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quash: Gaultier ends Matthew's British Open record

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Gregory Gaultier, the unpredictably brilliant former world number one from France, produced one of his finest performances to end the British Open defence of the record-breaking Nick Matthew.

The only Englishman ever to have won the sport's oldest title three times was beaten 9-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 in a semi-final which had a marvellous contrast of styles and a compelling mixture of good sportsmanship and feisty emotion.

Gaultier controlled the ball and his sometimes wayward feelings superbly, while Matthew became increasingly upset by the direction of the match, by refereeing decisions, and apparently also by his opponent, too.

The champion argued repeatedly in the final game with referee John Massarella, a fellow Yorkshireman, who twice told him to stop arguing and return to the court, and Matthew also had harsh words for Gaultier.

He appeared to call the Frenchman a cheat before Gaultier served at the start of the final rally, and later Gaultier had his own description of what had passed between them.

"He started from the beginning to try to get under my skin, playing a bit physical and also talking to me, but I didn't care what he was doing," Gaultier said.

"I was able to stay focussed which I haven't always done before. I was just trying to play my game."

"Instead of thinking about the finishing line I tried to stay calm and play the right shot at the right time, and play my tactics."

Gaultier knew that the cool court would provide him with opportunities to score well with his flicks, slices, and disguises and clever changes of direction - provided he was patient with his line and length before an opening emerged.

However he started slowly, losing the first five points, and then saw a five-point lead in the second game cut to three, when it seemed that the well-organised and tenacious Matthew might well prevail.

But Gaultier continued to choose his moments to unleash his attacking flair, and after he had moved into the third game on level terms he tore the match dramatically away from the champion.

By the fourth the outcome was becoming evident, so judiciously was the Frenchman selecting his attacks.

Although Matthew fought with typical obstinacy and courage, edging from 4-7 to 6-7, Gaultier ignored all distractions and completed his triumph with a penalty point as the champion mistimed a drive, obscuring his view of the ball.

It was a bitter conclusion for the 32-year-old Matthew, who in recent months has also lost his world title and world number one ranking.

"Nick really wanted to do well to help promote this pioneering event, and he will be disappointed with that as much as the result," Matthew's manager Paul Walters said.

Gaultier, who became the only Frenchman to win the British Open six years ago, now has a chance of doing it again, even though his opponent in the final will be the brilliant Ramy Ashour, who has gone a year unbeaten.

The top-seeded world champion extended his winning streak to 40 matches as he overcame James Willstrop, another former world number one from Yorkshire, 11-2, 11-9, 13-11, advancing his hopes of becoming the first Egyptian in nearly 50 years to win the British Open.

Earlier, world number one Nicol David earned herself a chance of a topical revenge with an impressively adaptive performance which carried her defence of the women's title into the final.

David's 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 win over Alison Waters earned her another meeting with Laura Massaro, whose two victories over the record-breaking Malaysian in Kuala Lumpur this year brought a shocked reaction and claims that the legend was "in the twilight of her career." Today the sun shone brightly on it.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130525/quash-gaultier-ends-matthews-british-open-record