‘Great to see James back to his best’ says dancing champion
By SEAN REUTHE
Men’s World Champion Gregory Gaultier and Women’s World No.2 Laura Massaro claimed the 2016 NetSuite Open titles after they defeated former World No.1 James Willstrop and United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy, respectively, in San Francisco.
Gaultier, a winner here in 2012 and 2014, had been in sublime form throughout the week and reached the final without dropping a game, before exhibiting some of his best squash against Willstrop to go two games ahead on the spectacular glass showcourt on Justin Herman Plaza.
World No.19 Willstrop battled back and held three separate game balls throughout a tightly-contested third game, but the Englishman ultimately lost out on the tie-break, with Gaultier wrapping up an 11-9, 11-2, 14-12 victory to lift his first PSA World Tour title of the season.
Gaultier was so happy at winning that he launched into an impromptu dance routine on court and said: “I’m really happy with the way I’ve been playing this week. I’ve been playing better day after day.
“It’s really nice to see James back playing and being well after the two-three years he had struggling with hip surgery. I saw him play against [Simon] Rösner [in the quarter-final] and it was fantastic to see him back playing so well.
“The first time we played each other we were playing in the British Junior Open when we were about 15 or 16 years old. I remember we had this brutal match in the final so it’s been a long time, but it’s good to see our generation reaching the top after so many years.”
The Women’s final saw Massaro come up against defending champion Sobhy, who triumphed over Massaro’s compatriot, Sarah-Jane Perry, to take the honours at the inaugural Women’s event last year.
It was the Englishwoman who found her length the fastest, taking the ball early to build up a strong rhythm of hitting and she triumphed in a comfortable opening game for the loss of four points, before a strong reaction from World No.6 Sobhy saw the Harvard graduate level the scores in game two.
Massaro got her herself back in front in the third though and moved her opponent around the court well to restore her one-game cushion.
Sobhy put up a real fight in the early stages of the fourth game, but an indomitable Massaro was just too strong and feathered in a forehand volley drop on her first match ball to triumph 11-4, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 and earn a share of the $50,000 prize purse, which is double the amount that was on offer last year.
“I’m really happy to get my hands on the title,” said Massaro. “I don’t know how many more years I’ll be playing for it and Amanda is such a good talent coming up, so I’m glad that I managed to get one more win.
“The Tour on the women’s side is perhaps the strongest it’s ever been and it’s a great time to be part of women’s squash because of the parity that’s going on with the men.
“We all work really hard and I absolutely love playing in front of the crowd in iconic settings just like this. It’s an absolute privilege to play on this court and to get my hands on another title.”
NetSuite Open 2016, Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, USA (promoted by Event Engine).
PSA M100 Final:
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [WC] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 14-12 (46m)
PSA W50 Final:
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA) 3-1: 11-4, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 (47m)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)