Nick Matthew column: I contemplated retirement after second knee op

Nick Matthew
Nick Matthew

It has been a tough summer trying to get ready for the new squash season.

At the beginning of July, I had a knee operation to repair a small tear in the meniscus. It was identical to the injury I picked up five weeks before the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

It has not been a lot of fun going through pretty much the same rehab for the second successive year but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

My manager sent me a quote which said ‘being a champion is not what you do when you are on top, it is what you do when you are knocked down’.

There were times when I felt down over the summer. I’m 35 now and it’s my second knee op in two years so you certainly do question whether you’ve got the desire and hunger to keep going.

What made me realise that I still do have the drive to want to play is when the draws were made for the first couple of events of 2015. I was so excited and like a kid at Christmas! I wanted to see who I had been drawn against in the British Grand Prix.

Chris Simpson is my opponent in the first round of the Grand Prix this Friday. He is somebody I know really well as we share the same coach and physical trainer. He knows that I won’t be coming in with ideal preparations and that I am there to be shot at so it will be an incredibly tough opener.

Ultimately, my goal is to peak for the World Championships in November. What I don’t want to do is put too much pressure on myself. If I can improve tournament by tournament, then brilliant.

*It will be strange without Amr Shabana on tour this year. The four-time world champion retired from the sport at the end of last month.

Shabana was without doubt the greatest squash player of his era. He spent 33 consecutive months as world number one and is one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet.

Shabana was the Roger Federer of squash. He made shots look effortless and graceful. Everything he did was straight out of the textbook.

He was a nightmare to play against because you never knew, especially on his forehand side, what direction the ball was going. It was all due to the subtleties of his swing. For any juniors out there, get on YouTube and copy Shabana’s swing and you won’t go far wrong!

We had some great battles over the years; they were always hard but fair, and I think we often brought the best out of each other with our contrasting styles.

Two of the battles that stick in my mind were the matches in the Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Station in New York in 2011 and 2014. They both went to 12-10 in the fifth. We won one apiece and received a standing ovation on both occasions. They were two special matches to play in.

Our battles were pretty even and it was a nice contrast in styles. We had a lot of respect for each other.

Like Federer, Shabana looked like he hardly broke sweat on court. He was a great personality, is a legend of our sport so he is going to be sorely missed. Shabana was one of the guys who put bums on seats around the world.