Reigning champion Gregory Gaultier dug deep to defeat Egypt’s Tarek Momen and reach the semi-finals of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Men’s World Championship at the Wadi Degla Club in Cairo today.
The Frenchman delivered a masterclass of a performance in the opening two games as he mixed up the pace well and utilised all four corners of the court to power into a 2-0 lead.
He also had the upper hand for the majority of a 26-minute third game, only to surrender three match balls after a litany of errors off his racket and allow world number 11 Momen to come out on top in the tie-break by a 16-14 margin.
Gaultier managed to reassert himself, though, in a fourth game that featured a series of high-quality rallies and ultimately claimed an 11-5, 11-5, 14-16, 11-8 triumph.
"He’s a really skilful player, he’s very dangerous, talented and he can put the ball away at any time," said Gaultier, who has reached the semi-finals for the fourth year in succession.
"If you don’t pay attention, you lose the big points - that’s what happened on the game balls.
"I didn’t play tight enough and I rushed myself.
"He’s talented and a hard worker.
"You have to remember that at the end of the day, in any kind of country, it’s two lions battling as hard as possible on the same territory.
"There’s only one winner coming out, but today I felt it was really tough."
Awaiting Gaultier in the last four is three-time world champion Ramy Ashour, who dispatched fellow Egyptian Fares Dessouky in straight games to move to within one win of a fifth World Championship final.
Ashour won the first game before prevailing 17-15 in an intense tie-break to put one foot in the semi-final.
Both players traded a series of high-octane blows in the third until an emotional Dessouky reacted to a referee decision by inexplicably conceding the match and walking off the court when on the brink of defeat at 10-8 down.
"That was very stressful, definitely," said Ashour.
"I was relaxed but I wasn’t there, I couldn’t find it.
"He was physical - I got into his physical game and things weren’t going my way in my short game.
"When things happen like that I find it a challenge.
"I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, but I find it a challenge because life is not fun, it’s supposed to be a burden.
"When things happen that way I accept it and I have to go through it."
Ashour, who lifted the sport’s most illustrious title in 2008, 2012 and 2014, will lock horns with Gaultier for the 33rd time on the PSA World Tour and currently leads the head-to-head record 25-7.
The other semi-final is due to feature world number one Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt and compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad.
Both penultimate-round matches are due to take place tomorrow with the final scheduled for Friday (November 4).