MASSIVE PERFORMANCE FROM THE ACROBAT
No doubt, absolutely no doubt in my mind of two factors: Greg has acquired – finally some discipline in his squash, thank you Thierry Lincou I guess, and this week, Greg was carried by the amazing support/crowd of Nantes Passionate spectators.
Like yesterday, the venue was packed, neophytes and squash specialists, volunteers (80 of them), parents, kids all over the place, une atmosphere bonne enfant as we say in French, a bit closer to El Gouna than the British Open, THANK GOD FOR THAT. Warmth, passion and squash are in my view a much better mix than trying to make our sport fit in a rigid structure it doesn’t belong to whatsoever, yet anyway. Maybe one day. But not now….
Greg started with power and intent. Attacking much more than I ever saw him do, but doing it in a control manner, not all over the place, not burst of madness and intense pace. No controlled and intense. And Chris was a bit slow of the blocks – I think the very very late finish didn’t help the English quite logically. We finished the match at past midnight whereas Greg finished around 8….
The 11/6 18m first game under the belt, it looked like it was going to be a simple affair for the Frenchman, but que nenni. Not whatsoever. Changing his tactics, taking the ball earlier and being more aggressive/proactive, Chris soon took the control of the T away from the French and we definitely has a match on our hands when the Englishman got the second in 20m, 11/8, from 10/6.
The third is the decider really. And Greg is flying in that one. A bit late arriving on court, I have the feeling is on the phone with the Guv Lincou in Boston. Whatever the man said, it worked. Greg is back on the same mental and physically strength than he attacked the math with, and the result is fast to come: 3/1, 6/2 7/4, 8/5. Chris is still in the rallies, still running and doing a lot of work, but you can see he is just a few tenth of a second late on the ball, cannot adjust his shots enough. Three tins in 4 points for the Englishman, that’s not his normal game… 11/6 in 18 long minutes still.
Greg is completely in control in the 4th, Chris is visibly tired, and the French crowd is literally breaking the place down, the thumbing of the feet is making the glasscourt vibrate!!!! 10/1, 11/2, 7m last game.
The crowd goes absolutely wiiiiiiiiild, and the Frenchman keeps his title, his biggest ever I’m told…. Impressive performance, impressive event, impressive crowd.
Today, I felt really good from the beginning.
I think the key today was my length, I had a great length from the beginning and my drives were working pretty well. Similar to yesterday, my tactics were from my coach Thierry Lincou who was in Boston. We talked before the match and between games, it was not easy. I think that my length was the key today: my drives were working pretty well today, I found my length first, kept the same rhythm and I was in front of him all match.
I was a bit nervous in the second game, and I think, maybe one or two years ago, I wouldn’t be able to keep the same concentration like I did today. But thanks to Thierry’s advice, I was able to give a little boost of concentration in the third and get in front of him again.
I was more patient today, I have been working on my length, and now I’m using my physicality not only to defend, but to attack, taking the T quicker to take the time away from my opponent, shortening the rallies and therefore allowing me to last the whole match saving my energy.
And you could see in the second, when I lost my length, he was all over me. Now I attack, but with discipline, with more thoughts and structure. I’ve worked on this a lot since last year, so today I’m really happy that the work is paying off.
I need to thank my coach Thierry Lincou of course, and my fitness coach, Thomas Adriens, even a little wobbly moment, we are back on track, and we really worked so well together this summer, I’m glad that it’s showing on the court. And having Thierry’s support, even from afar makes me feel I’m part of a team. And that makes the whole difference.
I want to thank my parents who have done so much for me, over the years. They rarely came on the tour as they were working so hard at the club in Valence, but now they sold it, they are going to be able to join me in San Francisco in two weeks, then in NY maybe. And it will be great for them to finally see what’s it’s all about…
It’s my biggest title on the Tour, so it’s a great day. Everything worked, the crowd was a big part of the story here in Nantes as well. So rare we get to play in France in such conditions, this is ENORMOUS!!!
RACHAEL NEVER SAID DIE
I am so impressed by both players, who I discovered on this event, and so happy I did. Both lovely ladies, different techniques but running and fighting both to the last breath.
Those ladies are credit to squash, and I know they both were worried of looking not too good on the glass court: be reassured, you girls looked stunning and a great advert for our sport.
Hana gets a better start today, 3/1, 5/3 and looks very assertive but Rachael very quickly finds her depth and lethal forehand boast – I remind you the English is lefthanded – to come back at 5/5, 7/7. She takes the lead for the first time of the match 8/7, and will carry it to game ball, 10/8.
The battle is fierce, long rallies with both attacking and retrieving, excellent squash, but it’s Hana that will win the following 4 points and gets to 12/10 in 9m.
The second game is all about Hana, she is so early on the T, and I feel that Rachael is a bit tired, both mentally and physically from the effort in the first game, thinking she was going to take it, and losing it so closely. 11/4 despite a few huge rallies at the end, 7m.
The third is a credit to the English young lady, she basically atomised the young Egyptian, never let her get into the game, too strong, too fast and hitting too hard.
It looked like we were going to get in a huge match at the point, especially when Rachael kept the lead in the 4th, 3/1, but two factors, Hana had rested in the 3rd and I think that Rachael huge battle yesterday and late finish probably played a role: she started making a few uncharacteristic errors in the middle (crucial mentally) of the game, 5/5 to 7/5 for Hana, who I think took confidence at that point, and even if Rachael stayed in touch 7/8, a tin allowed the Egyptian to widen the gap, 10/7 match ball.
But again, what a fighter that Rachael, saving two match balls and threatening the young girl.
Maybe the lack of experience at that point was going to make her stumble and force a decider? But no, with a stunning length on her return of serve, she just closed the match, 10m last game, 11/9….
The crowd went willlllllllllllllld!!!!!
I think I was more nervous today than yesterday. I think the pressure was on me, and you can see in the third how I lost my concentration completely, that was a big disappointment for me. I didn’t play my best squash, I have to keep on working, but all credit to Rachael, she really played so well, she never gave up, came back so strong in the 3rd and 4th, and even the last two points, she was fighting sooo hard.
I still managed to win, which is good I guess! The atmosphere was just amazing, it’s my first time playing in front of such a crowd, plus a French crowd. I have a special bond with France, in Alexandria, I did all my schooling in French, I have my baccalauréat S, so wining here is very special for me.
I hope my coaches are proud of me, like I said yesterday, thanks to Karim Shohayeb, Ahmed Shohayeb and Captain Walid, but also my coaches in England, Richard O’Connor, Mark Fuller, Gordon my fitness coach, and of course the University of Nottingham who has been helping me so much. And of course, my dad and mum, who are always there supporting me. Merci à tout le monde.