Sea breeze gives French ace the wind in his back as he sails past Rodriguez
By SEAN REUTHE in El Gouna
Reigning El Gouna International champion Gregory Gaultier moved a step closer to a third successive final at the PSA World Series tournament as he defeated Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez to set up a semi-final meeting with World No.2 Ali Farag at the El Gouna Marina.
The 35-year-old Gaultier, who beat World No.7 Karim Abdel Gawad in last year’s final, had only lost once to World No.16 Rodriguez and had won their last four matches without dropping a game.
The World No.3 didn’t have everything his own way today, though, and the pair contested a highly entertaining clash, moving each other around the court until Rodriguez twisted his ankle in a coming together early on in the fourth game with Gaultier 2-1 up at the time. The former World No.4 played on but Gaultier had too much in the tank and the Frenchman held on to complete an 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 victory in 70 minutes.
“I’m happy I managed to get back on court but after the accident it was not easy,” said Gaultier. “It was tough to get the rhythm back but I’m happy that after losing the second game I managed to find my length and my focus again.
“He is everywhere! He’s very skilful and moves around the court well so it is very difficult to put the ball away.”
Gaultier will go up against the man who took his World No.2 ranking earlier this month, Egypt’s Farag, after the 26-year-old put in a mesmerising display against World No.5 Tarek Momen to end a two-match losing streak to his compatriot which encompassed semi-final wins at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and the Canary Wharf Classic.
It was a windy evening at the Marina and Farag adapted best to the conditions as he put in a rampant display which saw him outplay Momen to claim an 11-4, 11-3, 11-7 victory in 33 minutes to book his place in the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time.
“Today it wasn’t about who was the better player, it was about who was going to adapt to the conditions better,” Farag said afterwards.
“Maybe I can thank [my wife] Nour [El Tayeb] as well. Nour is my main inspiration, she plays very well herself and maybe I was lucky that she had a match before me and she told me how the wind was. I had that to my advantage and I adapted.”
Farag’s win followed immediately after his wife, World No.3 Nour El Tayeb, earned her place in the semi-finals of the women’s tournament courtesy of an impressive 3-0 win over England’s Alison Waters.
Waters came within a whisker of taking the opening game after El Tayeb recovered from game ball down to go ahead and the Egyptian was in control from that point onwards as she claimed a 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 victory to reach a fourth World Series semi-final in a row.
“The conditions were very hard tonight for both of us,” said El Tayeb. “It took us a while to adapt to the conditions. Last time we played she beat me, so I was expecting a tough match, and I know how hard she is to beat.
“I really prefer playing first. Ali [Farag] had to warm up watching me. I have done it a few times and it’s not easy.”
Up next for El Tayeb is a meeting with World No.2 Raneem El Welily, who put Hong Kong’s Annie Au to the sword in a dominant display 12 months after losing the women’s PSA World Championship final on this court to World No.1 Nour El Sherbini.
El Welily was in splendid form once again after following up an impressive second round display against England’s Sarah-Jane Perry with a comfortable 23-minute win over Au to move to within one win of what would be a fourth World Series final this season.
“Annie’s got a very strong game and like the previous players said, the conditions on the court today are not the best,” El Welily said. “I’m just happy to be through in three today against a tough opponent.”
The top four seeds in both the men’s and women’s events will meet tomorrow in the semi-finals which will begin at 18:30 local time (GMT+2). The action will be broadcast live on mainstream channels around the world, including BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro as well as SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
2018 El Gouna International, El Gouna Marina, Egypt (equal prize money of $165,000 for men and women).
Men’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-7 (33m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 (70m)
Men’s Semi-Finals (to be played April 26th):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Women’s Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half):
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 (30m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-8 (23m)
Women’s Semi-Finals (to be played April 26th):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
(Article by Sean Reuthe. Editing by ALAN THATCHER).
Pictures courtesy of PSA