Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier made an appearance on our latest episode of Beyond the Glass as he chatted to presenters Joey Barrington and Jenny Duncalf about life in lockdown.
The charismatic Frenchman talked about what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on him and his training, his return from a 15-month injury layoff, and what it felt like to feature alongside Ramy Ashour in an exchange that recently voted as the men’s rally of the decade.
Joey Barrington: “Greg, you’ve been keeping yourself in good shape I presume, but you’ve had some good news, have squash clubs reopened in Czech Republic now?”
Gregory Gaultier: “They reopened on Monday and fitness opened two weeks ago, so we managed to go and do some fitness in the group. There are rules now, you have to disinfect everything.
“If I use a bar and want to do some squats or whatever, you need to disinfect after each use, so we have to be careful with what we’re doing. In my squash club there are no chairs at the moment, we can’t use the lockers, we can just play squash and once we are outside the court we have to wear a mask.
“Inside it’s okay, but we’re not supposed to wipe our hands on the glass or the walls.”
JB: “You look quite lean, you’ve obviously not been eating too many chocolate pancakes, have you been doing a lot of home training?”
GG: “I did a lot of home training and I trained with some guys on Zoom. I was allowed to go outside and do some cycling and running, and I have a little gym at home, so I could do a workout every single day.
“It’s been two or three weeks since we’ve been allowed to walk in the parks, so I have been doing some training with the guys that have stayed here. Now for a change we can hit some balls, which is quite cool.”
Gregory Gaultier (left) celebrates against Iker Pajares Bernabeu (right) during the 2019 WSF Men's World Team Squash Championship
Jenny Duncalf: “How are you hitting them, Greg?”
GG: “My hitting doesn’t change, I can stop for six months but I still hit the same. At the beginning we’re just working on technique really, we don’t want to rush and start to run around like crazy because there is a big risk of getting injured.
“From the first week we don’t want to bring in a lot of changes in direction because this can be tricky. We do simple drills where we know where the ball goes, we don’t want to put random things that can cause trouble.
JD: “Greg, you’ve only just made your comeback at the World Teams and then ToC and Windy City, and then this comes along. How is your mindset, are you over the frustration?”
GG: “At the beginning, it was a big shock for everybody. After more than a year of waiting and suffering with all these injuries, and thinking whether I would come back, I was so keen to come back on tour and play and see all those people again, see my friends again, and live these kind of moments that I couldn’t live for a year.
“To be back to where I was a few months ago was frustrating at the beginning, but then you need to move on. If you live in frustration, then you wake up in the morning and keep blaming this and that, so I used those weeks to refocus on gaining strength.
“I jumped back on the tour and I was far from being 100 per cent. I don’t know if I will ever be 100 per cent again, it’s going to be tough with my knee in this condition.”
JD: “Speaking of targets, when you did come back the last time, did you have a target or a goal at all?”
Gaultier (left) clashes with Mostafa Asal (right) during the Tournament of Champions
GG: “It was very difficult because even at the beginning of November, I was not capable of playing squash at all. My main target was to play and make the national team for the World Teams, and I was happy to be selected and to be capable of playing.
“I knew my level wouldn’t be great, my movement was very restricted, so it was tough, but my goal was to make the team. I managed to do okay and then from there I wanted to build it up and be better week after week.
“I managed to play okay in ToC and then the tough part was to decide which tournaments to play. I had to enter tournaments in November because we have closing dates which close two months before the tournaments.
“In November, I had no clue if I could play in January, so I entered New York and then I didn’t know if playing back-to-back tournaments would be too risky for my knee. That’s why I took a five-week gap between ToC and Chicago.
“If I would have known in ToC that I would have been in that shape then I would have played more tournaments.”
JB: “Greg, I was just going to ask you, PSA are pumping out loads of content and there is some really great stuff going through the archives of SQUASHTV back to when we started in 2010. What do you think about coming out on top with the rally of the decade in the ToC where you were playing Ramy Ashour in that unbelievable rally. I screamed the chandeliers down, so how did it feel for you?”
GG: “It’s nice but I lost the rally! It’s nice to be part of it, and I remember that it was in the fourth game and I was more than slightly tired.
“In that point, I anticipated it twice, and in the last one I could see he was going to play a forehand drive, so I wanted to smash it as hard as possible, and he managed to get his wrist as solid enough to keep the ball up. Anyone else, the ball would have broken their strings!
“It was quite impressive, his reactions and what he could do with the ball.”