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Punj Lloyd PSA Masters   12-18 Dec 2011  New Delhi, India  

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TODAY in Delhi - Sunday 18th, THE FINAL

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
           19/21, 11/8, 11/4, 6/1 rtd (99m)

Willstrop makes it three in a row in Delhi
and gets a Christmas bonus too ...

England's James Willstrop made it a hat-trick of World Series event victories as he came from a game down to beat Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in the final of the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in New Delhi, India.

What a first game it was though, 58 minutes of tense, often brutal play with rarely more than a point between the pair of them even before the extended extra points, but it was Gaultier who finally took the lead after almost an hour.

Willstrop, undeterred, made the better start in the second, and as he took the final point to level the match 11/8 Gaultier looked to be the one suffering physically.

He was, as Willstrop took the third quickly, and despite receiving treatment in the interval Gaultier could hardly move in the fourth and it was no surprise when he conceded at 6/1 down.

So, not only does James Willstrop make it an unprecedented 15 matches and three major titles in a row - after victories in Hong Kong and Kuwait - he will also be the new world number one on 1st Jan 2012, taking over from fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew, who had to sit this tournament out through injury.

No wonder James - who coincidentally won the world junior title in India - commented "it's been an amazing day for me ..." 

"Winning the PSA Masters is a massive big deal. We've been proud to play this event for three years now - we've been extremely well looked after. It's been a very enjoyable event to play in - so thanks to everybody involved, especially Punj Lloyd.

"There are so many people back home to give thanks to - but I think might avoid doing that as I'll just forget some very important people.

"It's a very special day for me. I can't really believe I've played and won this match - and I'd like to thank Greg for the great spirit in which it was played.

"It's special to have achieved this here with so many close people here, including my girl-friend Vanessa, a fantastic and loyal friend; my Dad, Malcolm, who's given me an incredible amount of attention since the start; and my brother David, the endless sessions and work we've put in together; and Mick (Todd).

"To have had them here has made such a difference. If I'd done it here alone on this day - and Greg talked about not having his team with him here, but I've been lucky as we planned this - it's just the most special thing: they've given me so much!

"The day is so special - it wouldn't mean half as much if I hadn't had these people behind me."

 

Malcolm on the final

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Some extras from Jozzah in Delhi

Malcolm on the final  ... photos by Jozza

With Nick Matthew sidelined through injury ,Amr Shabana withdrawn, there were four of the top six contending in Delhi.

When Ramy Ashour found himself injured again in his match with Peter Barker and Karim Darwish losing to Mohammed El Shorbagy, there were two still standing, James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier, arguably the two in form players on the world tour.

No-one, though, could have been prepared for what was to happen in the first game. Willstrop began the better, leading 4-1,but from 5 all there was scarcely a point between them. Heavy rallies, as you would expect and extreme quality, a tiebreak seemed inevitable, but that was only half the story; game balls to each in turn, both realising how crucial it all was, perhaps Gaultier the more so;16 all, then 19 all, no end in sight.

Then Gaultier, triumphant, won it 21-19,the longest game in modern times it seems.

Willstrop, though, cool and composed amidst the usual Gaultier distractions, did not look at all fazed, as he stepped out for the second. Attacking he went to 4-1 and 7-3 ,a couple of flukes keeping Gaultier in touch. But Willstrop won the game 11-9 and the advantage appeared to be with him now, an advantage that was confirmed in the third as Gaultier's resistance lowered and he attempted to break Willstrop's concentration and rhythm by slowing everything down, especially when receiving serve. He took an injury break and there was little doubt now the end was nigh.

At 6-1 down in the fourth he shook Willstrop's hand and the Punj Lloyd World Masters champion and new world no. 1 was overcome with emotion as he embraced his girlfriend Vanessa Atkinson, brother David and manager Mick Todd.

As the only one of the top six never to reach one, this was a special moment for him.

Preview:

Two opponents who are no strangers to each other will contest the final of the last World Series event of the year in Delhi. 

James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier have been playing each other since 1999 - well, before that probably, but it was Gaultier who won that first competitive meeting, the British Junior Open U17 final.

The Frenchman went on to win all five of their junior meetings, and the first senior one too, in the 2004 European Individuals.

Willstrop started to get the wins though, and as seniors they stand tied at 9-all, although those junior wins put Gaultier 14-9 ahead overall, and in PSA meetings it's 8-7 to the Englishman.

Probably more relevant is that this will be their 6th meeting of 2001, all of them at later stages in World Series events (technically the World Open isn't World Series, go figure). Gaultier won the first three, Willstrop the last two.

And of course, Willstrpop went on to win both of those tournaments, in Hong Kong and Kuwait, and is he makes it an iunprecedented hat-trick today he has the added bonus of becoming World Number One for the first time come the new year.

Gaultier has been at #1 of course, and he wants to get there again. Whether his own ambition or the urge to deny James is stronger is an unknown, but what we do know is that we're in for a hell of a final.

As they say in Delhi ... stay tuned ...

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