R3:  Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-1 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 11-3, 11-7, 7-11, 11-4 (68m)
Would you believe Greg and I didn’t always see eye to eye. When he was younger, I didn’t care for his attitude sometimes, and we had a few heated discussions over the years. But slowly, like everybody else on the Tour, I got to know Greg more and more and like everybody else, I just ended up love the boy to bits.
And don’t tell Greg, he wouldn’t like it, but Paul had a HUGE respect for the Old Timer today. I could see how hard he was trying not to bang into him, especially after he got tangled in his wondering leg not once, but twice! First at the start of the first game, then in the middle of the second.
Greg is like a formula one car. If you have a 205 Peugeot from 1995, it will keep running with a screw driver and scotch tape. But a Ferrari.. takes a special balance between all the parts and if one part is slightly out of place, out of tune, the engine coughs. Well, that’s my Greg.
So, the first game, Greg was truly worried about his leg and was afraid to bend it. And it was worrying to see him not run. But I know my Greg. I know how his body can recover quickly. Ask Mohamed Shorbagy (smile). And it did.
After a short first game – in relative terms of course, 12m for a 11/2! – the game was on for the second one.
Yes, Greg made far too many errors, 6, but he was asking the good questions to the New Zealander, who bless him was going round Greg making his best not to break the Priceless Porcelain Vase in the middle of the Court. I swear, Paul had so much respect, he got actually penalised twice with no lets just because he was going around…
Down 8/3 in that second, he had a burst of rage when at 4/8, Paul run into him again. He was fine, believe me but the shouting was so intense, the ref felt obliged to say “Mr Gaultier, it was an accident”… And although Greg lost that 20m game 11/7, I could see how he was trusting his body more and more.
And the Class Act came back on court. With an incredibly controlling tactic, Greg planted himself on the T, and just played rocking doll, you know, the ones you can take out of balance but always come back straight. Paul was trying so hard, but he was in the Greg’s net of length, width and perfect balance between front and back.
2/2, Greg a bit ahead, then 5/5, again Greg the nose in front. The crowd is going wild, seriously, they love a good come back, 8/6. Some incredibly long rallies there, I swear. Greg is out there, on fumes, like a boxer on his 15th round, still standing, and he pushes, and gets errors out of Paul, that just cannot contain him anymore, and it’s 11/7 for Greg in 21m. Only 1 error from Greg the whole game, 3 for Paul.
And as I watch Greg suffering to breathe but walking out straight off court, I just cannot hold my tears anymore. For me, it was “La Petite Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin », that little goat that fought against the wolf all night and only accepted defeat as the sun rose. The class, the elegance, the panache that Greg showed in that third game, should be taught in Squash Camps.
Well the story ends with the death of the little goat. And like the little goat, Greg kept fighting till the last rally, even at 5/1, even at 8/3, Greg was still pushing… 11/4 in 12m.
I stood, clapping my Pépère, my Old Man, as those two embraced with respect shining all the way through France and New Zealand.
Greg: I was so bad.. he locked my leg in the first game, I just couldn’t bend the leg at all for the first game, when he was doing a boast, I couldn’t pick it up, and when I started to warm up again, he did it again in the second game!
But after that, I decided to go through the pain, and not let something like that ruin my matches.
It’s very hard mentally as I have to battle so hard now to come back at my level and play against players I used to despatch easily. But that’s life.
I need a few more matches like that, with that kind of intensity, to get the “coffre”, lungs, again, to get into the rhythm again. I didn’t play a competitive match for 6 weeks, no top players to battle with recently, and I feel I miss it.
Paul: “That was one of the best highlights of my career. I look up to Gaultier a lot and that moment at the end when he just gave me a pat on the head there, that was huge for me. I loved every second out there. I went and trained with him early in my career, he taught me a lot and he taught me some more lessons today. Enjoyed every second of that.
“The way he controlled me in that third game. He slowed it down but he slowed it so accurately and turned me. I just codlin inject the pace that I wanted to and it made me go into a negative state where he picked me off. It was a good lesson, and a class performance to be out there with him.
“It is going to be another tough battle. [Marwan ElShorbagy] is a different player to Greg just now, but as good as any out there on his day. It will be a tough battle as it always is, but I am really looking forward to going out there tomorrow. I loved every second tonight and I can’t wait to be out there dancing.”