Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 2-1  [7] Declan James (Eng)  11-7, 9-11, 11-3 (48m)

Le Grand Retour…. The Great Come Back…

The Frenchman was ecstatic. Playing in front of his 7 month pregnant wife Laura former Pomportes (now a full time physio), after a couple of poor seasons due to recurrent injuries, Mathieu takes the 2018 out. How good it must have felt…

Again, a strange match I felt. Declan was in control at the start of the game, 4/0, only to be caught up 4/4. Nothing between them till 7/7, but it’s 5 points in a row (from 6/7 up) for the Frenchman, 11/7, 14m, to the delight of the French crowd, still around 600 people at past midnight (900 in the first 2 matches).

Another good start from the Champion, in the second, 2/0, same as the previous one, not a point between them up to 7/7, but this time, after some astonishing fast paced rallies, flamboyant squash from both, the English levels 1/1, 19m game….

The third, Mathieu took the sting out of Dec it seems. 4/0, 9/2, 11/3 in still 12m of hard work. Score doesn’t tell the whole story…

Still, I cannot help remember a counter performance from Declan in BlackBall in December last  year, against Mostafa Asal in BlackBall Cairo, where the junior (at the time) was carried by the crowd to victory. Today, Mathieu carried by the crowd in Nantes. Was it more mental than physical? Not sure but that’s maybe something he’ll have to think about…

Still, not taking anything away from the Frenchman, who displayed some sublime squash and determination tonight. Well deserved victory, to the pure delight of the organisers…

Mathieu

Declan is a really good player, and he is great when he is in front of you, especially when volleying. I was being really careful on his forehand volley and I tried to play a really tight game against him.

I don’t think it was a really bad two years with all the injuries because I learned a lot of things. I learned how to train differently and how to have a better strategy.

I also learned that the player I was that was top 10 is gone, and won’t come back. It’s like I changed body or something. I had to accept it, and then live with it. It’s a new person, maybe will be top 30, or whatever.

And a few people really helped me to understand that, and get over it. Laura my wife, and Renan Lavigne.

You can always find a solution to come back better. That’s what I learned. It was really special for me to train nine weeks in a row during summer. I remember the Play-Offs two months ago, I was in hell really, and I just found a way, and had 20 physical sessions on my own, found a new strategy, and I couldn’t be happier now.

I was ready for this tournament, it doesn’t mean that it won’t stop against Paul Coll in two days, but this victory is like a gift for all the efforts produced. And I’m just enjoying the moment.

We don’t have this chance to play in France that often, so when the organisers make it possible, we are so excited. Thanks to everyone that has helped to grow this event!