Willstrop-Gaultier set up a cracking final in Punj Lloyd Squash

New Delhi: France`s Gregory Gaultier downed an erratic Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy while England`s James Willstrop overwhelmed compatriot Peter Barker in the semifinals of the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters Squash here Saturday.

Gaultier ended Shorbagy`s challenge in the competition, beating the 20-year-old 12-10, 11-7, 11-1 in the first semifinal at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. Willstrop bettered his 13-1 record against Barker with a 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 win in 29 minutes.

The final scheduled Sunday looks to be a gripping affair considering both Gaultier and Willstrop have had intense matches in the year and a "great rivalry" that emanated from their playing days in the junior circuit.

The Gaultier-Shorbagy match was expected to go down the wire after the Egyptian played the match of his life to upset his mentor Karim Darwish in the quarterfinals Friday. The World No.3, however, put up a flawless performance as he ran away with the match after a tight first set.

Both players engaged themselves in long rallies from the first point and showed enterprise to go for the kill in case of an opening. Gaultier got most of his points through well-placed smashes from both sides while Shorbagy hit an array of nicks and triple boasts much to the delight of the crowd.

Shorbagy was first to get the set point on 10-9 but an unforced error off his forehand gave Gaultier a lifeline. The three-time World Open runner-up made no mistake in the next two points, drawing first blood with a back hand nick.

Shorbagy lost focus from there on and some questionable calls in the second set saw his game dipping down further.

Gaultier was relentless in the third, taking a 9-0 lead and Shorbagy could only heave a sigh of relief after winning his first point on his opponent`s match ball.

The Frenchman praised Shorbagy for an impressive tournament and said the World No.8 will very soon reach the top of the rankings.

"It has been a good year for me especially after a bad start," said Gaultier, who reached his fourth final of 2011 here.

"The first set was really close and after that I was able to control the match. Shorbagy told me that he could not maintain the pace with me after that, whereas I got my range going for most part of the match. Having said that, he is a great player at 20 and I am sure he will be number one in the future," he added.

Gaultier faces a familiar opponent next in Willstrop, who did not put a foot wrong against Barker.

Willstrop is also looking forward to playing Gaultier, who share a 7-7 head-to-head record going into the summit clash.

"It is always great to play against Greg. We have our rivalry going on from the days we played in British Junior Open. I like to play the top guys and I am glad I face him in the final tomorrow," said Willstrop, who could become the new World No.1 by winning the title here.


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