Agence France-Presse CAIRO: Gregory Gaultier earned himself a showdown with Amr Shabana, the world champion from Egypt, on Monday and made sure that two Frenchmen reached the semi-finals of the World Open for the first time with a display almost as brilliant as the nearby illuminated pyramids at night. The European champion also signaled himself as a genuine world title contender with the way in which he beat Ramy Ashour, the world junior champion from Egypt, in straight games. Gaultier had to overcome both an 18-year-old giant-killer playing the best squash of his life and an unashamedly partisan crowd, as well as the awesome sense of occasion which the legendary site created. But he only briefly wavered during his 11-10, 11-9, 11-2 win, when he allowed Ashour back from 4-10 to 9-10 in the second game, with the noise of support swelling. Otherwise he was superbly quick, treacherously brilliant with sudden, low, change-of-pace drives and, above all, mentally strong. He was on fire and had nothing to lose and the crowd gave him a boost, so it was twice as hard for me, said Gaultier. But I stayed pretty relaxed. I just concentrated on playing against Ramy and nothing else, and I controlled the game pretty well. I have become pretty strong mentally. I have been working hard since the beginning of the year to do this, and I believe in myself much more. Allowing Ashour to save those five successive game points in the second game happened, Gaultier admitted, because he relaxed too much. But once he had converted the sixth game point, with some superbly light-footed containing which made Ashour overstretch himself and concede a penalty point, the match changed character. In the third game Gaultier was completely on top. The other Frenchman, Thierry Lincou, learnt that his semi-finals opponent will be David Palmer, and that for the second match in a row he will be involved in a battle of former world champions. Lincou ended the great career of Peter Nicol of Britain in four games on Sunday night but he may have an even tougher task against Palmer, who looked impressive in his win against his friend and compatriot, Anthony Ricketts. The second seeded Aussie beat the fifth-seeded British Open champion 9-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-7, with a display of well-balanced and well-judged attack which suggested Palmer is in his best shape for a couple of years. Ricketts pinched the first game with the help of some surprising, wrong-footing disguises, but was gradually outplayed after that, although there were plenty of long rallies. Ricketts may have been bothered by a troublesome arm, but Palmer s performance announced himself as very serious challenger for Shabana s title. We were pretty disappointed to draw each other in the quarter-finals, said Palmer. And he didn t seem to be hitting the ball so hard, so maybe there was something wrong. But I was pleased that I managed a solid performance. I ve sometimes been struggling to finish matches off and a few demons go through my head when it gets close, admitted the 30-year-old, who has been looking at webcam pictures of his baby daughter for inspiration. I feel I only have a couple of years left, so I feel I have to take my chances when I get them, Palmer concluded ominously.