Eight-time Nationals champion Nick Matthew says his quest for a ninth title is fuelled by his desire to leave behind a legacy at the tournament.
The former World No.1 has won three British Open and World Championship titles each but said his career was now motivated by setting records that would see him remembered in the future.
Matthew, 36, of Sheffield, is the favourite to retain the title above a resurgent James Willstrop , who defeated him for the first time in ten years and 20 matches at the Tournament of Champions last week.
Despite exiting the New York event in the third round, Matthew said he was focused on recovering and claiming a record ninth National win in Manchester next month.
He said: “It’s great to have eight titles and I’m motivated to get a ninth – maybe even a tenth one day, who knows? But for now, I’m aiming for the ninth and it’s something that’s been a really tough title to win over the years for everyone and I’m honoured to hold that record.
“The things that motivate me now are tournaments I can leave a legacy on. It would be great to continue that record and stretch it into something that’s going to last the test of time and be really hard for future generations to break.”
Matthew’s rivalry with his England teammate Willstrop has been well documented over the years and followed with keen interest by fans. After he was beaten in five games by the fellow Yorkshireman, Matthew was quick to play down the record and admitted he had been surprised he’d managed to remain unbeaten by Willstrop for so long.
Speaking about his disappointment of being eliminated in the second round of the Tournament of Champions and his preparations for the Nationals, he said: “I wasn’t a million miles off but I didn’t feel like I was firing on all cylinders. What that does is motivate me to get back to the drawing board and work hard.
“The fact I lost to James was not really important, it was the fact I was desperate to reach the latter stages that was disappointing.”
Everyone will be expecting a repeat of last year’s Matthew versus Willstrop final at the National Squash Centre but who does he think are the other players to look out for?
“Daryl [Selby] [3/4] beat the World No.1 before Christmas, he’s right up there and he won the tournament in 2011,” he said. “There are also youngsters like Declan James [5/8] and Alan Clyne [5/8] from Scotland on top form. It’s good to see not just the English players but the British players making that title a tough one to win.”
In the women’s draw, World No.5 Laura Massaro has been named the tournament’s top seed and is expected to retain the trophy. Four-time champion Alison Waters is the second seed, with World No.11 Sarah-Jane Perry and World No.14 Emily Whitlock both seeded 3/4.
The Blowers Jewellers National Squash Championships begins on Tuesday 7th February with the qualifying rounds. The main draw will begin on Thursday 9th February.
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