|Gaultier's title tilt
advances amidst controversy
Gregory Gaultier advanced his bid for a second major title in a
month by beating his friend and sparring partner Azlan Iskandar
in a finish full of controversy and noise.
The former world number one from France overcame the 13th-seeded
Malaysian 11-4, 11-7, 11-5 to reach the quarter-finals after the
match was brought to an end by Iskandar being penalised a
He had already received a conduct warning for hurling his racket
at the back wall. When Iskandar did it again after losing a
rally at 9-5 in the third game which put him match point down,
the referee called an end to proceedings.
The official may perhaps have been influenced by Iskandar’s
comment that “you disgust me” after his appeal against
Gaultier’s pick-up close to the floor was refused.
Iskandar continued with further loud comments as he left the
court, telling the referees “you guys were really, really bad
today, all three of you,” which may have brought the risk of
further disciplinary action.
Despite this it was a fierce-spirited rather than nasty match
between two players who trained together for a month in Malaysia
this year, and who clearly had plenty of respect for each other.
had a couple of harsh decisions and he should have let them go
instead of keeping them in his head,” Gaultier reckoned. “But
I’m trying to do that too - learn to forget bad calls - and I
can’t always do it myself,” he added with pleasing candour.
Iskandar’s bitterness may have been greater for losing in this
way immediately after a week in which he achieved a career-best
win, over Amr Shabana, the four-time world champion from Egypt.
Iskandar was also warned for bad language, though when Gaultier
swore because his racket frame broke this transgression was
That may have been because of the Frenchman’s ability to
generate laughter, which he did by saying “I can be a bit pissed
off you know” and ditching the broken racket in a bin.
However there is still a long way to go, and Gaultier may have
his work cut out against either of the two in-form Englishman
who joined him in the last eight - Nick Matthew, the World Open
champion, and James Willstrop, winner of the World Series
tournament in Hong Kong last week.
Matthew appeared to be regaining some adrenaline after the
predictable dip which followed his world title triumph nearly
three weeks ago – although he claimed that he wasn’t.
The Englishman’s 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 win over Cameron Pilley, the
13th seeded Australian, certainly improved his hopes of becoming
year-end world number one again and of doing so by winning at
least one of the last two major titles of 2012.
Matthew trailed only briefly, by 3-4 in the first game, and
although he lost a three-point lead in the second as Pilley
recovered to 5-5 and then 8-8, he was quick to respond to
moments of danger and was always the better mover.
He also responded sharply in some hard-to-hear verbal exchanges
between them, or “a bit of banter" as Matthew described it.
“There was a little bit of English-Aussie rivalry there,” he
Despite this Matthew still didn’t think wasn’t he was his
liveliest self again. “I was a little bit flat tonight,” he
reckoned. “That’s why I had a couple of chats with the referee.
I needed it to get myself gee-ed up.”
Whether Gaultier and Matthew get another repeat of the World
Open final will be decided by a quarter-final re-draw tomorrow
(Saturday) – the first time squash will ever have adopted such
In the mix will be James Willstrop, the winner of the World
Series event in Hong Kong last week, and Karim Darwish, the
former world number one from Egypt. But another former world
number one, Thierry Lincou, won’t be in it.
The 35-year-old Frenchman finished with the lion’s share of
applause and with a blue glove on his bleeding left hand after a
11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-2, 11-8 loss to Laurens Jan Anjema, the
tenth seeded Dutchman, in a 71-minute thriller.