Shabana and Gaultier Rule the Night in SF

  • 10/21/2012 3:17 pm
Shabana and Gaultier Rule the Night in SF

For the eleventh time since 2004, England’s James Willstrop and Egypt’s Amr Shabana squared off in a PSA quarterfinal, with Willstrop holding a slight edge (6-4) before tonight’s opening match on the spectacular McWil Courtwall glass court at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, California.

In Philadelphia a week ago, Shabana looked as lean and fit as he’s been in the last five years. And it showed tonight as he took out the No. 1 seed in three straight—11-8, 11-8, 11-9.

The chilly San Francisco air favors the Egyptian’s attacking style, mixing knee-bending boasts from the back and mid-court with inch-perfect length. When asked about the conditions, Shabana said, “I actually don’t like the cold. It does help with control of the court, but I’m not used to it and worry about getting injured. So I never stop moving around.”

Willstrop just never seemed to get going. After dropping the opener with several errors and strokes against him, Willstrop did pull himself together early in the second game while building a sizable lead, 7-2. But Shabana simply kept making the court longer and wider, while also drawing gasps from the capacity crowd with eye-popping court coverage.

In essence, this was Shabana’s match from the start. Willstrop appeared to be suffering from a cough, though earlier in the day he was excited to get going.

In the second quarterfinal, Gregory Gaultier of France hammered away at Egypt’s Tarek Momen to run away with the first two games. Relentless length on both sides of the court, made possible by the supreme quickness and balance of Gaultier who seems to be able to reach any ball on the court.

In the third, Momen played a more free-flowing game, attacking short—particularly on the left side—with positive effect. Drop exchanges were going Momen’s way for the duration and he cut Gaultier’s margin to 2-1.

In the fourth, Momen again ran away with the game while Gaultier became frustrated and made a handful of errors that he can be prone to make when he becomes distracted by referee decisions with which he disagrees. But down 10-6 and staring straight into the headlights of a deciding fifth game, the wheels came off for Momen.