New Delhi: Third seed James Willstrop of England notched up his 14th victory in 15 meetings against compatriot Peter Barker, with a convincing 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 win in their last-four clash at the 2011 Punj Lloyd PSA Masters squash tournament on Saturday.
Willstrop also stretched his unbeaten run to 14 matches on the tour and will now take on fourth seed Gregory Gaultier of France in the final on Sunday, who earlier beat young Egyptian sensation Mohamed El Shorbagy 12-10, 11-7, 11-1 in the first semi-final.
Victory over Gaultier in Sunday’s grand finale would give Willstrop the number one ranking from countryman Nick Matthew of England, and also his second world series title in less than a month, following up on his success in Kuwait.
A contest which began with some brilliant shot-making from both players ended up being a one-sided affair as Barker’s challenge fizzled out against his more fancied opponent.
Delicate touch play marked with some brilliant drop shots by Willstrop proved to be the undoing of the fifth seed, whose game was too erratic at times.
Barker, who on Friday knocked out an injured Ramy Ashour, the top seed for the tournament, was ironically hampered with fitness issues of his own this time around and was struggling with his movement around the court.
"There were a couple of hard rallies which he (Barker) seemed to pull out of," said Willstrop at the end of the match.
Going into Sunday’s final, the world number two did not feel that his victories over Gaultier in their last two encounters gave him any kind of an edge when asked about his rivalry with the Frenchman, which is tied at seven matches apiece.
"I will go into the match feeling confident but not thinking that I have any kind of an advantage," Willstrop said.
Earlier in the first semi-final, Gaultier prevailed for the third time in as many matches against Shorbagy, who put out second seed Karim Darwish in an all-Egyptian quarter final on Friday.
The turning point of the match, which was played at a furious pace, came at 10-10 in the first game. Gaultier called for a video review after the point was awarded to Shorbagy, which subsequently led to the point being replayed.
The former world number one went on to win the next two points and with it the game.
There was no looking back for the Frenchman after that as he went on to enter the final without the loss of a single game.
Gaultier however was full of praise for his vanquished opponent.
"He (Shorbagy) is only 20 years old and is already a top five player. It is an unbelievable achievement and he is an amazing player," Gaultier said.