Gaultier Bids Final Farewell After Hesham Mauritius Defeat
9 Jun 2022
The second round of the Necker Mauritius Open - Presented by Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels was an emotional one, as Frenchman Gregory Gaultier made his final bow, losing out to Egypt's Mazen Hesham at the RM Club in Mauritius in his last ever match on the PSA World Tour.
Gaultier and Hesham met in the first match of the day's evening session, with a packed crowd behind the glass court at the RM Club in Grand Bay, the majority of which were behind the Frenchman, and it was the 39-year-old that started the stronger of the two players.
He came close to taking a quick one-game lead when he went 10-6 up on the back of some beautifully controlled squash. Hesham, however, pushed hard to recover to 10-10. Both players had further opportunities with game balls, before Gaultier eventually managed to break through to take the 17-minute opener 14-12.
Hesham found the perfect response in the second, blasting his way to parity with an 11-2 win in just five minutes. The Egyptian then found his length perfectly in the third game, punishing the former world No.1 with some testing rallies as he moved into the lead with a comfortable 11-3 win, before finishing the match with a hard-fought 11-6 win in the fourth.
"Of course, playing Gregory is always tough. Even if he's not been playing for a year now. It's always tough and I have so much respect for him and I never meant anything other than just to play my shots, have fun and enjoy my time with him on court in front of these people," Hesham said.
"It's my first time here, I like being here and it's been a long season for me and for everybody. I'm happy I'm here and through and playing Gaultier in the last match of his career, probably. It's a pleasure to be on the same court as him in that match."
Gaultier said: "Thanks everyone for the support. Obviously, it was a tough day for me. Mazen was playing some good squash and I haven't played for quite a while and I couldn't see the ball, my movement was way too off but I did what I could," the Frenchman admitted.
"I tried to hang in the rallies, but obviously my fitness wasn't adjusting at all. I'm of course disappointed to have been unable to perform a bit better than that, but it is what it is and I did what I could on the day and it's been a pleasure to be on this beautiful court. Thanks so much, it was an honour to play my last match and let's enjoy the rest of the week with some more action.
"It was my last match on the PSA Tour, but I try to keep playing for fun. It's always a pleasure to step on court. It's like a drug, I wish there was no age, I wish I had another leg but obviously I'll keep on playing because I love the sport way too much. As long as I can step on court, even if I'm totally broken, I will still be hitting some balls."
Another former world No.1 and World Champion, Mohamed Elshorbagy, notched up his first victory as an England player when he overcame the challenge of new compatriot James Willstrop in straight games to move through to the last eight.
This was Elshorbagy's first competitive outing since changing his allegiance from Egypt to England earlier this week - but if that fact was playing on the mind of either player, they showed no outward signs, with the first game a hugely entertaining and high-quality 11-8 victory for 'the Beast.'
Both players continued to entertain the crowd in the second, which the in-form world No.3 took 11-6 to open up a commanding 2/0 lead. Despite an impressive defensive rearguard at the beginning of the third game from Willstrop, who combined excellent recovery work with his usual clinical squash, Elshorbagy had enough in the tank to put the match to bed in 32-minutes with a watchful 11-5 win.
"Everything's been amazing. Thank you to Remy [Mabillon] for organising everything. Honestly, the sport is very lucky to have you on board. Thank you so much for everything. Greg [Gaultier] has been an inspiration, we're working together and it's amazing to have him and the full team this time," said the former Egyptian.
"It's amazing to be here for my first time, I can bet that this isn't going to be my last time. I'll be back every year, hopefully! It was quite fitting playing James in my first match for England. He's one of the England greats and it's an honour to be on court with him. I look forward to playing him many more times. I do hope he stays in the game for a few more years so we can play in a team together, so it's definitely an honour."
The only surprise of the day's play came in the opening men's match of the day as Omar Mosaad knocked out world No.9 Marwan Elshorbagy, in a hotly-fought contest, as he came from behind to win in four games, advancing through to the last eight where he will now face Peru's No.3 seed Diego Elias.
In the second round of the RMCLUB Women's Open - Presented by Expression Networks, the top eight seeds all safely navigated their way through their respective matches on Court GG at the RM Club, with good friends Tinne Gilis and Coline Aumard scheduled to meet in the last eight on Thursday.