French star aims for high five in Zurich
By NATHAN CLARKE
The final of the 2017 Grasshopper Cup in Zurich will see Egyptian World No.8 Ali Farag, conquerer of both Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nick Matthew, take on in-form World No.2 Gregory Gaultier for the spoils with the Frenchman aiming to win a 23rd consecutive match and fifth consecutive PSA World Tour title.
The 34-year-old Gaultier, the 2015 World Champion and 2015 Grasshopper Cup champion, has won the Swedish Open, Windy City Open, British Open and El Gouna International on his last four outings and continued to show that he is the standard bearer as he downed Tarek Momen – who had beaten World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad 24 hours earlier – in straight games to set up a title decider with Farag.
Gaultier was far from his best at times during the 51-minute encounter but managed to do enough to prevent Momen from gaining a foothold in proceedings and prevail 11-9, 11-5, 12-10.
“I haven’t dropped a game so far this week but it was close today as there were some very intense rallies in there and two very close games,” said Gaultier.
“I managed to keep my focus at the end despite being maybe a little nervous. I was being too passive and was waiting to counter him. But when I play him I’m alway sharp the next day because he forces me into all four corners, so I’m going to be sharp tomorrow.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can and keep up my level. Ali has been playing well every match. He had an unbelievable quarter-final and it was surprising how well he backed up today. He has lots of skills so I have to be on my toes tomorrow and be ready but hopefully I will bring my best perfomance of the week.”
Farag secured his place in the finale courtesy of a 3-0 win over three-time World Champion Nick Matthew that came just 24 hours after Farag had downed Mohamed ElShorbagy in a highly entertaining five-game thriller.
Farag, who has at times struggled to find consistency on court this season, looked relaxed from the off and put together one of his most complete performances – a performance that was in direct contrast to a subpar performance from 36-year-old Nick Matthew – to come through in straight games.
“Before the match I actually had no expectations – for the first time in my career I was going into a match knowing I wouldn’t mind losing,” said Farag.
“I think that mindset meant I loosened up and played some of my best today. I’m very happy with how I played in the first and then there were a few crucial points in the second that went my way and that was crucial because 1-1 and 2-0 is very different. Had I lost that second it would have been a totally different story.
“I got away with the win and hopefully tomorrow I can pull off another one. I’ve another final to look forward to. Last time I made a big final in Al Ahram (in September 2016) I didn’t back up very well and lost easily in the final, so tomorrow I’ll give it a big push.”
PSA M100 Grasshopper Cup 2017, Puls 5, Zurich, Switzerland.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-3 (37m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 12-10 (51m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Pictures courtesy of PSA