Squash: Matthew clinches thrilling victory
Top seed Nick Matthew admitted he was lucky to reach the quarter-finals of the Canary Wharf Classic as the unseen hand of former world champion David Palmer had a massive impact on the tournament.
The Australian, Canary Wharf champion in 2009, is now making a name as a leading coach in Florida.
Matthew scraped past one of his pupils, Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez, in a thrilling encounter and meets another, South African Steve Coppinger, in the quarter-finals.
The atmosphere at a packed East Wintergarden was more like finals night than a first round as the crowd warmed to the acrobatic athleticism of Rodriguez in a hugely entertaining battle.
The world No.23 from Bogota took advantage of some unforced errors from Matthew to win the first game.
Matthew tightened up his tactics to win the next three games but Rodriguez battled or every point, pushing the reigning champion to the limit.
The fourth game was a brutal battle as Rodriguez flung himself around the court to keep the rallies going and produced some quality finishing at the front of the court.
From 9-9 Matthew moved to match ball when Rodriguez failed to scrape a shot off the side wall and the 32-year-old Englishman finally clinched a thrilling victory with a crosscourt drop after some sensational rallying.
Matthew admitted: "Miguel was the better player tonight and I was lucky to get through. I knew what to expect after our massive match in America last year and he has obviously come on a lot since then.
"I was fortunate with a few lucky bounces at crucial times and I am very relieved to get off the court with a win.
"He is so quick that sometimes you are just not sure if the ball is up or not. It was great entertainment and very enjoyable for the crowd, but not for me."
Rodriguez said: "This is my first time here at Canary Wharf and this is a wonderful venue and the best crowd I have ever played in front of.
"I have been working hard with my coach, David Palmer, and I look forward to coming back next year."
Matthew's quarter-final opponent, Coppinger, wore down Alister Walker after two tense opening games and cruised through the third 11-1.
He said: "I am looking forward to playing Nick in the quarters and want to thank Miguel for giving him such a tough match.
"We are both working hard with David Palmer and he is an outstanding coach. He was watching the game on TV and texting me advice between games."
England internationals Peter Barker and Tom Richards meet in the last eight after straight-game wins over Alan Clyne (Scotland) and Ali Anwar Reda (Egypt).
The result could have a huge bearing on England's squad selection for the forthcoming World Team Championships, with world No.8 Barker and No.12 Richards ranked three and four in the country behind Nick Matthew and James Willstrop.
Barker's knee injury, which caused him to withdraw from last week's Kuwait Cup quarter-final against Gregory Gaultier of France, was a worry for tournament organisers.
But Barker dispelled those fears with a demonstration of excellent mobility to overpower Clyne as the Scottish world No.27 made his debut appearance in this PSA International 50 tournament.
He said: "Medical science is a wonderful thing these days. The knee is holding up well and I want to give it one big push this week then take it easy for a couple of months before the British Open."
Daryl Selby, who toppled Matthew in Kuwait last week, meets No.2 seed james Willstrop in another all-England clash, while Egyptian No.3 seed Mohamed El Shorbagy meets qualifier Henrik Mustonen of Finland.
Tom Richards (England) beat Ali Anwar Reda (Egypt) 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (36 mins)
(4) Peter Barker (England) beat Alan Clyne (Scotland) 11-7, 11-3, 11-7 (38 mins)
(1) Nick Matthew (England) beat Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Colombia) 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 (70 mins)
Steve Coppinger (RSA) beat Alister Walker (Botswana) 12-10, 11-9, 11-1 (38 mins)
(1) Nick Matthew (Eng) v Steve Coppinger (RSA)
(4) Peter Barker (Eng) v Tom Richards (Eng)
(3) Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt) v Henrik Mustonen (Fin)
(2) James Willstrop (Eng) v Daryl Selby (Eng)
Tournament website: canarywharfsquash.com
Pics by Steve Line