But he’s still expected to play for France in the World Team Champs in December
By ALAN THATCHER and JEROME ELHAIK
French squash legend Gregory Gaultier has announced his immediate retirement from professional squash – although he is still expected to play for France in the World Team Championships in December.
France’s former world champion and world No.1 announced his retirement during a promotional trip to Mauritius, just two months short of his 39th birthday.
Having fought his way back from serious injury in 2018, Gaultier struggled to remain at the highest levels of fitness.
He and Thierry Lincou blazed a trail for squash in France. Both achieved the twin peaks of world number one and world champion, and both enjoyed enormous popularity among followers of the game, Lincou for his understated, methodical approach to the game a decade earlier and Gaultier for his flamboyant, explosive and emotional temperament as well as his outrageous racket skills.
As he brought the curtain down on his career, Gaultier said: “After 22 years being on the PSA World Tour, today I have decided to retire.
“It has been a long road with lots of fantastic and amusing moments and some bumps on the way. As a kid, I wanted to be a professional squash player and I feel very lucky to have done my passion as a job. I really enjoyed all the hard work throughout these years to try to become the best player I could possibly be.
“I’m fortunate to say that I achieved most of my squash career goals, of course I would always want more, but at least I lifted some of the most prestigious and beautiful trophies, bringing my childhood dreams to fruition. The last three years were mentally and physically the toughest by far, having a year off due to two knee surgeries was an unexpected challenge to face and it was not the way I wanted to end my career.
“However, I’m still proud that I managed to play and compete again. I will always take some comfort that I did all I possibly could to get back to the top and I will always take it as a life experience.
“All of my accomplishments and multiple comebacks wouldn’t have been possible without the help, belief and support of my family, friends, coaches, physios, doctors, clubs, sponsors, the French Federation and everyone else who was watching and cheering, so a huge thank you to all.
“The squash tour has given me the opportunity to discover different countries, play some monumental matches in stunning places and live unique moments with the incredible energy and support of the crowds. In addition to meeting lots of wonderful people, who have become my friends, it was a rich adventure overall. Today, I am almost 39 years old and I felt the magical journey of squash pass so quickly.
“I didn’t really see the sands of time running out, so my advice to anyone would be to appreciate what you have while you have it and cherish every moment. If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. I will miss competing on the tour, however I will always be keeping an eagle eye on players’ performances.
“But for now, I must embrace the realms of reality and realise it’s time to close that chapter full of memories and move on. I will obviously stay involved in the sport that brought me so much. One last thanks to PSA, SQUASHTV, all the promoters and all the media for all of those years and I truly hope the tour keeps growing. Thanks everyone, take care, stay healthy and see you guys very soon and maybe on SQUASHTV.”
In a media release issued by the French Squash Federation, Gaultier referred to the Men’s World Team Championships in Malaysia in December and said he “will be available for the French team, if need be.”
Known on tour as the ‘French General’, Epinal-born Gaultier was one of the most charismatic players on the PSA World Tour and spent 20 months at World No.1 between 2009-2018. He also holds the distinction of being the sport’s oldest ever World No.1, last holding the coveted ranking in February 2018 at the age of 35 years and two months.
Gaultier has been a regular contender for the sport’s biggest titles throughout his 22-year career and reached five World Championship finals. He followed a run of four straight World Championship final defeats with an emotional victory over Egypt’s Omar Mosaad in 2015 in Bellevue, United States, which saw him become the second Frenchman to taste World Championship glory after Lincou in 2004.
Gaultier also had an affinity for the Allam British Open, the sport’s longest-running tournament, which he won on three occasions, in 2007, 2014 and 2017. He remains the only Frenchman to win the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’.
Prague-based Gaultier also won the PSA World Tour Finals three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2016.
Since making his PSA debut in 2000, Gaultier has lifted 44 PSA Tour titles, reaching 83 finals, while he won 586 of his 758 matches on the PSA Tour. Gaultier’s final PSA title came at the Czech Pro Series 1, where he beat local player Jakub Solnicky in the final.
His last major PSA title win came at the 2017 El Gouna International, which came in the midst of a run which saw him dominate the PSA World Tour and capture six successive titles.
Gaultier’s efforts leave him fifth on the list of all-time PSA Tour title winners, behind only Jansher Khan, Jahangir Khan, Mike Corren and Peter Nicol. Gaultier also holds the men’s all-time record for the most matches played on the PSA Tour (since records began).
Away from the PSA Tour, Gaultier led France to two silver medals at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championships and also won a gold medal at the 2013 World Games in Cali.
Gaultier suffered a career-threatening knee injury in late 2018, which required two surgeries to fix. After 15 months of gruelling rehab, he made a sensational return at the 2020 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions where, despite falling to No.543 in the world, the Frenchman beat Mosaad once again to make a sensational return to the PSA Tour against all the odds.
Gaultier’s final appearance on the PSA Tour came at the 2020-21 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family where he exited to Welshman Joel Makin in the last 32.
PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough paid tribute to Gaultier’s career, saying: “Greg spent two decades competing at the highest level of professional squash and is without a doubt one of the most charismatic and popular characters the sport has ever seen.
“Greg will be remembered by those that played him as probably the toughest player to break down on the court. His unwavering commitment, incredible fitness and mental strength saw him break a number of the sport’s long-standing records as well as break new ground for French squash, while his emotional comeback last year after 15 months on the sidelines made for one of the most heartwarming spectacles in squash in recent years.
“I want to thank Greg for his contributions to the PSA Tour over the past 22 years and, on behalf of the PSA, I would like to wish him all the best for the future.”
From the French Squash Federation:
Grégory Gaultier hangs up his rackets
Former world champion and world number 1 Grégory Gaultier has called it an end to a glittering career, after spending 22 years on the PSA World Tour.
The Frenchman made the announcement during a press conference held on Friday in Mauritius – where he was invited for a 10-day event aiming at promoting the sport – and broadcasted live on social media.
“Not only I feel very lucky to have done my passion as a job, but also I am fortunate enough to say that I achieved most of my squash career goals, thanks to all the hard work throughout these years,” Grégory Gaultier said.
“The last three years were mentally and physically the toughest by far, having a year off due to two knee surgeries was an unexpected challenge to face. It was not the way I wanted to end my career; however, I will always take some comfort knowing I did all I possibly could to get back to the top.”
Grégory Gaultier, who will turn 39 in December, leaves a true legacy behind him, as well as a long list of accolades. The most successful French player of all time won 44 PSA tournaments, including three World Series Finals, three US Open and three British Open titles.
The pinnacle of his career came in 2015 when he became world champion, while he had been runner-up four times previously. Besides the titles, another feature of the French General’s career on the PSA World Tour is its length, and he holds several records: most matches played in the modern era (758, he won 586 of those) and longest streak in the world top 10 (154 months, before his knee injury in 2018).
In 2017, a series of six titles and 27 matches won in a row had made him the oldest world number one in history (at 34 years old). He held the top spot for a total of 20 months between 2008 and 2018.
Grégory Gaultier also shone wearing the French jersey, winning 12 European titles (nine in the individual championship and three in the team event). With the French national team, he also clinched two silver medals at the World Team Championship, in 2003 and 2009. While the next edition will take place in Malaysia in December, the French General said he “will be available for the French team, if need be.”
Gregory Gaultier: Career Stats.
PSA Matches: 758
PSA Match Wins: 586
PSA Titles: 44
PSA Finals: 83
PSA Tournaments Played: 210
Months As No.1: 20
Pictures courtesy of PSA