France’s former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier is through to the second round of the CIB Black Ball Open after a comfortable 11-7, 11-6, 11-2 victory over Scotland’s World No.22 Greg Lobban.
Gaultier made his competitive return to action 12 months ago at the Men’s World Team Championships in Washington following a career-threatening knee injury and the ‘French General’ showed how much he has progressed with a strong and clinical performance today.
PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 14, 2020
It was the first PSA meeting between the two players and despite a good patch in the first game, Lobban was unable to make any headway against an in-form Gaultier, who comfortabtly settled into his rhythm to take the straight-games victory.
He will face either Peru’s Diego Elias or England’s Declan James in the next round.
“I’m playing Greg, who has been climbing up the rankings the last two years,” said Gaultier to the SquashTV cameras afterwards.
“He is close to top 20, I knew it was going to be tough. I’m just on my way back, it’s like a year that I’m back playing and I started to feel things slightly better and a lot of improvement. I feel really good physically, I’ve got to do a lot of exercise for my knee to be able to lunge properly. I need to gain speed still, even if I’m getting older, my speed was my main strength.
“I feel much better, I have had a good five-week block of training back home after Qatar. There have been little things I was working on like reaction and speed and I feel much better now.
“It’s a lot of mobility [for my knee]. I have to work on my hip and my ankle to get as much as flexibility as possible and then there’s less impact on my knee. I have to strengthen all of the area around my knee, like my quads and hamstring, calves – there’s still a difference between my left leg and my right leg. I’m getting there, I’m very happy with the way I’m moving again.
“I don’t want to get too high expectations, the last two-three weeks there has been a little improvement, Diego [Elias] has been training with me the last month and it has been good for both of us. I think he learned a lot from me in terms of discipline and the way I train, and it was good for me.”
Lobban said of his own performance afterwards: “It would be silly to complain about the referee, although it was probably not a good day for him. But there were so few decisions, four, five decisions are not going to make a difference when I just couldn't get close.
“My length was just not good enough. I had a clear game plan that I couldn't execute because he didn't let me. I tried different things but then, you start doubting yourself when it's not working and against somebody that good – no chance.”
Gaultier also paid tribute to Enzo Corigliano, who passed away yesterday, in this interview with the tournament website:
“Yesterday we just couldn’t stop talking and thinking about him with the players. When I heard the news, I was shocked, stunned, and when I saw it everywhere on the social media, I realised it was really happening.
“The emotions got the best of me yesterday, and at 6pm I was in my room. And from 5am this morning, I was thinking about him, not able to sleep, with images coming back to my mind. I knew him since he was that small, I spent two weeks in New Caledonia with his parents a few years ago. And the last time I saw him, was in AIx at our Training Centre, last summer.
“And today, I just couldn’t focus on my match. I had thank God some messages this morning that made me able to think about the match, to actually play for him, with him, in his memory. And so I got in my bubble, and was able to perform.
“It’s a hearbreaking news, really. I cannot even imagine what I would feel like if something happened to my sons. I don’t think I could survive it. So all my thoughts to his family, we see Jenny on the French events all the time, she is always doing so much for the sport, for us all.”
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-2 (37m)