Just one week after defeating a resurgent James Willstrop in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Championship en route to the title Gregory Gaultier was once again forced to produce some of his best squash to defeat the towering Englishman in the second round of the Men’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open today (Dec 3).
It took the Frenchman over 60 minutes to secure his place in the quarter-finals of the PSA World Series tournament, one of few titles to have eluded him during a glittering career, at the expense of Willstrop, who’s shock victory over Mohamed Elshorbagy during the World Championship helped Gaultier to top the World Rankings this month.
The 32-year-old from Aix-en-Provence began impressively, utilising his pace and power to take advantage of a misfiring Willstrop. ‘The Marksman’ upped his game in the third as he began to find his range, firing in pinpoint shots from all areas of the court to reduce the deficit but Gaultier dug into his reserves to mount a huge challenge in the fourth game and his doggedness was rewarded when he sealed the match 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-6.
“That was one of the toughest matches I could have had at this stage in a tournament and I really had to give my all,” said Gaultier.
“He proved last week at the worlds that he can beat anyone so I knew I had to be sharp. I had to push myself mentally and physically especially in the fourth game when I gave everything in the tank to try and take control of the match away from him.
“I feel a little bit physically drained after winning the World Championship but mentally I’m still there. I struggled yesterday in the first round and today was a tough match as well but these kind of matches can help keep you sharp.
“Even if my body isn’t 100 per cent, mentally I want to finish the year on a positive note. You can’t be 100 per cent all year round but you can give your best on court each day and there are always solutions to problems so I’m going t be giving it my all this week.”
Gaultier will line up against Australian Cameron Pilley, after he got the better of German Simon Rösner, for a place in the semi-finals while the man Gaultier lost to in the final of the 2014 edition of the Hong Kong Open, Elshorbagy, progressed to the last eight without breaking sweat after Indian Saurav Ghosal conceded their match due to injury.
Results – Second Round: 2015 Men’s Hong Kong Open, PSA World Series:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) walkover
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5 (66m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 4-11, 11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 (81m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-1: 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5 (64m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-6 (62m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 3-2: 9-11, 11-5, 13-15, 11-7, 11-6 (87m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 3-1: 4-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 (46m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-0: 15-13, 11-4, 11-5 (46m)
Draw – Quarter-finals
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)