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20 May 2024

Gaultier Mounts Kuwait Fight Back To Reach World Open Semis

5 Nov 2009

France's world number one Gregory Gaultier mounted a courageous fight back in the quarter-finals of the Kuwait Men's World Open 2009 - beating England's fifth seed Nick Matthew in five games to reach the semi-finals of the premier PSA Tour event on the all-glass court at the Green Island Resort in Kuwait.

It was a match of contrasting fortunes for the players, with second seed Gaultier taking the first and the Englishman taking control in the second - then emphatically in the third - before the Frenchman fought to regain supremacy and eventually clinch an 8-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-6, 11-4 victory after 82 minutes.

"The third game was rubbish - I lost my focus," said Gaultier. "I decided to put that third game in the garbage and start again. I knew it was possible - everything is possible. I just had to keep my focus.

"Once I got the lead in the fifth, I kept my head down. I knew I could beat him - and in the end I could see that Nick was getting slower. So I pushed myself.

"Squash is such a mental game - it's always such a mental battle between us," added the 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence. "But today I was stronger."

Matthew felt that the early stages of the fourth game were crucial: "It was make or break at the start of the fourth game. I was 3-1 up, and if he'd made a couple of errors I could have built on that.

"But he quickly got the game back and went 5-3 up - and never let me get back into it. All credit to him.

"And then I played a really lousy fifth game," conceded the 29-year-old from Sheffield who celebrated a career-high world No4 ranking this month. "I could have done a lot better in that game.

"It was very difficult at the end - I found it very hard to adapt.

"It definitely wasn't a physical issue. It was more mental - very tactical, very chess-like," concluded the disappointed Yorkshireman.

Gaultier will now face Ramy Ashour, the defending champion from Egypt. The No3 seed recovered from losing the third game in an earlier quarter-final to beat England's No7 seed Peter Barker 11-8, 11-3, 9-11, 11-8 in 51 minutes.

For most of the match, the gifted young Egyptian was in a world of his own as he pulled off spectacular shots which entranced the partisan crowd which was willing the Cairo man to win.

"I was in the zone for the first two games, but then let things slip in the third," admitted the 22-year-old. "But I was really glad with the way I played in the fourth - I really kept it tight to the wall.

"I think I did my job today," added the Egyptian star who won the title against the odds last year for the first time.

Ramy continues to heap credit on his older brother Hisham Ashour, the fellow touring pro who was giving him advice between games.

"He was in the zone and he was floating," explained Ashour senior. "But I told him after the third game that he can't keep playing like this - he was playing some amazing shots but couldn't rely on those at critical times.

"I told him he needed to get the ball to the back of the court more.

"I haven't seen him floating like this for a long time - those two back hand flick shots made the match."

Tall Englishman James Willstrop continued his giant-killing run in Kuwait by beating eighth-seeded Frenchman Thierry Lincou in the opening quarter-final match of the night.

It was only 24 hours earlier that Willstrop made his first appearance on the Green Island court - where the 11th seed pulled off the event's biggest upset when he despatched Karim Darwish, the top seed from Egypt, in four games.

The 26-year-old was in dominant form throughout tonight's match against the 2004 champion, winning 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 in 49 minutes.

"That was a good solid game," said Willstrop, now a semi-finalist for the first time since 2005.

"He's one of the toughest opponents mentally - but I just managed to keep on top of him. If I'd come off the pace, it could have let him in," added the Yorkshireman from Leeds.

When asked by tournament presenter Robert Edwards what he thought of the outdoor Green Island arena, Willstrop replied: "Who can argue with this as a venue? It's an amazing place to play squash.

"We've been asking for squash to look like this for as long time."

In the next round, Willstrop will meet Amr Shabana, the Egyptian who is adored by the Kuwait crowd. Would that be of concern for the Englishman?

"They're not going to be shouting for me - but I'd rather it was one-way than no-way!"

Thierry Lincou acknowledged that his opponent had restricted his chances: "He really prevented me from attacking - playing my own game," said the former world number one from Marseille.

"He was really sharp and tight - I couldn't move him like I wanted to. I just couldn't relax and play my own game.

"I thought he was in impressive form."

Much to the delight of the packed crowd, Amr Shabana beat fellow Egyptian Wael El Hindi in straight games to reach the World Open semi-finals for the fifth time in a row.

Fourth seed Shabana, three-times a winner of the title, romped to a first game win - but El Hindi, the ninth seed, came back with more opposition in the next two games.

But it was the left-hander Shabana who ultimately maintained the upper hand, wrapping up his 11-1, 11-5, 11-9 win in 40 minutes.

"You have to play perfect squash against Wael," said Shabana later. "And I had a bit of an advantage as I have played on the court all week and this was his first time.

"We know each well - he's almost like family," explained the world number two when asked if it was difficult playing a fellow countryman. "In fact we are rooming together here in Kuwait.

"It's sometimes tough to beat the other guy when it's like this."

[11] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [8] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 (49m)
[4] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [9] Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-1, 11-5, 11-9 (40m)
[3] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [7] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-8, 11-3, 9-11, 11-8 (51m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [5] Nick Matthew (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-6, 11-4 (82m)