Top seed Greg renews rivalry with Ramy in San Francisco semi-finals
By NATHAN CLARKE in San Francisco
Defending NetSuite Open champion Gregory Gaultier kept alive his hopes of retaining the trophy in the 2015 iteration of the PSA M100 tournament, and of claiming the title for the third time overall, following a thrilling four-game encounter with England’s James Willstrop in San Francisco earlier today (Sept 27)
The enigmatic Frenchman was taken to the brink against Egyptian Ali Farag in the first round of action but showed no signs of any physical weariness as he came out all guns blazing to romp to the opening game after just nine minutes.
But Willstrop, who has been slowly recovering from a career-threating hip injury during the past 12 months, responded in style, showing glimpses of the form and signature precision hitting that saw him top the world rankings for 11 months in 2012 as he dictated the pace to level the scores.
Drama, tension, intense rallies and superlative hitting dominated a tight third game as both players traded winners to the delight of the crowd but it was Gaultier who edged it and the physical exertion took it’s toll on 6’4″ Willstrop as his energy levels dropped in the fourth game, allowing the World No.3 to pounce and secure passage to the semi-finals.
“That was a very tough four games tonight,” said Gaultier.
“James is definitely improving and that’s the best I’ve seen him play for a while. At the beginning I was attacking and I could see he was struggling to move but in the second he came out and surprised me and was getting all my shots back.
“Luckily I managed to win the third game which was a big advantage for me and I was able to let my arm go a little in the fourth so I’m very happy to go through today.”
The 32-year-old from Aix-en-Provence will now take on World Champion Ramy Ashour, the man who beat him in the 2013 NetSuite Open final, in tomorrow’s semi-finals when the duo will be facing off for the 31st time on the PSA World Tour.
Ashour booked his last four berth with a 3-1 win over Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly while the top half of the draw will see top seed Nick Matthew take on dynamic Colombian World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez for a place in the final.
Cuskelly put up a great night and will be pleased to have won a titanic third game 13-11 in one of the game’s most exciting venues. The effort took its toll and Ashour closed out the fourth 11-4 to signal what squash fans all over the world hope will be a return to the game in a healthy, injury-free season.
NetSuite Open, PSA M100, San Francisco, USA.
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-2: 5-11, 11-7, 11-13, 13-11, 11-7 (96m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-2: 6-11, 11-3, 8-11, 14-12, 11-8 (108m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-1: 11-5, 11-5, 11-13, 11-4 (58m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-3 (57m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of NetSuite Open and PSA