05-Nov, Semi-Finals:
Gregory earns chance number three
Richard Eaton

Gregory Gaultier, the former world number one from France, earned another chance of achieving his life’s ambition when he reached the World Open final for the third time.

The 28-year-old from Aix-en-Provence beat James Willstrop, last year’s World Open runner-up from England, by 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 with a semi-final performance which suggested he may be playing well enough to atone for losses in two previous finals.

Gaultier was relaxed and confident, his movement was superb, and he avoided the clusters of errors which occasionally disfigure his exceptional talent.

Only when Willstrop led 6-2 early on did it seem that the Englishman’s long reach and excellent racket skills would cause trouble. There was also a brief spell in the middle of the second when Willstrop fought hard to get back on terms, but thereafter it was steady progress for Gaultier.

“It was a bit of a fight in the first game and then we both relaxed, because I don’t think we want to be aggressive on court – it’s just a better game,” Gaultier said.

“He’s not like that and I don’t think I’m like that,” he added rather mysteriously, perhaps a reference to suggestions that a bit of sledging had passed between the two of them.

Asked about his chances of atoning for the five match points which got away against David Palmer in the 2006 final in Giza, and the straight games loss to Amr Shabana in the following year’s final, Gaultier offered reasons for being hopeful.

“I am quite mature now, even if I am 28,” he claimed. “Is this how old you were when you were world champion?” he asked his interviewer Vanessa Atkinson, the women’s World Open winner in 2004.

“At 26, 27, 28, everything comes together," Gaultier went on. "With me, mentally was how it happened. I worked with people, and I have managed to stay more calm on court.

“But of course I talk a lot on court, and this is my character – you are not going to change someone like this.”

The first sign that Gaultier was getting on top came with a sequence in which he played a forehand volley kill, a forehand cut-off volley winner, and then a forehand cross court length winner, to advance to a 7-5 lead.

Despite a brief altercation with the referee at the end of that first game, he was soon motoring to leads of 3-0 and 7-3 in the second game, sometimes making Willstrop twist and turn uncomfortably.

Once Willstrop lost his racket and fell heavily and on another occasion both men fell and ended sitting on the court, looking at each other, eventually grinning.

After that Willstrop’s challenge began to fade, and when Gaultier clinched the second game with a drop shot to a treacherously clinging line, his progress to victory accelerated the third.

Gaultier now plays Nick Matthew, the first Englishman ever to win the World Open title. Matthew moved to within one win of retaining it when he overcame Karim Darwish, a member of Egypt's world title winning team, by 11-9, 11-9, 11-1.

"I had a little bit of luck to win the first two games narrowly like that," said the Yorkshireman who combined a supremely disciplined performance with the courage to go for openings when he had carved them out. "I feel like I have done half the job, but now feel I will go into the final in decent shape."

Gaultier said of his showdown with Matthew: “I wish him luck - but I wish myself more luck,” and then claimed: "I made two finals before, but I have been taking it one match at a time this week and didn’t think about the title at all.”

Then Gaultier paused, thought, and changed his mind: ”Sometimes I see myself like that,” he admitted, gesturing as if to hold up the trophy.

Earlier Nicol David produced a superbly-controlled win over her longest lasting rival to move within one win of a record sixth women’s title.

The phenomenal Malaysian did that with an 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 win over Natalie Grinham, the Australian turned Dutch international whom she beat in the excellent 2009 World Open final mot far away in Amsterdam.

David pulled back calmly from a deficit of 7-9 in the first game, using her athleticism and well-ordered driving to keep the rallies as long and arduous as possible.

“It just feels like déjà vue all over again whenever we step on court,” said David, a fellow resident of Amsterdam. “It was a really close first game, which I didn’t want, so I am just pleased to have won 3-0.”

She now plays Jenny Duncalf, the second seeded English woman, who won 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 against Samantha Teran, the first Mexican ever to reach a World Open semi-final.

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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