Gaultier’s hat-trick

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Gregory Gaultier be­came the old­est win­ner of the Bri­tish Open since Hashim Khan in the late 1950s when he beat Nick Matthew, the old­est fi­nal­ist since that era, in a four-game fi­nal on Sun­day.

The 34-year-old French­man’s 8-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 win over the 36year-old English­man earned him his third Bri­tish Open ti­tle and made him the old­est ever World No 1 on a rank­ing sys­tem which be­gan in the 1970s.

“There is a lot of emo­tion in win­ning such an old and great ti­tle as this,” said Gaultier.

“I am near the end of my ca­reer — six months ago I was think­ing of hang­ing my rac­quets up, but win­ning this will give me ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion.”

Gaultier de­stroyed op­po­nents so ef­fi­ciently in the ear­lier rounds that Matthew came to the fi­nal hav­ing com­peted for two-and-ahalf hours longer than his ri­val.

Laura Mas­saro be­came the first English woman in 58 years to de­fend the Bri­tish Open twice when she beat sur­prise fi­nal­ist, Sarah-Jane Perry, her sev­enth­seeded com­pa­triot, by 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6.

It was Sarah-Jane’s first World Series fi­nal and by far the big­gest fi­nal of her ca­reer, whereas the 33-year-old Laura was a for­mer Bri­tish Open cham­pion, a for­mer world cham­pion, a for­mer World No 1, and was play­ing her fourth Bri­tish Open fi­nal in five years.

The dis­par­ity in ex­pe­ri­ence was soon ap­par­ent.

The fifth-seeded Laura had also beaten the two top Egyp­tians, Nour El Sherbini and Ra­neem El Welily, and was the more con­sis­tent player, more of­ten keep­ing the ball tight, and wait­ing more pa­tiently be­fore at­tempt­ing at­tack­ing for­ays which in­volved risk.

She was not though as com­fort­able as she looked.

“I tried to re­lax, or be as re­laxed as I could be, but I was never one hun­dred per­cent com­fort­able,” she ad­mit­ted.

“Sarah-Jane has im­proved a lot this sea­son, and she changes di­rec­tion (of her shots) so much, so I’m thrilled to have won this again.”

With Eng­land pro­duc­ing three fi­nal­ists for the first time in 26 years, the home coun­try’s ap­par­ent de­cline seemed at least to have been granted a bright sun­set.

It was the first time in four years that Egypt — which has three of the top five men in the top 10, and three of the top four women — had failed to pro­duce a fi­nal­ist.

How­ever, the out­comes may be very dif­fer­ent at the World Cham­pi­onships at El Gouna on the Red Sea in a fort­night’s time. AFP

Gregory Gaultier of France de­feated Eng­land’s Nick Matthew to se­cure his third Bri­tish Open ti­tle on Sun­day.

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