World number two Nick Matthew is hoping home advantage can spur him on to victory in November’s World Squash Championship at Manchester Central.
The two-time world champion from Sheffield trains in Manchester on a weekly basis and has won five national titles at the city’s squash centre.
With a lasting legacy from the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester hosted the world championship in 2008 and Matthew – who ruled out retiring before November – says their return is testament to the city.
“I’ve had a great record in Manchester, I’ve always felt at home here and the legacy from the Commonwealths has been fantastic,” said the 32-year-old, speaking at the launch.
“A second worlds for any city is a great achievement – they were tremendous in 2008 and having Manchester Central on board is going to take it to the next level.
“This is one that’s been marked out and highlighted on my calendar for some time and without wanting to wish away time, I’m incredibly excited about it.”
Beginning on October 26 with the qualifying rounds at SportCity’s National Squash Centre, the tournament will move to the iconic Manchester Central for its finals weekend on November 2.
And Matthew hopes the location will bring new fans to the game as it looks to shed its old fashioned image.
“We’re hoping to reach an audience who have not yet been associated with squash and who’ll get behind the home guys – we thrive in that atmosphere,” added Matthew.
“When we play in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the Egyptian players get fanatical support so hopefully we can get our own back.
“Squash had a traditional image but people now are getting off their seats, hooting and hollering and the atmosphere is getting better every year.”
The event marks the end of a fantastic year of sporting occasions in Manchester, including the Rugby League World Cup final, an NBA Europe fixture and the recent UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.
City Council leader, Sir Richard Leese, said he was delighted to once again welcome the world’s elite squash players to the city, and hopes they inspire a new generation.
“To have it right in the heart of the city brings squash to the people and I think it will give people a buzz they wouldn’t otherwise have had,” he said.
“We are the home of UK squash so to end our sporting season this year with the world championship is absolutely fantastic.
“We’d love to see more young Manchester people getting through to competing on the national and international stage, but it’s also about promoting healthy lifestyles.
“People who play for a local club or maybe just once a week with a friend – all of that has value but it needs a bit of inspiration and events like this help.”
Aiming to start young, squash-playing pupils from East Manchester Academy were invited along to the tournament launch.
Physical education teacher Heera Singh said his students have been inspired by their schools proximity to the National Squash Centre.
“We needed a push for squash in the local area, I was assigned to do that and now we’ve got around 30-50 kids going to the squash centre,” he said.
“Our coach there organised for us to come down and meet Nick, it’s been great for the kids to get the experience of how a press conference’s set up.”
England Squash and Racketball’s chief executive, Nick Rider, said how fantastic it was be holding their event at the heart of a such a sporting city.
“The location, in such a great city as Manchester, simply amplifies the opportunity for us to reach people,” he said.
“It’s one of those weeks where everything comes together, we’ll see the best players in the world battling it out for the most important title.
“We’ll see adults who have never seen the sport before and kids coming in to experience it – it gives us a week where you get a bit of everything.”