Gaultier and Matthew primed for battle as Ramy masters Mosaad
Defending champion Gregory Gaultier and two-time Commonwealth gold medallist Nick Matthew will meet for the first time since becoming joint world number ones, after breezing through their quarter-final encounters in straight games at the Swedish Open in Linköping.
Gaultier, who defeated Matthew at the 2013 edition of the PSA International 70 tournament, wasted little time in overcoming a battle weary Peter Barker in half an hour, while Matthew needed just 14 minutes longer to ruthlessly despatch fellow Englishman Daryl Selby in straight games.
Matthew (pictured right) will now meet Gaultier for just the second time since his memorable final victory at the 2013 World Championships in Manchester, but is wary about the ominous form being displayed by the French number one.
The third seed said: “I watch how Greg plays and I really admire how he never seems to take more than 40 minutes in his first rounds. He’s so clinical and I strive to be just like that.
“I’ll have to make sure I have a good practice in the morning and make sure I’m ready for Greg because he looks great out there. Two joint world number ones fighting it out…I think that’s not been seen before so it should be great for everyone.”
Matthew won the Scandinavian event three times between 2009 and 2011 and remains on course for his fifth final in consecutive appearances at the Linköping Sporthall after prevailing 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 over Selby.
The triple world champion exploited Selby’s early sluggishness to race into a 7-1 lead in the opening game. A series of long, attritional rallies left Selby struggling for breath as the 33-year-old from Sheffield clinched the opening game in just 10 minutes.
Selby returned minus his now customary headband for the second game but two heated exchanges with the referee disrupted his rhythm as Matthew reeled off seven consecutive points at 4-3 ahead to double his advantage.
The English duo traded points in the opening exchanges of the third game but with the scores tied at six-apiece, Matthew recaptured his earlier form to win the next five points and advance into his seventh PSA Tour semi-final in eight events.
Gaultier enjoyed a similarly comfortable afternoon to remain on course for his third successive title at the Swedish Open after cruising past world number eight Barker 11-5, 11-3, 11-4.
The 31-year-old Frenchman eased through the opening game, before powering into a 7-1 lead in the second to leave Barker shouting and gesticulating in frustration.
Gaultier, 31, needed just seven minutes to double his advantage and Barker’s hopes were all but extinguished at the start of the third game as the English fifth seed suffered a re-occurrence of a longstanding knee injury.
Gaultier ruthlessly exploited Barker’s lack of movement to seal a 28th career meeting with Matthew, while Barker trudged off court with his participation at the British National Championships now uncertain.
“You have to make it long and hard [against Peter] because he moves so well but when he shook my hand, he said his body is hurting and I think he has played too much,” explained Gaultier afterwards.
“He played in Detroit and at the Tournament of Champions so I guess it was the match he played in five games yesterday which took its toll. It is a bit of luck for me but I was ready to compete today and I’m happy to be in the semi-finals.”
Matthew has won his last two meetings against the second seed in five games but Gaultier enjoys a superior head-to-head record and has dropped just one game in his last 10 matches at the Swedish Open stretching back to 2012.
In the top half of the draw, top seed Ramy Ashour recovered from a sluggish start to defeat fellow Egyptian and world number 13 Omar Mosaad 7-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-5.
Mosaad, who was given a stern test by local qualifier Rasmus Hult in the opening round, capitalised on a catalogue of unforced errors from Ashour to inflict a second successive opening game defeat for the 26-year-old.
However, the former world number one barely surrendered control thereafter as he produced a three game masterclass to make a mockery of Mosaad’s earlier form.
Indeed, the Egyptian number two started the second game with three consecutive winners and it took until the seventh point for Mosaad to finally get on the scoreboard again.
The second and third games continued in a similar vein, with jaws left gaping on numerous occasions as Ashour sauntered to victory in 45 minutes.
“I’m just glad with the way I played today. Omar is a very good player and came out fighting and hit a lot of good winners,” said Ashour.
“We have been playing since we were kids so I had to be cautious and I’m just glad my plan C worked today.”
Tournament of Champions winner Amr Shabana awaits Ashour in the last four, after the world number nine powered past fourth seed Borja Golan in a scrappy encounter bereft by stoppages and arguments with officials.
The first game between the duo, who have recently joined the Eye Racket stable, gave little indication of the let and stroke decisions which would plague the rest of their match, as Shabana (pictured right) edged the first game in 13 minutes.
The second game followed a similar pattern as the former world number one from Cairo fought back from an early deficit to leave Golan trailing two-nil in games.
Golan responded by taking the opening four points of the third but saw his advantage evaporate almost immediately after suffering a succession of penalty points due to a lack of ‘clearing’.
Golan’s irritation with the refereeing decisions seemed to affect his focus as Shabana capitalised on a series of loose shots and unforced errors to claim his first match ball at 10-9.
Golan, though, responded by forcing a tie-break but despite saving a second match ball, a deft backhand cross court drop ended the Spaniard’s challenge to clinch an 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 win for Shabana and his fifth in six meetings against the world number six.
Shabana will now bid to end a five match losing streak against Ashour in the semi-finals on Saturday afternoon.
Pictures by Tommi Tapola; Feature image by Steve Line