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PSA: Matthew meets Gaultier in San Francisco final

Nick Matthew unleashes a volley against Peter Barker. Picture by JAY PRINCE

23 October 2012

RESULTS: PSA International 70 NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA

[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-8 (43m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [4] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 11-6 (56m)

England’s world No2 Nick Matthew and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the world No3, will contest their sixth PSA World Tour final at the NetSuite Open Squash Championship after taking out their semi-final opponents in the PSA International 70 event staged on an all-glass court at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, USA.

Gaultier, playing tight squash to take away the angles that are favoured by Egyptian Amr Shabana, dominated their three-game semi. Gaultier’s court coverage neutralized the four-time world champion’s attacking short game, and his length was just good enough to keep Shabana trapped in the back corners.

“Two nights ago, Shabana looked fluid in his movement in the cold Bay Area conditions, but tonight he was a step slow, despite building a small cushion of 8-6 and 10-8 in the second game,” explained tournament spokesman Jay Prince. “Gaultier, showing patience and precision, scratched his way back to draw even at 10-all before finishing off the game 12-10.”

It was more of the same in the third. Neither player appeared too eager to draw points out, but instead chose to attack short off the volley. An early lead by Gaultier to 3-1 was quickly erased and became a 5-3 advantage for Shabana in a single hand. From there, Gaultier drew even and they exchanged points to eight-all before Gaultier slammed the door, 11-8.

In 18 career meetings on the PSA Tour, Matthew has dropped just a single match to his good friend and fellow EnglishmanPeter Barker. That single loss came in the Hong Kong Open in 2010. Prior to that, Matthew had strung together eight-straight wins, and has since rattled off nine more.

“Make that ten after tonight!” added Prince.

The world No2 and second seed in San Francisco had little trouble securing the first two games, though he needed 32 minutes to do it. In both games, Barker held his own until the midway point then watched Matthew run away from him. Matthew played error-free and utilized his wing span at the mid-court to prevent Barker from ever getting comfortable – 11-7 and 11-5 to Matthew.

The third, however, was totally out of character for Matthew who prides himself on keeping his errors to a minimum. But up 5-2, the former world number one committed three unforced errors and had three consecutive stroke decisions against him to carry Barker all the way to 9-5 in a single hand. Another pair of tins from Matthew in the front court after he had reached 6-9 and the game was Barker’s.

With renewed focus, Matthew quickly put the London left-hander away in the fourth. Matthew punished Barker with pace and length, perhaps anticipating the downpour of rain that let loose in San Francisco just minutes after the match ended. Barker, too, apparently was ready to put an end to his nightmare fourth game – committing three straight unforced tins to hand Matthew the game 11-6.

With the bleachers covered for the night, crews will have their work cut out for them in the morning if the rain continues to fall.

The NetSuite climax sees Gaultier celebrating his 47th Tour final, with Matthew marking his 51st. The clash will be the pair’s 19th PSA Tour meeting – and sixth in the US, two of which were also finals. Gaultier holds a slight 10-8 edge over their career rivalry.

Amr Shabana is grounded by Greg Gaultier. Picture by JAY PRINCE

For full details, visit the event website

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