The 2016/17 season saw some thrilling matches light up the PSA World Tour, but few clashes had the drama of January's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions semi-final fixture between current World No.1 Gregory Gaultier and then World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.
Voted as the PSA Match of the Season at the PSA Awards gala earlier this month, Gaultier and ElShorbagy’s matchup could have been staged on Broadway such was the theatrical nature of the contest, with Gaultier in particular displaying the showmanship and charisma that have been hallmarks of his incredible career,
Held under the chandeliers of the incredible Vanderbilt Hall in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal, Gaultier and ElShorbagy were meeting for the 19th time on the PSA World Tour since first going head-to-head in 2009.
And the man from France was out for revenge after their last fixture in a World Series event – the final of the El Gouna International – had ended in controversial circumstances.
With the scores deadlocked at two games apiece and the match deep into the fifth game, ElShorbagy appeared to speak during one of Gaultier’s serves before slotting the ball into the nick to put himself match ball up, despite Gaultier’s remonstrations with the referee that his concentration was affected.
ElShorbagy moved on to take the win against a rattled Gaultier, but it would be the 34-year-old who was to have the last laugh in New York.
With a place in the final of the prestigious tournament up for grabs, Gaultier played with pace, precision, control and guile to go two games to the good, with each winner accompanied by wild celebrations from the former World Champion and thunderous applause from an enraptured crowd.
But, with Gaultier 8-7 up in the third, a huge decision from the video referee changed the course of the match, with ElShorbagy profiting from a reviewed pick up which was erroneously called as good.
That decision saw Gaultier capitulate and ElShorbagy pounced to level the scores at 2-2, with Gaultier – who had already been forced off court for an injury break in game three due to a glute problem – sinking to the floor after losing the fourth 11-4.
He looked to be on the verge of retiring from the match, but the ‘General’ battled on to turn the match on its head once again in a nail-biting finale.
The stunned spectators inside Grand Central Terminal witnessed Gaultier, playing on one leg, fight his way back into the match as he began to display the ruthless accuracy and extravagant gesticulating he displayed in the opening two games.
After going match ball up, Gaultier hit a sumptuous crosscourt winner on the volley to finally settle the absorbing contest and get one over on his fierce rival for the first time in four matches.
The Frenchman would ultimately fall to World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the final, but his blockbuster clash with ElShorbagy will live long in the memory and will go down as one of the greatest matches ever to be played out inside Grand Central Terminal.
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