31-Oct, Round One:
Gaultier a world contender again?

Richard Eaton

Greg Gaultier, the former world number one from France who won his first major title for two years in Doha last week, believes he is playing well enough to challenge for the World Open again.

The man from Aix-en-Provence talked as good a match as he played in overcoming Dylan Bennett of The Netherlands 11-4, 11-3, 11-6, in the first round.

Gaultier relaxed, forthright, and very creative and afterwards spoke of the galvanising effect of winning the Qatar Classic. “It was like a renewal for me, not winning a big major for two years - since I was world number one," he said.

“It was a big boost to my confidence. I really needed it, to come back strong. I went there feeling I could do something, and I feel that it’s on the cards this time. I have the same feeling this week. It’s psychological – I feel it’s going to come together.”

If Gaultier is right, he may even perhaps be able to atone for his misfortunes in the memorable 2006 final in Giza, where he held five match points and lost to Australia’s tough guy, David Palmer.

We may know a little more about the likelihood of that after Gaultier’s next match, which is against a surprise opponent, Cezar Salazar, who overcame Adrian Grant, a top 20 Englishman, by 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 8-11,11-5 in a 68-minute struggle which was one of two matches which hinted at how the sport is progressing in Mexico.

The other was the one in which Amr Shabana beat Eric Galvez 11-8, 11-6, 11-6. Afterwards the four times former world champion from Egypt and was asked about his fitness, which has been a problem in the last couple of years.

“It’s as good as it’s possible to be," he replied, buoyed by his success at the US Open.

"It actually gives me a fair chance to play. It just means I can play and try.”

The 32-year-old Shabana felt he could learn something from the fluid way Galvez moved. “He actually made me feel like an uptight person, and I had to think about myself,” Shabana volunteered. “I thought to myself: I have to start moving.”

Ramy Ashour, another of the leading Egyptian contenders, had more difficulty. He appeared with both hamstrings bound in red tape - a legacy of injuries which caused his retirement in Qatar - and had to save two game points in the second game against Campbell Grayson, a New Zealand qualifier.

The second seed may be some people's unofficial favourite for the title, but his performance suggested only that he could do enough to win. Whether he can do more, perhaps even he does not know at this stage.

Earlier Saurav Ghosal, the Indian number one, found himself in the second round quicker than expected, after his David Bianchetti talked and talked - and talked - his way to a long drawn out disqualification.

The Italian was so upset by a refereeing decision at 12-all in the second game that his words eventually brought him a conduct penalty point. Unfortunately this discipline increased rather than stopped the flow of abuse, and so a conduct game was awarded against Bianchetti.

That enabled Ghosal to leave the court, caused the referee to ask the entrenched Bianchetti to do the same - repeatedly - and brought a full quota of media from their lair out on to the balcony in readiness for the third game.

Maybe this was what Bianchetti wanted, for his outpourings resumed more venomously still, both in English and Italian, and with such easily translated abuse, that before the contest could resume, a conduct match was awarded to Ghosal.

At that Bianchetti left the court quite readily, and with a curious smile, as though some kind of hidden objective had been achieved.

Also from Richard Eaton:

Matthew Aware ] Nicol Wants More ] [ Gaultier a contender again? ] Thierry Goes On ] Unusual start for Nicol ] Thanks for the Memories ] The Great Illusionist Escapes ] Ashour Retires ] Gregory's Third ] Matthew makes it Two ]

Matthew Aware ] Nicol Wants More ] [ Gaultier a contender again? ] Thierry Goes On ] Unusual start for Nicol ] Thanks for the Memories ] The Great Illusionist Escapes ] Ashour Retires ] Gregory's Third ] Matthew makes it Two ]

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