‘At 36 I still want to get back to my best against the younger players’
By NATHAN CLARKE in San Francisco
Egyptian World No.2 Ali Farag and World No.7 Gregory Gaultier of France are set to meet in a mouth-watering semi-final encounter at the 2018 Oracle NetSuite Open, PSA World Tour Gold event taking place in San Francisco, after the pair dominated their quarter-final encounters against Diego Elias and Simon Rösner, respectively.
Playing with laser-like accuracy and moving with a speed and guile that belies his 36-years, Gaultier, three-time tournament champion, was simply rampant as he put Rösner, World No.5, to the sword 11-3, 11-5, 11-8 on the stunning all-glass court situated at the foot of the city’s iconic Ferry Building.
From the outset the Frenchman was in complete control, denying Rösner any opportunity to use his height and power to good use. An awkward lunge mid-way through the second game, which looked to have jarred Gaultier’s knee, threatened to derail the charge but Gaultier gamely pressed on and, after taking the second, continued to go from strength-to-strength to book his place in the semi-finals.
“I had a day off yesterday after the second round match so I took full advantage of that to rest my body and be as sharp as possible tonight,” said Gaultier.
“I have been training well over the summer and feel like I am on the way back towards my peak once again. I’m doing the best I can to compete against all the young players on Tour and show that even at my age I can get back to my best and challenge.
“I had a great year last year, but then had a bad run of getting injuries but fingers crossed this year I can play injury free because I have more goals that I want to achieve.”
Gaultier’s opponent, 26-year-old Farag, was equally sublime as he made light work of World No.11 Diego Elias, recording an emphatic 33-minute straight game victory through which he rarely looked troubled.
“Most of our matches have gone to the wire in the past,” said Farag afterwards. “He’s such a sound player but I did my homework this morning and knew what I had to do. It never felt convincing on there but thankfully I managed to do it well and play attacking squash.
“I’m very glad that I’ve put in a few good performances this week so far. I’ve never made it past the fist round here before so I’m really glad to be in the semis and hopefully there’s two more matches to come for me.”
In the women’s draw World Champion and tournament top seed Raneem El Welily dispatched England’s Laura Massaro, the World No.6 and former World No.1, in just 28 minutes, playing with free-flowing attacking accuracy to come through an 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 winner and book her place in the final on her first ever appearance at the event.
“I’m really happy to be through to the final,” said El Welily. “Playing Laura is always very tough. She’s mentally so strong.
“I’m trying to do my best every point, and in every rally and see where that takes me. I’m playing here for the first time and it’s a beautiful location – even more impressive in real than I thought it would be from pictures – so I want to make the most of it.”
2018 Oracle NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA.
Results – 2018 Oracle NetSuite Open: Women’s Semi-finals
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 (28m)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) (To be played October 1)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Perry or Au.
Men’s Quarter-finals (Day Two):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-8 (42m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-1 (33m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA