700-Man Gaultier Progresses At Grand Central
19 Jan 2018
World No.1 Gregory Gaultier became the first male player of the modern era to compete in 700 matches on the PSA World Tour when he despatched US wildcard Todd Harrity in the first round of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions to end home hopes in the PSA World Series event marking its 21st year at the iconic Grand Central Terminal in New York.
The 35-year-old Frenchman, runner-up a year ago, beat Harrity 11-7, 11-6, 11-8 and will now face English qualifier Tom Richards in the last 16, after the world No.40 upset India's Saurav Ghosal to reach the second round for the first time since 2015.
"700 is not a nice number, I will make it to 1000, I'm sure!" said 2009 champion Gaultier.
"I still feel good but I've been pretty upset with the last few months, coming back from an ankle injury was tough because I had to go to Qatar with no preparation at all. I thought I would catch up with the matches but I never really felt comfortable.
"But over Christmas I managed to have three good weeks for the first time since summer, so I'm happy that I managed to have these weeks on the court, which will probably make a difference."
World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad, the man Gaultier lost to in the 2017 final, is also through to round two after fighting back from a game down to beat Welshman Joel Makin. The Egyptian will now face Swiss world No.27 Nicolas Mueller, who came back from two games down to overcome English qualifier Adrian Waller.
"It's always hard when you have the pressure of defending your title, especially here in Grand Central," said Gawad.
"It's nice to play here, I love New York and I love being on court here. I'm trying to get as much time on court as I can and I'm really enjoying it."
Long-term English rivals Nick Matthew and James Willstrop will meet in the second round for the second year in a row after defeating France's Gregoire Marche and Australia's Cameron Pilley, respectively, on day one.
World No.13 Willstrop - who ended a 10-year, 19-match losing streak to fellow Yorkshireman Matthew at the 2017 event - saw off Australia's world No.19 Cameron Pilley 11-6, 11-9, 11-3.
"I love playing here, the Tour is strong and to beat Cameron here is really tough," said Willstrop.
"I'm very happy. Every single event brings up either a new player or someone who is very good like Cameron, so I don't really look at the draw anymore because you know you've got to turn up and be ready and that's what I'm trying to do from the very beginning."
Matthew, competing in the championship for the 15th time since making his debut in 2002, began his final ever Tournament of Champions campaign with an 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 victory over world No.29 Marche.
The 37-year-old from Sheffield boasts five runner-up finishes in the event and won the title in 2012 - but will retire at the end of the season.
Matthew and Willstrop will meet for the 36th time on the PSA World Tour, with Matthew currently leading their head-to-head record 26-9.
"You try and take it like any other match but there's something extra special about playing at this station, never mind with it being the last time," said Matthew.
"The first match of any tournament is the trickiest, especially here because no matter how many times you play the noise and the ambience takes some getting used to.
"I've started this tournament a little slowly [in the past], even when I've won it I've dropped games, so I was really determined to start well and he's a tricky first round opponent. I was really delighted with how I played."
World Championship runner-up Marwan Elshorbagy and Germany's world No.8 Simon Rösner were the other players to triumph on day one and will go head-to-head in the next round after claiming respective wins over Cesar Salazar and England's Daryl Selby.