Day 4. Quarterfinals. Gregory Gaultier

Andy Taylor. Host. Qatar Classic Squash Championship. Day 4. Quarterfinals. Gregory Gaultier

Host. Andy Taylor. Qatar Classic 2017

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[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) def Diego Elias (PER) 11-2 11-7 11-5 (44-min)

This morning, 20-year-old Diego Elias woke to the news that he’d climbed to a career-high ranking of World #14. Celebration was out of the question. He had a huge opportunity before him. In only his 3rd career World Series Quarterfinal, Diego had a chance to take-down the World #1 – a rusty opponent who’d played only two Tour-level matches since the PSA World Series Finals back in June. He’d faced Gaultier twice before and had yet to win a single game. The timing couldn’t have been better to turn that around.

Diego Elias’ Road to the Quarterfinals
Gregory Gaultier’s Road to the Quarterfinals

Somehow, despite being away from the sport for nearly four months, Gregory Gaultier was finding ways to win. In his first match of the Qatar Classic, he battled through a touch of vertigo as he got acclimated to the glass court. In the Round of 16, Zahed Mohamed pushed his atrophied stamina to the limits, but his experience and composure earned the win. Remarkably, the 2011 Qatar Classic Champion has reached the Quarterfinals without losing a single game, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s been easy.

Gregory Gaultier. A legendary run through the gauntlet

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 combined 16-months. He’s a 5-time World Championship Finalist, and won the biggest purse in the sport back in 2015.

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 picked up two more titles at the Grasshopper Cup and Bellevue Classic before the start of the World Series Finals in Dubai.

By the time Dubai rolled around, he was depleted. He lost all three of his matches in the round robin stage, and stayed away from the tour for nearly four months.

Diego Elias. A Puma on the Rise

It has been a productive season for the Peruvian Puma. He started his 2017-18 campaign with a Quarterfinal run at the China Open, reached the Semi’s in San Francisco, then played in his second career PSA World Series Quarterfinal at the US Open. Last week, he took US Open Champ Ali Farag to a fifth and deciding game in the Semifinals of the St. George’s Hill Classic.

Last year, in his Doha debut, he took defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy the distance in Round-1. On Sunday, he defeated former World #1 and 2015 Qatar Classic Champion James Willstrop to reach the Round of 16 for the first time.

Gaultier vs. Elias: Experience equals domination

We’ve all blown big opportunities. It’s part of the human experience. It’s how we grow. With time and perspective, this will be a motivating loss for Diego Elias.

Unfortunately, Diego simply couldn’t get any traction against the 2011 Champion. All credit to Gaultier, he was moving quicker and cleaner on court compared to his first two matches. Gaultier took the first in no time 11-2, then the second 11-7. In a blink, Diego’s huge opportunity faded.

Up 2-0 in the third, Diego injured his upper thigh lunging for a Gaultier drop in the corner. After an injury timeout, the Peruvian Puma played on, but he was clearly hobbled. Diego managed to earn three more points, but by then Gaultier was well on his way to a quick 44-minute victory. (FULL MATCH RECAP)

Gregory Gaultier: I moved better today than I did in my first two matches, I think that having those matches opened my lungs, which I needed after that injury. But in the third, Diego hurt himself going for one of my shots and it was disturbing of course…I know too much how it feels to be injured, I just hope it’s not too serious.

SF: Gaultier vs. ElShorbagy XXI

With the win, Greg set up his 21st meeting with the Beast of Alexandria, Mohamed ElShorbagy. Gaultier has won 11 of their 20 matches. While ElShorbagy won easily last June at the PSA World Series Finals, Greg was banged-up from his 27-match win-streak. Only his 4th match of the new season, most (including Greg) expect a similar result.

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