Nick Matthew was left fuming by “shocking” officiating he claimed was taking squash back 10 years as he lost his opening game of the season-ending PSA Dubai World Tour Finals to Marwan El Shorbagy Tuesday.
The veteran Englishman was furious with perceived blocking tactics by his Egyptian opponent, especially in the deciding third set as the 23-year-old world number seven fought back impressively from going 1-0 down to win 2-1 and claim a maiden triumph over Matthew, 36.
El Shorbagy, whose older brother Mohamed, is also featuring at the tournament, being staged at the stunning Dubai Opera, lost a tight opening game 13-11, before storming back to claim the second 11-8.
In a thrilling match that lasted 49 minutes – the longest of the first day’s afternoon session – the 2012 PSA Young Player of the Year completed a fine comeback by winning the deciding game 11-7, although his opponent, a three-time world champion, was thoroughly unhappy after the contest.
“He’s not clearing the ball the whole match,” said world number four, Matthew.
“It’s an amazing venue, probably up there with the best I’ve ever played in, but the only criticism is the referees have a shocking view. Even if you have 20/20 vision you can’t see from there, it’s impossible.
“It’s supposed to be strokes against for that sort of movement and I’m getting no lets, that’s the difference. Compared to how I felt coming into the event, I was delighted with my form and I felt like it was taken out of my hands there.
“If the ball was in the middle of the court he wouldn’t have had the chance to get in the way, but he was standing in the way the whole match and it’s a stroke against, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s alright bringing the game forward with the 90 second intervals, etc, but that’s something from 10 years ago and it’s shocking.
“Like I said it’s a tough position for the refs and Marwan was a bit more streetwise there, knows what he’s doing, but it’s taking the sport backwards not forwards.”
El Shorbagy claimed victory on his Finals debut and downplayed the war of words with Matthew, claiming he was able to remain calm and focused in order to claim the win.
“It was nothing really. It’s just Nick,” the Alexandria man said of the spat.
“When it gets too tense there can be a bit of trash talk. I didn’t lose my focus and Nick is quite good at that, trying to make his opponent lose his concentration, but I just concentrated on my game, focused on what I did and I don’t think I lost a point after he spoke so it went quite well for me.
“It’s a dream come true to qualify for here so today there was no pressure on me. Just enjoy it and I think I did that. Tomorrow I just need to find the right balance between enjoying it and sticking to my plan, but I played well overall and I enjoyed it.
“Nick made me do a lot of court coverage. It felt like a best of five. I’m happy to get my first win and excited about tomorrow.”
Half of the players featuring in Dubai are Muslim with some choosing to adhere to Ramadan fasting. El Shorbagy isn’t but insists he will catch up on his religious duties.
“It’s unfortunate playing in the afternoon because of course I want to fast, I was hoping I would play in the evening session, but next year hopefully the tournament won’t be during Ramadan,” El Shorbagy told journalists – although he was saddened after his interview when he discovered next year’s tournament will also take place during the holy month.
“This is very important for the Egyptians and Muslim players. I have to deal with it and will probably fast the day after. We need water, food, everything. We need normal preparation.”