In-form French ace has a score to settle in Egypt
By SEAN REUTHE
World No.1 Gregory Gaultier will head to the upcoming El Gouna International Squash Open – staged from April 7-14 – in the midst of some of his best ever form, one year after his controversial final defeat to former World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy on Egypt’s Red Sea.
The 34-year-old Frenchman has been in stunning form of late, going 14 matches unbeaten and capturing three Tour titles in a row at the Swedish Open, Windy City Open and British Open, the latter of which saw him overtake ElShorbagy at the summit of the World Rankings to become the oldest World No.1 of all time.
Gaultier’s last appearance in Egypt saw the 2015 World Champion forced to pull out at the semi-final stage of the PSA Men’s World Championship in November, but he is firing on all cylinders this time around as he aims to lift a third World Series crown in succession.
“I’m very confident at the moment and hope I can carry on with the same positive dynamic,” said Gaultier.
“I have been training hard since I got back from my last injury in the World Championship. I take really good care of my body with lots of work with all my physios and coaches. That’s really the key in between tournaments for me to stay as fresh as possible.
“At my age there is no more pressure. I just play as hard as I can and take as much pleasure as possible during my matches and during the events.”
Gaultier led defending champion ElShorbagy by two games in last year’s final, but a virtuoso fightback from the 26-year-old Egyptian saw him bring the match back to all square in front of a passionate home crowd.
The match then ended in controversial style when ElShorbagy appeared to have spoken during one of Gaultier’s serves before slotting the ball into the nick, putting himself match ball up, despite Gaultier’s remonstrations with the referee.
“I just served and he spoke after I finished my swing, which stopped me totally,” revealed Gaultier.
“I looked at him, but then he played that ball. I couldn’t react at all, but what happened, happened. I tried to explain the situation to the referee, but he couldn’t hear me or wasn’t trying to.
“You are not supposed to talk to your opponent during a rally. It was at a crucial time and I was really frustrated, but that’s the way it is. I should have dealt better with it for the next point, that’s how I see it.
“I would have liked to win of course as I have never won before in El Gouna in that fantastic venue, but overall we had a fantastic match. Mohamed was playing great squash and did well to come back.
“My regret probably was to have let it slip from being 2-0 up, I barely lose in this situation. All these situations you face in your career need to be analysed so you deal with it better in the future.”
The qualifying stage for the El Gouna International Squash Open takes place between April 5-6, with the main draw beginning on April 7 and lasting up until the final on April 14.
Gaultier will line up against tournament wildcard Marwan Tarek in the opening round and the ‘French General’ is seeded to face ElShorbagy in the last four for a place in the final.
Tickets for the tournament can be purchased at www.e7gezly.com/event/elgounaintlsquashopen and 50% of the ticket price will go to Abu Reesh Hospitals.
Pictures courtesy of PSA