12:08 pm
21 Apr 2024

Title-Holders Gaultier & Massaro Survive US Open Openers

10 Oct 2016

Defending champions Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier began their 2016 Delaware Investments US Open campaigns in impressive styles courtesy of straight games victories on the second day of first round action at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The duo both tasted success during last week's NetSuite Open in San Francisco and carried their form into the second PSA World Series tournament of the season, commanding the court to breeze into the second round.

"I played well last week in San Francisco and I got some good training in before coming here for this event," said Massaro after her 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 victory over Egyptian qualifier Kanzy Emad El Defrawy.

"I'm feeling good and I'm happy to get off to a winning start. Kanzy is great fun to watch but horrible to play - the ball always comes back and that can make you edgy, so I'm happy with how I came through."

Massaro cut a polished figure as she outclassed El Defrawy in all areas of the court to extend her current winning streak to nine consecutive matches and set up a second round encounter with India's Joshna Chinappa, who recovered from 2/0 down to beat Egypt's Heba El Torky, while Indian number two Dipika Pallikal Karthik lost out to home favourite Amanda Sobhy in a topsy-turvy encounter.

Unseeded Pallikal stormed into a one-game lead, out gunning and out muscling the traditionally relentless attacker that is world No.6 Sobhy, but the match was flipped upside down after that as the Hong Kong Open runner-up from Boston moved through the gears to put the Indian to the sword in a ruthless display of attacking intent.

"Dipika came out firing - she's a strong attacking player and I was scrambling and defending the whole time in that first game," said Sobhy.

"I knew at some point she'd start making mistakes so I just relaxed and found my shots and was happy to come out with a 3/1 win.

"There's definitely a bit of pressure on me coming here having reached the final in Hong Kong, but this is like a home tournament for me. It's the US Open, it's one of the best tournaments in the world and it's exciting to play in front of a home crowd, so hopefully I can do well here this week."

Gaultier meanwhile was equally ruthless and impressive as both Massaro and Sobhy as the Frenchman dismissed seasoned English campaigner Daryl Selby in straight games, remaining calm during a lengthy injury-enforced break in the first game to assert himself and get his defence off to the perfect start.

"Daryl is one of the toughest first round matches you can get but sometimes a tough first round match is good because it can activate you and get you in a good dynamic from the start," said Gaultier.

"The interruption at the start with the injury break made it a little more difficult because it can mess with the rhythm but thankfully we were able to play the match and I'm pleased to get off to a winning start."

The Frenchman will now face qualifier Paul Coll in the second round after the world No.34 from New Zealand upset Australia's world No.15 Ryan Cuskelly in their first round encounter.

Gaultier's compatriot Mathieu Castagnet was the only seed to fail to make it into the second round in the bottom half of the draw after he lost out 3/0 to an in-form Ali Farag - the Al-Ahram Open runner-up from Egypt ]who produced a masterclass performance to reach the second round of the US Open for the first time in his career.

Last time the pair met came during the Windy City Open in March and it was Castagnet who triumphed on that occasion, coming from 2/0 down to save match ball and come through a five-game thriller, but with that result fresh in his mind, and with Castagnet struggling with an adductor injury, the Egyptian put the pressure on from the start to secure an impressive win.

"Mathieu is such a warrior and we all know it but he's been struggling of late so I'm lucky to get the win in straight games," said Farag.

"Last time we played at Windy City I was 2/0 up and he came back and won so I was wary of that today and he didn't make it easy at all even until the end.

"I had match ball last time as well and I didn't want that to happen again so I was focused throughout and I'm very happy to be through."

Farag will face compatriot Fares Dessouky for a place in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

US Open image courtesy of www.squashpics.com