After finishing as runner-up four years in a row, world No3 Gregory Gaultier is determined to go all the way in next week’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open, the sixth PSA World Series event of the year which gets underway at the Hong Kong Squash Centre on 25 November.
Founded in 1985, the 27th edition of the event reaches its climax with semi-finals and final staged on a brand new all-glass show court erected at the Cultural Centre on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.
This year’s Hong Kong Open, one of the most popular events on the world tour, has been chosen as the inspection event for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to determine which of the shortlisted sports should win a place on the programme for the 2020 Olympiad.
After reaching the finals of the last three PSA World Tour events in which he competed, Frenchman Gaultier is enjoying one of the most successful periods of his illustrious career. Runner-up in the PSA World Series US Open in October, Gaultier went on to win the NetSuite Open in San Francisco and the Abierto Mexicano de Raquetas in Mexico – both PSA International 75 events.
“It’s one of the best-run events on the Tour – Hong Kong is definitely one of my favourites,” said the 29-year-old from Aix-en-Provence. “It’s a wonderful event for the IOC to see, especially with the court overlooking the water front.
“Squash is growing all the time – with players from more and more countries doing well now. It’s good that not just a few countries dominate, like it used to be.”
Gaultier, who recently became a father for the first time, feels that his new son Nolan has helped take the pressure off his squash. “I am much more relaxed today – I don’t put so much pressure on myself.
“Win or lose, you come home much more positive. I am not as intense as I used to be. Squash is no longer my only priority.”
The Hong Kong Open is followed shortly afterwards by the Qatar PSA World Championship in Doha. “I want to keep winning – I want to keep the dynamic that I had in the USA and Mexico.
“I want to do better than before,” concluded the French ace, clearly still hurt by those four second place finishes in Hong Kong.
Third seed Gaultier is drawn in the lower half of the Hong Kong Open draw and, after opening his 2012 campaign – his tenth in a row since 2002 – against a qualifier, the world number three is scheduled to face England’s world number two Nick Matthew in the semi-finals.
Favourite James Willstrop is the defending champion. The world number one kicks off his defence against England team-mate Adrian Grant and is expected to face Egyptian Karim Darwish in the other semi.
Hong Kong Open 1st round draw:
1 James Willstrop (ENG) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Borja Golan (ESP) v Qualifier
8 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Qualifier
6 Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Qualifier
Daryl Selby (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
4 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Leo Au (HKG)
3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Qualifier
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Qualifier
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Qualifier
5 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
7 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Qualifier
Tom Richards (ENG) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)