Gregory Gaultier will be part of the first tournament back after the COVID-19 suspension period this week, as he participates in the Expression Networks Nolan and Liam’s Tournament in his hometown of Prague in the Czech Republic.
This will be the Frenchman’s second return to the PSA World Tour this year, with the Tour starting up again after an enforced six-month suspension due to COVID-19.
The former World No.1 returned from a serious knee injury last December at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championships, before then playing at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family. However, he has admitted that he was nowhere near fully fit when the call came to represent his country in Washington, D.C.
“I am looking forward to playing again. Of course, I was away from the competition for a long time, and then I came back in December but it was a bit early for me,” he explained.
“I started playing squash in the end of November, and going into the World Teams, it was tough. It was a tough decision but I was happy to be part of the team and to play. But I know what I am capable of, and I knew I was very limited there. I didn’t have the mobility that I have now, or even the strength and the power.
The Frenchman in action for his country in Washington, D.C. in December 2019
“I had been playing for only a month before I started back on the PSA World Tour and my leg was far from 100%. Now, I have managed to take all this time off to regroup, and to restrengthen my leg and my conditioning. I am in much better shape than when I started playing again, so I am looking forward to the challenge, and it is going to be very interesting.”
The ‘French General’ has used the extra time away from the Tour to his advantage, to make sure that the issues he has had over the last two years, but he also admitted that he came back when he did because he could not wait any longer.
“During the lockdown, I have managed to train every single day to rebuild, and to take the time to get the strength back. The time I didn’t have before going to those tournaments, but at some point, you want to go back and play,” Gaultier admitted.
“I was not going to wait two years until I started playing. Even with the limitations, I wanted to play because otherwise it would have been way too long.”
Following two surgeries and a 14-month layoff from professional squash, Gaultier returned to the Tour, but he was nowhere hear his best, and he admits that he was struggling with his day-to-day routine.
Now, though, he is getting back to where he wants to be. Gaultier has spent the summer period in lockdown training hard, and has also spent time with both the French team, and a couple of top ten players.
“Right now, the good thing is I am able to play every single day now. In the past, I would play one day and then the next it was painful and I am limping,” he explained.
Gaultier in action at the Tournament of Champions earlier this year
“Now I can live a normal life again. It will never be 100% because I have been through two surgeries. I have a hole in the bone, and I know it will never be as good as it was before.
“However, I have worked as hard as ever to make my life easier and not to be handicapped. That was my priority, and then to play squash again, and at a decent level.
“I was in France for the whole summer, training with the French boys, and now I am in Prague. I had Marwan [ElShorbagy] training with me for ten days, and now I have got Diego [Elias] with me as well, so I have a couple of great players to train with. I feel like I am back in good shape now, but let’s see how I can play against those guys in competitions again!”
The Frenchman currently resides in the Czech capital, where this week’s tournament will be held, and he is grateful that his sponsors have been able to put on the tournament.
“It is nice to have an event at home. It is one of my sponsors who have helped me. They have helped me to organise an event, because I am ranked nearly 100 in the world and I want to be back and making the draws in the big events,” he said.
“I have to go through the smaller tournaments again, and they have been very nice to help me to raise the prize money and to deliver a tournament, so we can get back into competition.
“Hopefully I can get some points and a few matches under the belt. It will be nice to play again after all this time off. I am looking forward to see how I can perform.”
The Expression Networks Nolan and Liam’s Tournament take places from September 10-13 in Prague, with the like of Gaultier and Germany’s Raphael Kandra taking part. There will be daily reports from the event on the website, as the PSA World Tour returns following it’s lengthy layoff.