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Squash: World champion Matthew wants to be taken lightly

Top-seeded Nick Matthew begins an attempt to win a fourth British Open title on Monday hoping that people will underestimate him.

KINGSTON UPON HULL, United Kingdom: Top-seeded Nick Matthew begins an attempt to win a fourth British Open title on Monday hoping that people will underestimate him.

If that sounds odd for a player who became world champion only six months ago it is partly because just once in the professional era has anyone won the famous title at a greater age.

Matthew will be 34 in July and has been prepared to relinquish the world number one ranking by playing fewer tournaments in order keep himself in the best possible physical shape.

"You reach an age where you appreciate small things -- like the days when your body feels great, or you're moving well, or hitting the ball well -- because you appreciate it doesn't always happen," Matthew said with a mixture of humour and surprising candour.

"And you realise at some point you might decrease in standard, or fall off a cliff. You get an important perspective in terms of little things. You have a great training session and you want to go to Twitter and tell everyone!

"I like people to think I am getting older. I like people to underestimate me. I like to underestimate myself!"

Matthew has already achieved more than he imagined he would. But his finest spell of success has come after the age of 30, and he is also mindful that Geoff Hunt, the legendary Australian, was 34 when he won the last of his eight British Open titles.

Matthew was due to begin his bid to regain the British Open title from Egypt's Ramy Ashour with a first round match against a fellow Englishman, Joe Lee, a wild card entry.

Meanwhile the tournament began with a minor drama and a slight surprise.

Karim Gawad, the top 20 Egyptian, was involved in several refereeing disputes and a heavy collision before being eliminated by his compatriot Fares Dessouki, a 19-year-old not even seeded to survive the qualifying competition.

But the world number 53 from Alexandria had the armoury to apply constant pressure to his much higher-ranked opponent and was 7-3 up in the final game when Gawad fell heavily after a mix-up in the middle of the court.

He rolled over clutching his back and received 10 minutes' treatment before playing two more points rather painfully, losing them both, and then quitting.

Dessouki thus reached the last 16 with victory by 8-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-7, 9-3 retired, earning the possibility of a meeting with another compatriot, Karim Darwish, the former world number one.

With eight players in the top 20, Egypt have a chance of getting as many as five men into the last eight.

Meanwhile women's top seed Nicol David, the record-breaking world number one from Malaysia, will begin her campaign to win back the British Open title against a qualifier on Tuesday.

Her main rival, Laura Massaro, the titleholder and world champion from England, also starts on Tuesday, against Joey Chan, the world number 24 from Hong Kong.

Men's first round:

Fares Dessouki (EGY) bt Karim Gawad (EGY) 8-11, 11-3, 11-7, 7-11, 9-3 retired
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 13-11
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 1-11, 11-6
Adrian Grant (ENG) bt Leo Au (HKG) 11-5, 12-10, 10-12, 11-5
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-8
Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Alister Walker (BOT) 11-6, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5

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