Gregory Gaultier (FRA) def Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-6 11-2 11-9 (37-min)
Last season, Gregory Gaultier regained the World #1 ranking while on a tremendous hot-streak. After falling in the Tournament of Champions Final last January, Greg won a remarkable 27 consecutive matches. He captured the Swedish Open title, then three successive World Series titles at the Windy City Open, the British Open, and El Gouna International.
He wasn’t done. He picked up two more titles at the Grasshopper Cup and Bellevue Classic before the start of the World Series Finals in Dubai.
27 consecutive wins is a ridiculous amount of competitive time on court. Six titles in-a-row can have both a physical and mental toll. While the rest of the field may not be achieving the same level of success, they’re exerting far less stress on their bodies, with several days off between events. To go on a four month win-streak means you’re getting very little downtime for recovery.
While a crazy accomplishment, the run did in fact take a toll on Greg before Dubai’s World Series Final. He lost all three of his matches in the round robin stage, and hasn’t played a single PSA Tour level match since – including the new season’s first World Series event at the US Open. The Qatar Classic is his first PSA tournament back on tour.
Welcome back Greg
Cesar Salazar is an extremely talented opponent. The 29-year-old just won his 6th PSA Tour title last week at the Chicago Open and comes into this year’s Qatar Classic with a career-high ranking of #19 in the World. Earlier this month, he defeated former World #1 James Willstrop, becoming the first Mexican player ever to reach the Round of 16 at the US Open.
Of all players to draw first, in his comeback tournament, Gregory Gaultier drew a physical opponent with confidence and momentum. He admitted after the match: His expectations weren’t too high.
Despite dizziness, Gaultier won it in three
Not surprising, Gaultier was actually clumsy during the first few points. The glass court triggered a touch of vertigo, but muscle memory kicked-in. He offered up 10 clean winners to take game-1, with an additional 9 winners in the second. In game-3, Salazar made an early run and found himself up 8-4, poised to get back in the match; however 8-points later, Greg was easily on to Round-2. Truly an impressive win for a champion who hadn’t graced the glass court since June. (FULL MATCH RECAP)
Greg, after the match: “I tried to play simple squash, not to go too crazy with my movement, just building my confidence up. I need more matches like this…”
Gaultier’s Staggering Numbers
Gregory’s career stats are mind boggling. He’s one of the most decorated athletes on tour. A 3-time World Series Finals Champion, he now owns 15 career World Series titles, 40 PSA Tour titles overall, and has held the World #1 ranking for a combioned 16-months. He’s a 5-time World Championship Finalist, and won the biggest purse in the sport back in 2015. Though his expectations are “realistic” this week, the 2011 Qatar Classic Champion is still among the favorites…even after a 4-month absence.