New Delhi: It was an evening of many delights for 28-year old Yorkshireman James Willstrop, who became the number one ranked player in the world by lifting his maiden Punj Lloyd PSA Masters trophy at the Siri Fort Complex on Sunday.
In an emotionally draining final which witnessed a record 59-minute first game, the longest in the history of the sport, Willstrop prevailed when number four seed, Gregory Gaultier of France retired in the fourth game with the scoreline reading 19-21, 11-8, 11-4, 6-1 in favour of the English player.
Apparently Gaultier suffered from a recurrence of the hip flexor injury in both legs which he sustained during his quarter final clash against eight-seed LJ Anjema.
Willstrop also bagged his third successive World Series title having triumphed in Hong Kong and Kuwait, thereby stretching his winning streak to an amazing 15 matches in the process.
The tempo was set right from the world go with enormously lengthy rallies in the high intensity clash with neither player giving an inch.
In the first game both players had five opportunities each to clinch it before Gaultier finally did so with a gutsy drop shot that Willstrop could do nothing about.
The Englishman though made sure that there was no repetition of the drama in the second game surviving a late charge from the Frenchman before closing it out 11-8.
The contest was a superb spectacle of some great touch by the two stars and the angles that were created by the use of the entire length and breadth of the court.
It was a different story however in the third game with an error prone Gaultier hitting the tin board below on a regular basis, at the end of which he took a three minute injury time-out.
That turned out to be the beginning of the end for the fourth-seed who forfeited the match shortly afterwards to bring the 99-minute tussle to an anti-climatic end.
‘’ It’s a shame that I could not finish the match,’’ Gaultier said at the end of the final.
‘’I wanted to win the title; I like the Indian people, the support that I get here. It’s like playing back home,’’ he said.
Willstrop on his part was elated with the win which took him to the top of the rankings chart.
‘’It is very special for me. I have got good memories of India having won the world junior title here,’’ he said.