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Gregory Gaultier celebrates after beating Iker Pajares Bernabeu

Qatar Classic Round One: Gaultier Battles Past Pajares

Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier came through a four-game battle against Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu to book a mouthwatering second round fixture with CIB PSA World Tour Finals winner Marwan ElShorbagy in Doha, Qatar.

Gaultier lost to Pajares when the pair met back in December at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship, which was Gaultier’s first tournament back following a 14-month spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury.

Gaultier has been handed a wildcard spot for this tournament after his ranking – which is now up to No.56 – saw him miss out on qualifying for a place in the draw and he came back from a game down to complete a 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 victory in 57 minutes.

Pajares did come back from three game balls down to take the opening game and that fighting spirit was on display throughout the match as he made Gaultier work hard for every single point.

The Spaniard went in short often, but Gaultier soaked up the pressure before unleashing winners of his own. A crucial period in the match saw Pajares lead 9-6 in the third game only to see Gaultier overturn that deficit with five points in a row, each winner being greeted by a cry of triumph from the 37-year-old.

And it was a lead he would not relinquish as he kept Pajares at bay in the fourth to ensure that he will take on World No.6 ElShorbagy for the first time since 2017.

“I’m very thankful to the Qatar Squash Federation for giving me the opportunity to get the wildcard to play,” said Gaultier, the 2011 Qatar Classic champion.

“After being out for 14 months, my ranking went from No.1 to No.600, so I’m very grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to play otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take part in this event.

“I remember the crowd [in 2011] was amazing, they were cheering for me more than my opponent and it was a huge moment. I was so happy to get that title and I always play well here in Qatar. I’ve been coming here for 20 years, I missed the last two because of my injury, but I’m very happy to be back here.

“There are a couple of things I need to work on still, I’m still lacking a few things since I came back from injury, but I’m still happy with the way I move and there is no pain in my knee, so I’m glad.

“Marwan has been playing well at the last few events, he even came to Prague to train with me in September. He’s been improving a lot and it’s going to be a tough match, but I’ll do my recovery and I’ll be up for it.”

[WC] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 3-1: 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 (57m)

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