Defending champion Gregory Gaultier had to draw on all of his experience on day two of the 2018 El Gouna International as he battled through to a 3-1 victory over Egyptian maverick Mazen Hesham to move through to the second round of the PSA World Series tournament taking place on the banks of Egypt’s Red Sea.
35-year-old Gaultier, who beat Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad in last year’s final, had the better of the first game as he went a game ahead until Hesham, known on the tour for his shot-making talents, played some measured and controlled squash to draw level after taking the second.
While Hesham’s incredible racket skills were still on show throughout the match, the World No.30 played with a newfound maturity as he rattled the Frenchman, with only a late charge from Gaultier at the end of the third game seeing the World No.3 avoid going 2-1 down. Gaultier pressed home his advantage in the fourth though as Hesham began to fatigue and he closed it out 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 11-4 to reach the last 16.
“I knew it was probably the toughest first round and Mazen, when he is on fire, you have to be on your toes,” Gaultier said afterwards.
“It’s coming from everywhere and he’s very talented. The weather tonight made it difficult to control the ball and he made a couple of mistakes because the ball is moving around, so I just tried to be as accurate as possible.
“I lost my concentration a bit at the beginning of the third but I managed to push myself and go for every single shot to make him tired. It paid dividends in the fourth game and I’m really glad I managed to move that well in these hard conditions.”
Gaultier will meet England’s Chris Simpson in round two after the World No.40 upset Gaultier’s compatriot, Gregoire Marche, while Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez was on red hot form as he defeated World No.10 Mohamed Abouelghar.
Abouelghar was never able to knock Rodriguez out of his rhythm and the World No.16 swept to a comfortable 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 victory to set up a second round clash with Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, who defeated English qualifier Joshua Masters.
“I was very happy with my performance today, it was the cleanest of the year,” Rodriguez said after the match.
“I’ve played Mohamed three times in four years and he’s very skilful and very talented. I think I was very focused today, I was patient, attacking and very accurate, which was the key for winning the match.”
Meanwhile, there will be two German players in the second round of a World Series tournament for the first time in PSA World Tour history after World No.39 Raphael Kandra defeated Hong Kong’s Max Lee to join compatriot Simon Rösner in the last 16.
He’ll face the in-form World No.5 Tarek Momen in the next round, while there were also wins for World No.3 Ali Farag and former World No.5 Borja Golan.
World No.2 Raneem El Welily got her tournament under way with an exquisite showing against rising Malaysian star Sivasangari Subramaniam that saw her topple the 19-year-old.
12 months after losing to fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini in the final of the PSA Women’s World Championships, El Welily put in a sublime performance that saw her rattle of winners to set up a mouthwatering second round fixture with England’s Commonwealth Games silver medalist Sarah-Jane Perry.
“I know Siva, she’s a very good player and I know she has more than what she showed today,” said El Welily.
“She has very good qualities and is very talented. She’s different than other juniors that you see and I expected a tough battle today. I’m definitely happy to be through in three.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be another battle between the two of us [El Welily and Perry], we’ve had close matches and many 3-2s. I’m just going to relax tomorrow, we’re playing in two days so there’s still so much time to prepare for it.”
Perry, meanwhile, showed no signs of fatigue after her exploits on the Gold Coast as she stormed to an 11-1, 11-5, 11-3 victory over Egypt’s Nadine Shahin in just 17 minutes.
“I was really pleased with how I played at the Commonwealth Games, I was obviously very disappointed not to win the final, but Joelle played better in the end so she deserved it,” said Perry.
“I took the positives out of it because I played some really good squash and I carried on where I left off really. It’s taken me a couple of days to get used to the courts here, I played doubles last week so the court felt a bit claustrophobic the first time I hit on it.”
The woman who beat Perry in the final of the singles event, New Zealand’s Joelle King, overcame England’s Fiona Moverley in four games and she will line up against Hong Kong’s Annie Au in the last 16.
Elsewhere, World No.3 Nour El Tayeb joined husband Farag in round two after she defeated France’s Coline Aumard in a commanding 3-0 win and she will clash with Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy after she overturned a 2-0 deficit to defeat United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford.
World No.5 Nouran Gohar and England’s Alison Waters also claimed wins over Rachael Grinham and Mariam Metwally, respectively.
The second round of the El Gouna International begins tomorrow (April 22) and glass court action, which will be shown on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only), begins at 18:30 local time (GMT+2).
Results – Men’s First Round (Bottom Half): 2018 El Gouna International
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 12-10, 11-3, 11-9 (33m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt [Q] Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8 (54m)
[Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-0: 11-4, 14-12, 11-5 (39m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [WC] Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-3, 11-8 (33m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (33m)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt [Q] Joshua Masters (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (33m)
[Q] Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7 (47m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 11-4 (60m)
Draw – Men’s Second Round (Top Half): To be played April 22nd
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Declan James (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [Q] Lucas Serme (FRA)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Draw – Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half): To be played April 23rd
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Borja Golan (ESP)
[Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
[Q] Chris Simpson (ENG) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Results – Women’s First Round (Bottom Half): 2018 El Gouna International
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-0: 11-3, 11-2, 11-4 (20m)
Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-2: 10-12, 9-11, 15-13, 11-9, 11-8 (67m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-7 (37m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (26m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt [Q] Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-1: 11-4, 10-12, 11-5, 11-5 (35m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt [Q] Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 17-15 (35m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [Q] Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-0: 11-1, 11-5, 11-3 (17m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-4 (21m)
Draw – Women’s Second Round (Top Half): To be played April 22nd
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
Joey Chan (HKG) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
Draw – Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half): To be played April 23rd
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Annie Au (HKG)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)