‘Squash is like a drug: As long as I can step on court, even if I’m totally broken, I will still be hitting some balls,’ says French legend Gaultier
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Mohamed ElShorbagy said hello and Gregory Gaultier bade farewell as the second round of the Necker Mauritius Open, presented by Beachcomber Resorts and Hotels, turned into an emotional occasion.
Frenchman Gaultier made his final bow on the PSA World Tour, losing out to Egypt’s Mazen Hesham at the RM Club in Grand Bay, Mauritius in this PSA Gold tournament with $110k prize money on offer.
ElShorbagy, who has been working with Gaultier for several weeks to revive his form, began a new chapter in his career as he represented England for the first time.
Fittingly, he met his new Team England colleague James Willstrop and ElShorbagy won an entertaining battle in straight games.
But the day belonged to Gaultier, who has been instrumental in the development of this latest addition to the upper echelons of the PSA World Tour.
Gaultier and Hesham met in the first match of the day’s evening session, with a packed crowd rooting for the 39-year-old Frenchman, who started strongly.
He went 10-6 up on the back of some beautifully controlled squash and although Hesham drew level, Gaultier took it 14-12.
Hesham quickly responded, blitzing through the second game 11-2 in just five minutes. The Egyptian continued to control proceedings and won the next two games 11-3 and 11-6, testing Gaultier’s cardio-vascular limits to the full.
The Egyptian said: “Of course, playing Gregory is always tough. Even if he’s not been playing for a year now. It’s always tough and I have so much respect for him and I never meant anything other than just to play my shots, have fun and enjoy my time with him on court in front of these people.
“It’s my first time here. I like being here and it’s been a long season for me and for everybody. I’m happy I’m here and through and playing Gaultier in the last match of his career, probably. It’s a pleasure to be on the same court as him.”
Gaultier said: “Thanks everyone for the support. Obviously, it was a tough day for me. Mazen was playing some good squash and I haven’t played for quite a while and I couldn’t see the ball. My movement was way too off but I did what I could.
“I tried to hang in the rallies, but obviously my fitness wasn’t adjusting at all. I’m of course disappointed to have been unable to perform a bit better than that, but it is what it is and I did what I could on the day and it’s been a pleasure to be on this beautiful court. Thanks so much, it was an honour to play my last match and let’s enjoy the rest of the week with some more action.
“It was my last match on the PSA Tour, but I try to keep playing for fun. It’s always a pleasure to step on court. It’s like a drug, I wish there was no age, I wish I had another leg but obviously I’ll keep on playing because I love the sport way too much. As long as I can step on court, even if I’m totally broken, I will still be hitting some balls.”
Another former World No.1 and World Champion, Mohamed ElShorbagy, notched up his first victory as an England player as he overcame the challenge of new compatriot James Willstrop in straight games to move through to the last eight.
This was ElShorbagy’s first competitive outing since changing his allegiance from Egypt to England earlier this week but if that fact was playing on the mind of either player, they showed no outward signs, with the first game a hugely entertaining and high-quality 11-8 victory for ‘the Beast of Bristol’.
Both players continued to entertain the crowd in the second, which the in-form World No.3 took 11-6 to open up a commanding 2-0 lead. Despite an impressive defensive rearguard at the beginning of the third game from Willstrop, who combined excellent recovery work with his usual clinical squash, ElShorbagy had enough in the tank to put the match to bed in 32 minutes with a watchful 11-5 win.
ElShorbagy said: “Everything’s been amazing. Thank you to Remy [Mabillon] for organising everything. Honestly, the sport is very lucky to have you on board. Thank you so much for everything. Greg [Gaultier] has been an inspiration, we’re working together and it’s amazing to have him and the full team this time.
“It’s amazing to be here for my first time. I can bet that this isn’t going to be my last time. I’ll be back every year, hopefully! I think playing James, it was quite fitting to play him in my first match for England.
“He’s one of the England greats and it’s an honour to be on court with him. I look forward to playing him many more times. I do hope he stays in the game for a few more years so we can play in a team together, so it’s definitely an honour.”
The only surprise of the day’s play came in the opening men’s match as Mohamed’s brother, world No.9 Marwan ElShorbagy, lost to Omar Mosaad in a hotly-fought contest. Mosaad came from behind to win in four games, advancing through to the last eight where he will face Peru’s No.3 seed Diego Elias.
In the second round of the RMCLUB Women’s Open – Presented by Expression Networks, the top eight seeds all safely navigated their way through their matches on Court GG at the RM Club, with good friends Tinne Gilis and Coline Aumard scheduled to meet in the last eight on Thursday.
Gilis, the World No.15 and the tournament’s No.1 seed, overcame the challenge of England’s Alicia Mead to make her way into the quarter finals. Aumard, who will retire from professional squash following this event, downed another Englishwoman, Millie Tomlinson, and will meet Gilis on the glass court.
The quarter finals of both events start tomorrow (Thursday) at 12 noon local time (GMT+4). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV, with the women’s match also available to watch on the Challenger Tour YouTube channel.
PSA Gold Men’s Necker Mauritius Open – Presented by Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels.
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 (48m)
 Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-9, 11-9 (43m)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt [WC] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1: 12-14, 11-2, 11-3, 11-6 (41m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (37m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (38m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-7, 11-5, 12-10 (52m)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-9, 11-4 (37m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 (32m)
Quarter Finals (Thursday, June 9):
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Baptiste Masotti (FRA)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) v  Diego Elias (PER)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)
RMCLUB Women’s Open – Presented by Expression Networks.
Second Round Results:
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt Alicia Mead (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-8, 11-6 (24m)
 Coline Aumard (FRA) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 12-10, 12-10 (37m)
 Enora Villard (FRA) bt Karina Tyma (POL) 3-1: 11-4, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5 (36m)
 Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Nadeen Kotb (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-3, 11-9 (23m)
 Farida Mohamed (EGY) bt Georgia Adderley (SCO) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-7 (27m)
 Marie Stephan (FRA) bt Au Yeong Wai Yhann (SGP) 3-1: 11-9, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7 (37m)
 Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt Saskia Beinhard (GER) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (25m)
 Melissa Alves (FRA) bt Lucy Beecroft (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 (35m)
Quarter Finals (Thursday, June 9):
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) v  Coline Aumard (FRA)
 Enora Villard (FRA) v  Lisa Aitken (SCO)
 Farida Mohamed (EGY) v  Marie Stephan (FRA)
 Julianne Courtice (ENG) v  Melissa Alves (FRA)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour