Triple world champion Nick Matthew will begin his last year in squash before retirement by playing in a star-studded exhibition evening at the Dunlop British Junior Open in Birmingham – the event which kick started his brilliant career.
Yorkshireman Matthew will play Declan James, England’s rising star, on January 2 at the University of Birmingham, one of four venues hosting the Dunlop British Junior Open, which is regarded as one of the most prestigious junior events in squash and features over 650 competing juniors.
The annual event moved following 22 years being hosted in Sheffield and will be the first major sporting event held in Birmingham since the city was announced as host to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Matthew, 37, said that the event known as the BJO held fond memories for him, as well as laying the foundations for a trophy-winning career.
Matthew, who reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships earlier this month, said: “The BJO was the biggest thing for me in my junior days especially when it moved to Sheffield; it was the happiest day of my life at the time when I learned it had been moved there.
“I remember winning the under 19 event by default in 1999 when Malaysian Ong Beng Hee got food poisoning from a Sheffield chef the night before the final but I didn’t put the chef up to it.
“Despite the non-final the tournament really set me up for my senior career to follow, as it has done for many players both male and female, before and after. The list of winners reads as a who’s who of squash and it is perhaps still the most prestigious junior event in the squash world.”
Matthew says he was “disappointed” that Sheffield lost the British Junior Open after so long hosting the event.
“I don’t think people realise quite how big a logistical ask that is for over 500 players across several venues and countless hotels each year plus coaches and parents, so Sheffield city council and England Squash as well as the individual clubs deserve massive credit for that. I don’t think enough has been made of that to be honest as Sheffield truly became the Home of the BJO.
“Having said that all things need a freshen up from time to time, hence the move to Birmingham and the new fantastic centre which I’ve heard lots about.
“I look forward to wishing everyone the best first hand at the Dunlop exhibition match to launch the event.”
Matthew is set to retire from the sport in the summer following the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he is bidding for a third singles’ title in a row, and the British Open in Hull.
The Dunlop British Junior Open runs from January 3-7.
Book tickets at www.sportandfitness.bham.ac.uk/events