Matthew and Gaultier to Meet in NetSuite Open Final


[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [5] Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-8
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [4] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 11-6  56min

Gaultier Dispatches Shabana, Matthew Takes Out Barker in NetSuite Open Semifinals

Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, playing tight squash to take away the angles that are favored by Egyptian Amr Shabana dominated their three-game semifinal in the NetSuite Open Squash Championships in San Francisco. Gaultier’s court coverage neutralized Shabana’s attacking short game, and his length was just good enough to keep Shabana trapped in the back corners.

Two nights ago, Shabana looked fluid in his movement in the cold Bay Area conditions, but tonight he was a step slow, despite building a small cushion of 8-6 and 10-8 in the second game. Gaultier, showing patience and precision, scratched his way back to draw even at 10-all before finishing off the game 12-10.

It was more of the same in the third. Neither player appeared to be too eager to draw points out, but instead chose to attack short off the volley. An early lead by Gaultier to 3-1 was quickly erased and became a 5-3 advantage for Shabana in a single hand. From there, Gaultier drew even and they exchanged points to 8-all before Gaultier slammed the door, 11-8.

In 18 career meetings on the PSA Tour, Nick Matthew has dropped just a single match to his good friend and fellow Englishman, Peter Barker. That single loss came in the Hong Kong Open in 2010. Prior to that, Matthew had strung together eight-straight wins, and has since rattled off nine more. Make that ten after tonight.

The World No. 2 and second seed in San Francisco had little trouble securing the first two games, though he needed 32 minutes to do it. In both games, Barker held his own until the midway point then watched Matthew run away from him. Matthew played error-free and utilized his wing span at the mid-court to prevent Barker from ever getting comfortable—11-7 and 11-5 to Matthew.

The third, however, was totally out of character for Matthew who prides himself on keeping his errors to a minimum. But up 5-2, the former World No.1 committed three unforced errors and had three consecutive stroke decisions against him to carry Barker all the way to 9-5 in a single hand. Another pair of tins from Matthew in the front court after he had reached 6-9 and the game was Barker’s.

With renewed focus, Matthew quickly put Barker away in the fourth. Matthew punished Barker with pace and length, perhaps anticipating the downpour of rain that let loose in San Francisco just minutes after the match ended. Barker, too, apparently was ready to put an end to his nightmare fourth game but committing three straight unforced tins, handing Matthew the game 11-6.

With the bleachers covered for the night, crews will have their work cut out for them in the morning if the rain continues to fall. 

Tomorrow it will be the Frenchman Gregory Gaultier taking on Matthew for the 19th time on the PSA Tour, a rivalry in which Gaultier holds a slight edge, 10-8.

Final, Tuesday, 23 October 2012

[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 7:15pm

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