French veteran shows Egypt’s young pretender who’s boss to win 38th title
By SEAN REUTHE in El Gouna
French World No.1 Gregory Gaultier lifted his fourth successive PSA World Tour title after the 34-year-old defeated World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad 3-0 in the final of the 2017 El Gouna International Squash Open, PSA World Series tournament held in the New Marina on the banks of Egypt’s Red Sea.
Gaultier, who will lose his World No.1 ranking to Gawad next month despite the win, fell in last year’s final to World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy. But he made amends in the last stage of the 2017 instalment with the sort of imperious display that has seen him lose just once this year.
The charismatic Frenchman played at an unrelenting pace throughout the 51-minute encounter and gave Gawad no chance to utilise his shot-making talents as he powered to an 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 victory to lift his 38th career PSA World Tour title and become the first non-Egyptian winner of the World Series tournament.
It’s Gaultier’s fourth successive PSA World Tour title after wins at the Swedish Open, Windy City Open and British Open and his current unbeaten run of 19 matches is the longest of his glittering 17-year career.
“I knew it was going to be an unbelievable match, we’re both fighting to get that World No.1 spot,” said Gaultier.
“He took it from me yesterday, so all credit to him. Being World No.1 is not just about one tournament, it’s a 12 month thing and he’s always been a talented player. This is only one match, I’m grateful to win, to be that sharp at the moment and beat Karim.
“I’m just doing the right things, I’m quite relaxed on court and I’ve just been focused on what I have to do. After Christmas I had a good break and had some good preparation and I told myself to start from scratch again at the Tournament of Champions. That’s what I did and now things are working great for me and I’m going to keep playing as much as I can.”
The victory also sees Gaultier finish second on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings – just five points behind Gawad despite having played one tournament less – to qualify for a coveted berth in the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, which take place between June 6-10 when defending champion Gaultier will be one of the strong favourites to retain his title.
Gawad, who will take the World No.1 spot next month due to his points average over the last 12 months being higher than Gaultier’s, admitted that he found it difficult to focus mentally during tonight’s fixture.
“I think my defeat today is based on two factors, one, Greg was playing incredibly well tonight, like he’s been since the beginning of the season,” said the 25-year-old.
“The second factor is the mental point of view. The fact I heard that I was going to be World No.1 next month last night was a great news. I tried to keep focus, but so many people were sending me congratulations last night.
“I’m still learning. This is the first time this is happening to me, and I think that I am gaining the experience that will allow me to not feel so much pressure next time around. I was hoping to play my best squash here, but hopefully next time.”
2017 El Gouna Men’s PSA 150 International Squash Open, El Gouna, Egypt.
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (51m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA