Skip to content

Mostafa Asal and Gregory Gaultier in action at the 2020 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

Gaultier on Asal, Farag, ElShorbagy and More…

By RJ Mitchell

Gregory Gaultier has hailed Mostafa Asal’s breakthrough victory at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals as an “incredible performance” while also rating the 20-year-old as a real “contender” for the World Championships in just over a fortnight.

The 20-year-old became the second youngest winner of the World Tour Finals behind Ramy Ashour who claimed victory at the 2007 finals at the first time of asking by beating the great Gaultier himself in a tight four-game victory.

The ‘French General’ revealed that he has a special bond with Asal after taking him under his wing back in 2017 when the then-16-year-old Egyptian was desperate to learn from the former World Champion as he prepared for the 2017 El Gouna International Open, which Gaultier went on to win.

Gaultier, who has already arrived in the USA to begin his preparations for the World Championships in Chicago in a fortnight, also admitted that he will be fascinated to see how Asal’s breakthrough triumph at the Mall of Arabia will impact on his bid to claim a first ever world title in the Windy City.

“In 2017 when I won in El Gouna, Mostafa was actually training with me every morning on the glass court and that was kind of funny as he was a junior and not even on the PSA World Tour,” the Frenchman explained.

“I was on my own and looking for someone to hit with and Omar Abdel Aziz, the famous coach, gave me one of his juniors and it turned out to be Mostafa. He was just 16-years-old but already you could see that he was at a very good level and every morning he would come and train and practise with me until I won the tournament and that was really nice.

“Then the year after he came again once or twice and asked my advice, and it was a nice exchange, and it is pretty incredible how quickly he has improved and to be able to win the World Tour Finals at just 20 is an incredible performance!”

While Gaultier has no doubt that Asal must be viewed as a live and dangerous contender for the World Open, he believes that the young Egyptian’s triumph in Cairo last weekend could be a double-edged sword:

“Of course, Mostafa is now a contender for the World Championships, but the big difference is the World Series Finals were mostly best of three and there is a difference in then playing every match over best of five games at the World Open,” said Gaultier.

“Also, there is now an expectancy on Mostafa, he has won a major tournament with the World Tour Finals and people will have expectations and you don’t know how Mostafa will back that up. Maybe it will give him a boost and even more self-belief or maybe he will feel some extra pressure, nobody will know until we get to Chicago!

“But then he is just turned 20, so there is no pressure as he has nothing to lose. I remember when I was 20-years-old and everything you win at this age is a bonus as you are still learning, still developing and you are not the big contender who is 30-years-old and everyone is expecting you to win.

“But another factor is that all the big guns will be ready to peak for the Worlds, so it is going to be a very different tournament and a very long week if you are going to go all the way and win it.”

Cairo proved an unhappy hunting ground for Ali Farag who lost all three of his pool stage matches but as Gaultier revealed, the World No.1 can be forgiven if he was slightly distracted, as the Frenchman illustrated from his own experiences.

“For Ali, it is an important moment of his life as he is waiting for his first child. So, I don’t know if he will play in Chicago as his wife is supposed to be due to give birth around the time of the World Championships.

“This happened to me in Manchester in 2017 and my wife gave birth the day before the quarter-finals and I couldn’t fly back, and I managed to play and win the quarters against Paul Coll, but I was wrecked for the semis, with the sleepless nights and all the emotion of it.

“So, you just don’t know how all that will effect Ali and how it maybe was affecting him at the World Tour Finals.”

When it comes to the prospects of his old rival Mohamed ElShorbagy who lost last weekend’s final to Asal, Gaultier says the signs are positive that ‘The Beast’ is peaking at exactly the right time.

“I believe Mohamed has this goal in his mind to get back to No.1 and he has really played well in the last two tournaments in Egypt, and I know he lost in the final but I believe he has raised his game and it looks like he is now peaking for the Worlds.

“So, he has this objective to get back to World No.1 and so this means he has huge motivation and that will make him very dangerous at Chicago!”

When it comes to his own hopes of going deep in the draw the 38-year-old, who has climbed back up to World No.23 to defy time and injury, is quietly optimistic.

“We will see how it goes but I have come over to the USA two weeks before to train with Diego [Elias] at Boca Raton, I have come early just to take the temperature and to get some good games in before Chicago,” he explained.

“So, I hope I can perform, and I will see how my body is and how I will handle these last two weeks of training and of course I hope to do something good at the worlds. We will see!”

Join SQUASHTV and get closer to the PSA World Tour