Gaultier battles past Lake as El Gouna International gets under way
French veteran Gregory Gaultier battled to a 3-1 victory over World No.44 Nathan Lake as the 2021 El Gouna International Squash Open, PSA World Tour Platinum event got under way at the El Gouna Squash Complex.
Gaultier, the 2017 El Gouna champion, is making his first appearance at this tournament for three years due to a combination of injury problems and the COVID-19 pandemic – which resulted in the cancellation of last year’s event – and he looked to be making up for lost time as the 38-year-old charged into a one-game lead.
Englishman Lake rallied to take the second game, but the guile and determination of his more experienced opponent shone through as Gaultier closed it out by an 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6 margin to book his spot in the last 32, where he will take on the in-form Fares Dessouky.
“It felt a bit weird not to be able to do much for the past two days,” Gaultier said.
“I got to play a bit at 10pm last night, but it was not enough for me, I feel. I have been training very well, but at the start of the match I felt a bit flat. Still, he is a very strong and talented player, very good with the racket and he is a fair player.
“I enjoyed my match with him and now I’m playing Fares in the next round.”
Gaultier was joined in victory by fellow Frenchmen Lucas Serme and Victor Crouin as they enjoyed respective wins over Vikram Malhotra and Auguste Dussourd, while one of the biggest upsets in the men’s draw saw World No.49 Patrick Rooney defeat fellow Englishman Declan James.
Despite meeting in England Squash sanctioned events, the pair had never played on the PSA Tour, and it was 23-year-old Rooney who showed his credentials as one to watch with an impressive 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 victory over the World No.24.
Rooney will play Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann in the next round. Steinmann will compete in the second round of a Platinum event for the first time after his first round opponent – experienced Spaniard Borja Golan – succumbed to a leg injury in the second game of their match, with Steinmann leading at the time.
There were also wins for Steinmann’s compatriot – Nicolas Mueller – as well as the likes of former World Junior Champions Karim El Hammamy and Eain Yow Ng.
In the women’s event, Egypt’s Menna Hamed claimed her first win at a Platinum event as she overcame France’s Melissa Alves in a back-and-forth 53-minute battle.
The 23-year-old has been affected by the COVID-19 virus in recent weeks but put the lack of match practice aside to win 9-11, 11-6, 13-11, 6-11, 11-6.
“I had COVID three weeks ago and I was in bed for a week, so I had very little time to get prepared for the tournament,” Hany revealed.
“To add to that, Anna played really well, I was not expecting her to play that well and she gave me such a hard time on court. Today I was giving it 100 per cent despite having no expectation.”
World No.49 Hana Ramadan caused the biggest upset in the women’s event as she sent World No.18 Nadine Shahin crashing out courtesy of an 11-8, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7 victory.
The 23-year-old will play fellow Egyptian Yathreb Adel for the place in round three.
“We’ve been playing each other for such a long time, we know each other’s game pretty well,” said Ramadan afterwards.
“It was all about who was going to keep pushing and stay in the rallies until the end, and keep the focus and the game plan. I’m playing Yathreb [next] and we played such a long time ago, so I’m going in there with a blank page. I will put my game plan down there and go for my shots as much as I can without losing my concentration as she is a very skilful player.”
Elsewhere, wildcards Nour Aboulmakarim and Habiba El Dafrawy saw their tournaments come to an end at the hands of Farida Mohamed and Olivia Fiechter, respectively.