Defending Champion Gaultier Narrowly Avoids Early NetSuite Exit
26 Sep 2015
France's defending champion Gregory Gaultier came within a whisker of a shock first round exit at the 2015 NetSuite Open, saving multiple match balls against Egyptian qualifier Ali Farag in the dramatic 90-minute encounter in the PSA M100 event in San Francisco.
After booking his place in the main draw following a 70-minute upset over French number three Gregoire Marche, Farag attacked the ball to take the match to Gaultier and unsettle the world No.3 from the off. It was a strategy that paid off for the Harvard graduate as he came from 2/1 down to level the match and force a decider.
The 23-year-old from Cairo's continued aggression was rewarded when he found himself with two match balls in hand but he couldn't convert and it was a relieved Gaultier who eventually sealed it 12-10 in the fifth.
"He played so well, it was unbelievable," said Gaultier.
"I haven't lost many first round matches over the last ten years but the way he was playing I wouldn't have had many complaints tonight. I played quite well, I lost my concentration in places, but there were only a few points that made the difference and I was lucky that I won those points tonight."
After the match Farag said: "Of course it's disappointing to lose but he has been in these situations hundreds of times and it was experience that made the difference in the end."
Top seed Nick Matthew, the world No.2, and 2014 World Champion Ramy Ashour, the world No.5, suffered no such difficulties as they began their campaigns with comfortable victories over Mazen Hesham and Tom Richards, respectively - while Australian qualifier Ryan Cuskelly's rich vein of form continued as he followed up his surprise win over top seeded qualification player Alister Walker with an impressive performance against Mathieu Castagnet, taking out the world No.9 3/2 after a brutal 101-minute battle.
In the women's PSA W25 tournament American number two and world No.37 Olivia Blatchford produced the shock of the first round as she surged to an impressive 3/2 win over Indian number three seed and world No.17 Dipika Pallikal.
Blatchford stormed into an early two-game advantage only to see Pallikal mount a comeback and force a decider. But Blatchford gathered herself and showed impressive maturity as she held her nerve in a tense fifth game to take the match 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-13, 11-9.
The 22-year-old from New York was joined in the quarterfinals by compatriot and top seed Amanda Sobhy, who ruthlessly saw off Mexican Samantha Teran in just 20 minutes as she bids to add a 14th PSA World Tour title to her name.