A twelve hour day of squash in Grand Central Terminal saw Gregory Gaultier end Nick Matthew’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions career in one of the matches of the tournament, while Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford and Amanda Sobhy exited the tournament in the second round Monday.
Matthew made his fifty-fourth and final appearance in Vanderbilt Hall Monday night, and went out with a bang in what was perhaps the most entertaining match of the tournament so far against long-time rival Gaultier. The first game set the pace as Matthew pulled out the first game 14-12 after thirty-five minutes to the entertainment of the packed gallery. Gaultier leveled in the second 11-6, then pressed on to fight off a late Matthew lead in the third and earn a 2-1 advantage, 12-10.
The French world No. 1 continued to pile the pressure on thirty-seven-year-old Matthew, who continued to stay in the grueling rallies, until a few errors earned Gaultier the match 11-7 in the fourth after ninety-two minutes.
“We’ve been playing each other for 20 years, since we were kids, and he definitely made it tough today,” said 35-year-old Gaultier. “He was dominating the centre of the court with his accuracy and made it very hard for me, he was hurting me on there. I just tried to dig in and retrieve as much as I could to keep the rallies going and make him work as hard as possible. We both gave everything. Of course we are rivals but we are friends as well and have a huge respect for each other. Playing here in this atmosphere is amazing and we both emptied the tank—hopefully I can recover well for my next round match now.”
Gaultier will face Simon Roesner in the semifinals after the German defeated Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller in three games to reach just his second career World Series semifinal—and first in New York City. The second men’s semifinal will be determined in the two remaining quarterfinals Tuesday evening.
Eight of the ten matches on Monday saw the women’s second round play out with all eight seeds advancing to Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Team USA’s Olivia Blatchford nearly pulled off a career upset against world No. 8 Sarah-Jane Perry, but the English seven seed fought off four match balls in the third game to come back and win the match in sixty-six minutes.
“Any time you come back from 2-0 down you’ve got to be pretty pleased with your persistence and effort level,” Perry said. “Especially here, playing someone of Olivia’s caliber in front of her home crowd with everyone supporting her. Sorry to let the crowd down. It wasn’t my best squash, but I kept fighting and every match ball I just told myself to focus and just play another point, it didn’t matter what the score was.”
In her first tournament in ten months following a torn Achilles, Amanda Sobhy’s run came to an end against U.S. Open champion Nour El Tayeb in three games. Despite the loss, Sobhy, the former world No. 6, took positives in finally returning to the PSA Tour.
“I know I lost three love, but I thought today was better than yesterday,” Sobhy said. “Hopefully with the more matches I play, the better I get. It’s a different level from practicing, playing on tour with the real thing. It’s no easy feat playing Nour on any day, let alone at eleven at night. I just appreciate everyone who stayed. I know it wasn’t an epic battle like the match before, but your support truly means a lot to me.”
“It feels great to be in the quarterfinals,” El Tayeb said. “When I saw the draw at first, I thought ‘I do not want to play Amanda in the second round’. When I came back from injury, I played her and she bageled me in the first game so I told her I would try to repay the favor. She’s so good, I could still feel she’s not 100% yet, but I’m very happy she’s back. She’s an amazing player. She’s an amazing personality on and off the court. For us to have her back is a real privilege.”
Defending champion Camille Serme and four seed Laura Massaro both needed five games to reach the quarterfinals following tough challenges from Donnay Urquhart and Victoria Lust, respectively.
Tuesday’s matches will see the remaining men’s and women’s quarterfinals play out ahead of Wednesday’s semifinals.