12:33 pm
21 Apr 2024

Unseeded Walker Stuns Top Seed Gaultier In Canary Wharf Classic Upset

12 Mar 2008

Alister Walker produced a sensational fight-back from the brink of defeat to beat top seed Gregory Gaultier in the first round of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic to become the second unseeded Englishman to reach the last eight of the 5-star PSA Tour squash event in its fifth year at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London.

It was an astonishing performance by the world No32 from Leeds to remove the reigning British Open champion and ensure English interest in all four quarter-finals.

The French maestro, ranked three in the world and runner-up in the last two World Open finals, dominated the opening game - but Walker stepped up a gear to win the second.

"This was competitive sport at its most brutal and spectacular," said tournament spokesman Alan Thatcher. "These two superb athletes twisted and turned to retrieve almost unplayable shots and delivered entertainment of the highest quality to a near-capacity crowd at the East Wintergarden."

The audience roared as Walker clinched the second game and Gaultier stared in disbelief at the giant screen mounted above the glass court as Walker matched his shot-making audacity.

The Aix-en-Provence-based Frenchman slowed down the pace in the third game and placed the ball with pinpoint accuracy as he regained his authority. However, Walker staged another massive recovery to win the fourth, continuing to chase down every ball and producing faultless finishing with exquisite drops and kills at the front of the court.

Gaultier looked to have the match sewn up as he advanced to a 6-3 lead in the fifth game - but again Walker found incredible reserves of courage and perseverance to claw his way back, point by point.

The match developed a physical dimension as both players hunted the ball down the backhand wall and there were frequent discussions with referee Jos Aarts following a series of collisions.

From 7-4 down, Walker produced a phenomenal sequence of controlled, attacking and aggressive squash to win seven points in a row to book his place in the quarter finals.

As the crowd erupted, Gaultier raced from the court, grabbed his bag and headed for the exit as a delirious Walker ran round the building on a lap of honour.

The 25-year-old, who was born in Botswana but is now based in Yorkshire, said: "That was my best result without a doubt. I have played well against the top guys on many, many occasions without getting the results. But I sensed that he was getting tired and I was determined to get every ball back."

Walker faces another Frenchman Renan Lavigne in the quarter-finals and must fancy his chances of causing another upset against an opponent ranked just four places above him in the world.

Lavigne, the No8 seed from Marseille, regained some lost pride for France by beating South African No1 Jesse Engelbrecht. The experienced 33-year-old had too much court craft and experience and beat qualifier Engelbrecht 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 9-11, 11-8 in 54 minutes. The UK-based South African battled hard throughout and was delighted to have taken the third game.

In the opening match of the day, Italy's Davide Bianchetti made a hot-foot exit from the event after leaving his shoes back home in Brescia. The 31-year-old Italian number one was forced to borrow a pair from England's fourth seed Peter Barker - but was clearly unsettled as he lost to Australia's Cameron Pilley 11-1, 11-1, 11-5. The No7 seed from New South Wales powered his way through the opening two games and weathered a brief recovery from the Italian in the third to stroll through to Wednesday's quarter-finals.

Pilley will face Peter Barker after the England international eased past Essex team-mate Daryl Selby. The left-handed Londoner was always in front, but Selby competed ferociously despite having his left ankle strapped. One rally of more than 100 shots had the audience spellbound but ended in a let. Barker started strongly in each game and never looked in danger of surrendering his lead, eventually winning 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 in 46 minutes.

1st round:
Alister Walker (ENG) bt [1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7 (53m)
[8] Renan Lavigne (FRA) bt [Q] Jesse Engelbrecht (RSA) 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 9-11, 11-8 (54m)
[4] Peter Barker (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (46m)
[7] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt Davide Bianchetti (ITA) 11-1, 11-1, 11-5 (32m)
Joey Barrington (ENG) bt [5] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-6, 6-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-8 (68m)
[3] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [Q] Chris Ryder (ENG) 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (37m)
[6] Alex Gough (WAL) bt [Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 11-5, 11-8, 4-11, 3-11, 11-5 (67m)
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Mark Krajcsak (HUN) 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (30m)