not being funny; he played the best squash today and I’m lucky to go through.”
Rodriguez certainly started the brighter – his infamous retrieving ability forcing Matthew to hit increasingly low-percentage shots to win points, and inevitably leading to some mistakes.
But the 27-year-old Colombian’s speed belies impressive shot-making, shown here as he more than held his own in long rallies and finished some with clever drops and delayed drives, making it 6-2.
Matthew came back into from that point, but was made fully aware of the lengths he must go when Rodriguez performed a spectacular full-length dive, with next to nothing breaking his fall and, frankly, little sense either, as the Englishman was still in the better position and duly smashed away the dive. Great spectacle, though.
The remainder of the game featured frantic rallies and several contentious refereeing decisions; something Matthew alluded to afterwards, claiming that, due to some of the “incredible” balls Rodriguez gets back, no-one really knows if anything is a double bounce (which players are sort of expected to call on themselves) or a let.
Rodriguez edged the first 11-9, and the second game continued in much the same vein – neck-and-neck, following some astoundingly varied rallies which often saw the pair sprinting from one corner to another between balls.
At 8-8, Matthew received a back-court nick (think, a big net cord in tennis) – a crucial moment the three-time reigning champion noted when talking of his good fortune.
Certainly, even for the world number two, a 2-0 deficit would have been a tough ask to overturn against such a fiery opponent – but Matthew was probably being a little too honest.
Because there was little fortunate about the next two rallies which won him the game – a perfectly-constructed point which saw Rodriguez scrambling too much for even him to cope with, sending the ball flying out the back, and then smashing the ball into the nick after a reaction body-shot from Rodriguez.
And also because Matthew was not, at least in his opinion, getting the rub of the green from the ref – joking afterwards that, like the crowd, the ref certainly wanted to see a fifth game, and that the bloke who shouted “no let” in Matthew’s favour at one point should come down and ref after ten pints.
It was again nip-and-tuck in the third, right up until 7-6 to Matthew, where Rodriguez started to show the toll of his Herculean just a little, and Matthew’s marginally superior lengths told – the 32-year-old taking the game 11-6.
The fight was far from over, however; the fourth showcasing a bewildering array of rallies which one could only begin to do justice to here.
One featured a cross-court drive that Matthew shaped up to take off the middle of the backwall. Rodriguez, eager to get any yard of position he could, took up a central position and did a squat jump, in anticipation of a possibly 100mph+ shot shooting just under him (Indeed, as looked to have happened when he did so and Matthew played the shot in the first).
Sensibly, though, if a little aggrieved, Matthew called the let – protesting to the ref that if he hit one of those “his wife is going to be ringing me up”.
Rodriguez has a fascinating style, with movement unlike the long, loping styles most players employ.
With his bright orange shoes, it’s as if his feet are on fire; and together with his low centre of gravity, he often resembles a crab furiously scuttling across hot sand (that’s meant as a compliment).
This was seen to full effect in the fourth, as the game became even more stretched – Matthew winning it 11-9 after some great lobs in a typically long rally.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh’s Alan Clyne put up a spirited fight against No4 seed Peter Barker.
The world No27 would have come into the game with high hopes, given Barker’s injury worry from Kuwait, and his own impressive display in qualifying – having beaten Joel Hinds 3-0 (thanks in part to winning a game when Hinds had to exit for new shoelaces) then world No37 Jonathan Kemp 3-1.
But Barker’s injury held up and he proved too strong, winning in what was in the end a fairly comfortable 11-7, 11-3, 11-7.
And Tom Richards and Steven Coppinger also progressed to the second round, with respective 3-0 victories over Mohd Ali Anwar Reda and Alistair Walker respectively.