Gregory Gaultier retires with an injury after a terrific start

James Willstrop of England earned it the hard way, as he broke down Gregory Gaultier of France with a solid performance and clinched the title in the $165,000 Punj Lloyd PSA Masters squash tournament here on Sunday.

Though it was a worthy climax to the last tournament of the season, there was a bit of disappointment for the appreciative crowd as the former world No.1 Gaultier hurt his left thigh in the unforgettable climax, in which the first game spanned an hour and Gaultier had converted the sixth game point to pocket it 21-19.

The Frenchman had to retire trailing in the fourth game, when he managed to win only 13 points in 38 minutes of play after a heady start in the first game. The 28-year-old Willstrop won 19-21, 21-8, 21-4, 6-1, when Gaultier retired, unable to continue any further, after having got a three-minute injury time with the trainer during the break after the third game.

Assured of top rank

The triumph, his third in a row after the big ones in Hong Kong and Kuwait, assured Willstrop the world No.1 rank, apart from $24,938 of winner's purse.

“I am sorry. I couldn't finish the match. I pulled a muscle. I didn't bring my trainer here. We are squash players, not tennis players. Congratulations to James. There was a lot of pressure on him. I tried my best, but that is the way it goes”, said Gaultier, who fought like a caged tiger inside the court and was all grace off it. Anyhow, it was a fabulous season for Gaultier, as he reached No.3 in the ranking, and collected $16,388 as his share.

Willstrop, who took some time to compose himself, was really thrilled to achieve the best moment of his career in front of his father and coach Malcolm Willstrop, brother David and other people dear to him.

“I am very emotional. I won the world junior title here. It has been great. It is a very special day for me. I have so many people to thank back home'', said Willstrop, quite thoughtful in thanking his opponent for his kind words of appreciation.

Willstrop richly deserved the title, for he stuck to the task, through the tournament, with a disciplined play. Having both the height and weight advantage, he also had the courage to withstand much pressure, particularly after that marathon first game that could have broken the resistance of any champion.

The Englishman knew that he had the reserves, and he opened up good leads in the next three games, even as Gaultier's challenge slowly withered away.

The result (final): James Willstrop (Eng) bt Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 19-21, 11-8, 11-4,6-1 (retd).

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