World champion pushed all the way by resurgent Willstrop
By NATHAN CLARKE in Hong Kong
Just one week after defeating a resurgent James Willstrop in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Championship en route to the title Gregory Gaultier was once again forced to produce some of his best squash to defeat the towering Englishman in the second round of the Men’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open today (Dec 3).
It took the Frenchman over 60 minutes to secure his place in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series tournament, one of few titles to have eluded him during a glittering career, at the expense of Willstrop, whose shock victory over Mohamed Elshorbagy during the World Championship helped Gaultier to top the World Rankings this month.
The 32-year-old from Aix-en-Provence began impressively, utilising his pace and power to take advantage of a misfiring Willstrop. ‘The Marksman’ upped his game in the third as he began to find his range, firing in pinpoint shots from all areas of the court to reduce the deficit but Gaultier dug into his reserves to mount a huge challenge in the fourth game and his doggedness was rewarded when he sealed the match 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-6.
“That was one of the toughest matches I could have had at this stage in a tournament and I really had to give my all,” said Gaultier.
“He proved last week at the Worlds that he can beat anyone so I knew I had to be sharp. I had to push myself mentally and physically, especially in the fourth game when I gave everything in the tank to try and take control of the match away from him.
“I feel a little bit physically drained after winning the World Championship but mentally I’m still there. I struggled yesterday in the first round and today was a tough match as well, but these kind of matches can help to keep you sharp.
“Even if my body isn’t 100 per cent, mentally I want to finish the year on a positive note. You can’t be 100 per cent all year round but you can give your best on court each day and there are always solutions to problems so I’m going to be giving it my all this week.”
Gaultier will line up against Australian Cameron Pilley, after he got the better of German Simon Rösner, for a place in the semi-finals. In a ferocious battle, Pilley had to battle back from 2-1 down after a massive third game went 15-13 to Rosner, winning 11-6 in the fifth after 87 minutes of hard-hitting squash.
The man Gaultier lost to in the final of the 2014 edition of the Hong Kong Open, Elshorbagy, progressed to the last eight without breaking sweat after Indian Saurav Ghosal conceded their match due to injury.
In the women’s draw, English World No.2 Laura Massaro extended her current unbeaten streak on the PSA World Tour to 12 matches as she dispatched Egyptian challenger Heba El Torky 3-0.
Massaro has so far claimed back-to-back PSA World Series titles during the 2015-16 season, winning at the U.S. Open and Qatar Classic, and will be hoping to complete an impressive hat trick this week during the 30th staging of the Hong Kong Open. But she knows she will face a stern challenge from her main title rivals, Raneem El Welily, the World No.1, and Nicol David, the World No.3.
“I felt like the match was a bit scrappy at times today,” said Massaro, who took 34 minutes to complete the 11-9, 11-5, 14-12 win.
“The rallies were short and there was not much rhythm. It was tough to get through it but I’m really happy to have got a 3-0 win in the end.
“Coming home after winning in Qatar I had a few days off but then my mind was back on training and it wasn’t difficult to refocus on coming here to Hong Kong. I had a good two weeks at home which gave me plenty of time to get some good training in and I’m feeling good.
“This is a World Series event and as such carries a lot of emphasis – it’s very important and I’m fully focused on doing as well here as I can and performing to my best. It’s great to be in the quarters of another World Series tournament so hopefully I can perform as well again tomorrow.”
Massaro will face Nouran Gohar in the last eight, while El Welily made her way into the quarter-finals after commanding against Low Wee Wern, with the Malaysian, who has just returned to action after injury, conceding the match at the end of the second game.
El Welily will now face sharp shooting American Amanda Sobhy for a place in the semi-finals. If the Egyptian wins she could line up against Massaro in what could be a crucial match in the context of the world rankings, with the victor of that potential bout almost guaranteed to hold the No.1 status come January 1st.
2015 Hong Kong Open, PSA World Series:
Results – Men’s Second Round:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) walkover
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5 (66m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 4-11, 11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 (81m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-1: 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5 (64m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-6 (62m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-2: 9-11, 11-5, 13-15, 11-7, 11-6 (87m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-1: 4-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 (46m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-0: 15-13, 11-4, 11-5 (46m)
Draw – Quarter-finals
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
2015 Women’s Hong Kong Open, PSA World Series.
Results – Second Round:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-3, 0-0 retired (14m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (33m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-9 (34m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 14-12 (34m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Dipika Pallikal (IND) 3-1: 7-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (45m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-2: 11-6, 11-7, 5-11, 9-11, 11-7 (39m)
Joelle King (NZL) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 11-6 (64m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Delia Arnold (MAS) 3-0: 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 (20m)
Draw – Quarter-finals:
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
Joelle King (NZL) v  Nicol David (MAS)