Nick Matthew & James Willstrop Secure Semi Final Spots in New York
England’s Nick Matthew and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier ensured that the semi-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions live up to the event’s title after prevailing in the final two quarter-finals of the first PSA World Series event of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York to set up an all-champion line-up.
Defending champion Matthew reached his sixth successive semi when he defeated seventh seed Karim Darwish 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 in the first quarter-final – before 2009 champion Gaultier secured his fifth semi since 2006 after defeating Mohamed El Shorbagy 11-9, 13-11, 13-15, 11-4.
It was a vintage performance from Matthew as the world No2 prevented Egyptian Darwish from finding the openings from which he could unleash his shot-making prowess. Keeping the ball deep to the back corners and using a quick attacking volley, the Englishman never gave Darwish a chance to gain any momentum.
Having elected to not to get on court at all on his rest day since the second round, Matthew looked fresh and eager from the very start of the match. The 32-year-old from Sheffield raced out to an 8-2 lead, and won the game 11-5.
In the second, the lead changed hands a few times, but Matthew broke away to reach 10-5 before winning 11-7. From one-all in the third, Matthew never relinquished the lead and closed out the match with an 11-8 win.
“I am pleased with my momentum in the tournament,” said Matthew. "But as you move further along each round, it gets tougher and tougher. Sometimes when you have played well, you can take it for granted. I certainly have to stay on my toes mentally for whoever my next opponent is.
“Hopefully they will knock ten bells out of each other,” added Matthew, with a wry smile, referring to the Gaultier/El Shorbagy match that was just going on court.
“In fact, the semi-final between Gaultier and the sixth-seeded Egyptian did at times resemble a slugfest,” said tournament spokesman Beth Rasin. "It was a fast and furious start from the very first point of play. Both men were hitting the ball quickly and with tremendous pace.
“Gaultier, however, managed to use the corners of the court more effectively than his opponent, and made El Shorbagy cover a lot of court.”
The Frenchman, known for his mercurial temperament, demonstrated patience and mental fortitude in the fourth game: Continuing with his game plan to contain El Shorbagy’s potential power and explosive strength, Gaultier earned his semi-final berth with an 11-4 fourth game victory.
While Matthew and Gaultier will line up in one semi, the other will feature top seed James Willstrop, the 2010 champion from England, and world number one Ramy Ashour, the 2011 champion from Egypt.