Wildcard Gaultier Marks Winning Comeback In Mauritius
8 Jun 2022
The return of the 'French General' was a victorious one in Mauritius where wildcard Gregory Gaultier overcame the challenge of England's George Parker to make the second round of the Necker Mauritius Open - Presented by Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels.
The Frenchman, who last featured on Tour at the World Championships in July 2021 and retired from the sport in October, made a triumphant return to the court, in what will be a one-off appearance at the PSA World Tour Gold event at the RM Club in Grand Bay.
Gaultier, who has continued to train in Prague following his retirement, showed his class in the opening game, with some vintage shots that were a throwback to when the former world No.1 was at the peak of his powers. His court craft was enough to push himself into a two-game lead, after securing the second when the referee awarded a conduct stroke against his English opponent.
Parke fought back after that, though, and was able to use his superior fitness levels to start moving Gaultier around the court, with the 39-year-old tiring as the third game progressed. The 2015 World Champion was able to regroup after losing the third, however, and a run of quick points in the latter part of the fourth helped him to victory, advancing to the second round of the PSA World Tour Gold level event, where he will now face Egypt's world No.8 Mazen Hesham.
"It's a pleasure to be here, of course, I was planning my retirement here but we had to postpone the event, the last two years, we came here and had a good party and we came to the agreement with the team to have one more go so I'm happy to be back on court," Gaultier said after his win.
"I've been on the other side, coaching a lot recently and sometimes you feel a little pinch and you want to be there but it's time for something else, but I still enjoy being on court and practising and I like being on court with other players as much as possible. Obviously, I can't train as before but I'm happy to step on court and have fun."
The last match of the evening saw another former world No.1 in action, as England's James Willstrop had to fight back to defeat India's Ramit Tandon in a pulsating contest to end the opening day's play.
Willstrop struggled to get going early on in the match, losing the first game 11-5, before then fighting back to show his trademark abilities in the second game, winning it 11-4. Tandon then took big leads in both the third and fourth games, but the Englishman came back to win both, including taking a run of nine straight points in the third game to come from 7-2 down to win 11-7.
The same pattern followed in the fourth game, with Willstrop also saving a game ball in the process, taking it 12-10, at the first time of asking, to win in four and to book his place in the second round of the Gold level competition, where he will face fellow former world No.1, and new English compatriot, Mohamed Elshorbagy for a place in the last eight.
"You have to battle away, I didn't feel too bad at times, but he's very good in the middle areas and in the front of the court so you're going to feel a bit uncomfortable again someone like him, he's so prolific at the front so you've got to ride this phase," the Englishman said.
"This court feels great, it's a lovely, true court, it takes a shot in nicely even though it is warm, it's taking the ball into the front, which is what we want, we don't want to see the ball in the back all the time and that's good. That's why glass courts were made, as well as allowing more people to watch so it's great."
In the RMCLUB Women's Open - Presented by Expression Networks, the opening match of the tournament sprang a surprise, as Singapore's world No.123 Au Yeong Wai Yhann defeated England's world No.95 Torrie Malik in a five-game battle.
The pair were meeting for the second time in less than a month, with the young Englishwoman having won 3/1 in the opening round of the NTA Squash Classic in Boston, USA, in May. She held the lead early in this contest, but some great squash from the Singaporean saw her take the second and third, the latter on a tie-break.
Malik fought back to win the fourth game comfortably, but Yhann recovered, bringing out some of her best squash in the final game, winning it 11-8 to advance to the second round of the Challenger 30 level competition, where she will now face the tournament's No.7 seed, Marie Stephan.
Elsewhere, there were wins for the English trio of Alicia Mead, Lucy Beecroft and Millie Tomlinson, the latter of whom had to come from behind in her duel with Egypt's Nour Ramy to win in four games. Beecroft will now take on French No.2 seed Melissa Alves, while Mead advances to face top seed Tinne Gilis in the last 16.