Gaultier Aims For Third NetSuite Title; Willstrop Reaches Fortieth Career PSA Final in San Francisco

Gaultier (r) against Elshorbagy.
Gaultier (r) against Elshorbagy. (image: squashpics.com)

French World No. 2 Gregory will aim for his third-career NetSuite Open title in his fourth NetSuite Open final Saturday after a three-game semifinal victory against Egypt’s Marwan Elshorbagy Friday night at Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco.

The thirty-three-year-old top seed controlled the first two games of his semifinal against Elshorbagy. The four seed was on the verge of forcing a fourth with a game ball in the third at 10-9, but Gaultier clawed back to efficiently close the match 14-12 in forty-five minutes.

“I’m glad I got my speed back, I’ve been struggling this month and I wasn’t feeling great,” said Gaultier.

“I haven’t been enjoying my squash and I haven’t been having any feeling when I’ve been playing. I managed to find motivation again because I had a bit of a break at home. I stopped playing for a week and did other stuff to stay away from a squash court because I was getting sick of it. I tried to stay positive mentally, I’ve had a lot of friends helping me out to lift me back out when I was down. I’m happy with the way I was moving again.”

Gaultier will face Wild Card James Willstrop for the thirty-eighth time in their career in the final.

“James is playing much better these days, he’s moving better and he’s really accurate. I’m going to be aware of all these things, it’s a new match, a new day, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m just going to do the best recovery right now and I’ll hopefully be very sharp for tomorrow for the last push.”

Willstrop (r) against Elias. (image: squashpics.com)
Willstrop (r) against Elias. (image: squashpics.com)

Former world No. 1, Willstrop will make his fortieth career PSA final appearance after a clinical three-game semifinal victory over qualifier Diego Elias.

In what was their first career match, Willstrop’s experience shone through as he defeated the nineteen-year-old Peruvian 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 in thirty-nine minutes.

“I think the game at the highest level is massively subtle,” said Willstrop.

“We’re all constantly working to change things up, it’s not just about hitting a drive anymore, it’s about hitting a drive in 10 different ways. We’ve probably got [four-time World Champion] Amr Shabana to thank for that sort of thing.

“I had to be very, very accurate, the court is so unforgiving, it does make for some quite fast-paced, entertaining squash, but it’s not easy when you’re on there.”

A hip injury, sustained three years ago, and a bout of illness has seen Willstrop slip down the World Rankings to World No.18 and struggle to reach the latter stages of the world’s biggest events.

But, with a clean bill of health and his unfaltering control of a squash ball behind him, Willstrop is delighted to be back on the biggest stage once more.

“It’s been a long recovery and you don’t know if you’re going to reach that level again. I think the key is that I love playing squash and I’ve always found a great sense of enjoyment on the Tour, probably more so now then at any other time of my career.

“It’s great to be back in a major final like this and it’s good to know that it’s still in the bank.”