Colombian giant-killer Miguel Rodriguez guns down Gregory Gaultier in Grand Central shoot-out
From NATHAN CLARKE – Squash Mad Correspondent in New York
Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez pulled off the biggest victory of his career, reinforcing his credentials as a genuine top-ten player, with a dramatic and thrilling 3-2 victory over 2014 runner-up Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals of the 2015 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York today (Jan 21).
After beating world No.6 Peter Barker in a gruelling 120-minute encounter in the second round to book his place in the last eight of a PSA World Series for the first time, Rodriguez continued his coming of age, producing a suburb all-round display to take out the world No.2 in 88 exhilarating minutes.
The 29-year-old had failed to take even a game off Gaultier from five previous occasions but after breaking into the top ten for the first time this month, to occupy the world No.8 ranking, he produced the most composed performance of his career to take out the four-time World Championship runner-up in emotional scenes.
“I’m really happy to be in the semi-finals and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Rodriguez.
“I was ready to play against Greg tonight and the strategy that I prepared with my coach David (Palmer) paid off. I knew if I was going to play long rallies against Greg I wasn’t going to win so I tried to volley more and use the boast and I’m very happy with the way I played.
“For me Greg is the toughest player on tour as he’s very strong and it is so difficult to win rallies against him. I was very patient, but more offensive than I was against Peter and I felt like it all worked.”
Traditionally a crowd favourite at the iconic Grand Central Terminal, Gaultier found himself in reversed roles as the crowd got behind the flamboyant man from Bogota, and he delighted the packed auditorium with an acrobatic display that mixed unbelievable retrievals with audacious shot-making from start to finish.
After seeing three game-ball opportunities disappear from his hands as he went one-game down to the Frenchman, Rodriguez would have been forgiven for doubting himself, but he showed true character to rebound and level the scores before going on to cause Gaultier difficulties in all four corners of the courts.
In the decisive fifth game, Rodriguez found himself 9-5 down but steeled for a spirited last hurrah and it paid off, as he won six consecutive points to take the match at the first opportunity and set up a semi-final showdown against world No.4 Nick Matthew.
Rodriguez added: “I have played Nick a few times before on tour but I have time to recover and rest so I’ll be ready for tomorrow.
“When I lost that first game, I knew it would be tough to come back because mentally that is so hard, but I felt good when I got that second game.
“Then I was playing very good at the start of the fifth and I played some nice drop shots and I could feel he was getting tired and at 9-6 I told myself that I was capable of winning and I so pleased to come through.”
In the other quarter-final, England’s three-time former world champion Matthew overcame some spirited resistance from Germany’s Simon Rosner to book his place in the last four.
Rosner, whose recent rise up the rankings matches that of Rodriguez, won a tough opening game 12-10 but Matthew, typically tenacious despite being a 34-year-old Tour veteran, gradually gained control of some ferocious rallies to win the next three games in 66 minutes.
At 6ft 4in tall, Rosner has a phenomenal reach allied to natural power, but his improvement at the front of the court is producing more appearances at the business end of tournaments like this.
Results: Quarter-finals (Bottom Half) – JP Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-1: 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6 [66m] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 11-13, 14-12, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9 [88m]
Semi-finals – To Be Played Thursday Jan 22
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Amr Shabana (EGY)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA