10:12 pm
17 Apr 2024

Shabana & Gaultier To Contest Bermuda World Open Final

1 Dec 2007

Egypt's world number one Amr Shabana will face France's Gregory Gaultier, the world No3, in Saturday's final of the Endurance World Open in Bermuda after despatching their opponents in convincing style in the semi-finals of the flagship $175,000 PSA Tour squash event at the island's Fairmont Southampton Resort.

Favourite Shabana won the opening game against Australia's David Palmer, but the defending champion from New South Wales delighted the enthusiastic crowd by taking the second for the loss of only three points, to draw level.

But 28-year-old Shabana, also a former world champion, reasserted his authority on the match to force errors from Palmer and eventually claim an 11-6, 3-11, 11-5, 11-5 victory in 67 minutes.

"To beat David in the semi-finals of the World Open is a great achievement - particularly in front of a crowd like this," said left-hander Shabana, winner of the title in 2003 and 2005.

"David is a legend and a good player. He's won everything - he's so professional.

"If I can play just as well tomorrow as I did tonight, I think I have a good chance of winning."

Later, second seed Gregory Gaultier took on England's Nick Matthew, the No7 seed who upset fourth-seeded compatriot James Willstrop to claim his first appearance in a World Open semi-final.

The Frenchman stunned the crowd with an almost error-free display as he pushed his English opponent all over the court. Matthew nullified a 3-0 lead in the first game to draw level at five-all, but Gaultier won five points in a row to reach game ball, which he converted at the second attempt.

The 24-year-old world No3 from Aix-en-Provence built up a 9-0 lead in the second game before Matthew caressed a drop shot into the nick to win his first point. But again Gaultier clinched his second game ball to move 2/0 ahead.

At 5-1 up in the third, Gaultier twice slipped during a stunning rally - on the first occasion recovering to extend the pressure on Matthew, and only on the second failing to stop the underdog from capitalising!

The pair continued to trade points until Gregory clinched the match 11-6, 11-4, 11-8 after 58 minutes to reach the final for the second successive year.

"It's a great feeling to be in the final for the second time in a row," Gaultier told the crowd. "I know Shabana will be tough - we've played four times this year and it's two-all. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

The Frenchman then took the microphone from the MC's hands, and looked across at his disconsolate opponent: "Thanks to you Nick. He's a great guy - we're good friends. Sorry, but maybe next time it's yours."

Matthew admitted that Gaultier was "just too good".

"Sometimes, you've got to hold your hands up and say you been outplayed. He made it tough for me in the first game.

"Well into it, I looked at the scoreboard to see what the score was - and it was 5-5, and we'd been playing for ages. I made a few crucial errors in the game which didn't help," explained the 27-year-old from Sheffield.

"He just outplayed me in the second - he just didn't put a foot wrong.

"I thought it could have been my night tonight. I tried to blitz him.

"But I'm proud of my efforts - I made him work hard. It's certainly the best he's ever played against me.

"It'll be a great final. He's going to be tough to beat."

Semi-finals:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [3] David Palmer (AUS)11-6, 3-11, 11-5, 11-5 (67m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [7] Nick Matthew (ENG)11-6, 11-4, 11-8 (58m)