Egypt’s Mostafa Asal brought a halt to former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier’s triumphant comeback to the court as he won a tight five-game battle to advance to the quarter finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
It was a battle of youth and experience as the two-time World Junior Champion faced off against the former World Champion, with the latter playing his first tournament in 15 months after suffering a career-threatening injury at the 2018 U.S. Open.
It's experience v youth at the— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 12, 2020
ToCSquash</a> today as Gregory Gaultier takes on <a href="https://twitter.com/mostafasal_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">mostafasal_
And the teenager is catching the eye with these kind of touche! #ToCSquash #ToC20 pic.twitter.com/vng0OGmW23
37-year-old Gaultier, who defeated former World No.3 Omar Mosaad in the second round, put on a tactical masterclass in the first game as he broke up Asal’s rhythm and did not allow the teenager any time to settle into his pace to take a one game lead.
Asal continued to look nervous in the second, as after racing into the lead, the experienced Frenchman was able to save a total of seven gameballs before the Egyptian drew level on the tie-break.
HUGE battle between— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 12, 2020
mostafasal_</a> and Gregory Gaultier going on right now at the <a href="https://twitter.com/ToCSquash?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">ToCSquash
Tune in LIVE on Facebook (excluding Europe/Japan) https://t.co/DrED6uzNbD#ToCSquash #ToC20 pic.twitter.com/5NDzi8eIRT
It was another cagey affair in the third, with Gaultier going 10-7 up this time, but once more Asal was able to edge out as he turned things around again to take a 2-1 lead with the match balancing on a knife edge much to the delight of the packed out crowd inside Grand Central Terminal.
It looked to be all about the young player in the fifth game as he raced ahead into the lead, before a controversial call about Asal’s ball being down went in the favour of the Egyptian to see him go 8-4 up with him then closing out a 5-11, 13-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-5 victory in 75 minutes to mark one of the biggest wins of his career.
“Gaultier is such a legend and I can’t describe the feeling of sharing a court with him,” said 18-year-old Asal afterwards.
“I remember when I was 13-years-old I went on court to practice with him, every single day after his matches in El Gouna, so I want to thank him for the opportunity to play with him. He really is a legend and I can’t describe my feelings to him. I was a child and I texted him to ask if I could play with him in El Gouna and he said yes. I know if he hadn’t of been injured then he would have finished me in about five minutes.
“It’s unbelievable to play here, it’s my second home. It’s the best tournament that I have ever played on the PSA.”
Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 5-11, 13-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-5 (75m)