Three-time Open de Nantes Champion Marche relishing unique atmosphere

Three-time champion Gregoire Marche is looking forward to competing at this year’s Open de France – Nantes 2019 Presented by Tailor Capital when the biggest PSA event in France takes place from 9th to 14th September at the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne.

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The Open de France – formerly known as the Open International de Squash de Nantes – has this year upgraded to a PSA World Tour Silver event after featuring on the PSA Challenger Tour in 2018 and will use a best-of-three game format up to and including the quarter-finals, before reverting to the traditional best of five format for the semi-finals and beyond.

Marche won the title for three years in a row from 2015 to 2017, but last season crashed out at the quarter final stage to eventual champion Declan James. However, the Frenchman insisted he has been working hard in the off-season to be ready for his home tournament next month.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s only three weeks away now,” said the 29-year-old.

“The end of last season was pretty good for me, I played some good squash, had some good wins and finished at No.16, which is my highest ranking. It’s a different feeling for me, and I decided especially this year to have a big push this summer, and have a tough training preparation.

“I started on 1st July, so it’s a long time, more than two months to get ready, and I feel like I’m getting ready physically, I just need to play more matches and get more squash specific stuff.

“My training has been good, I’ve been doing some different things for more than a year now, and it’s started to pay off.

“It’s never easy to play the first event of the season because you don’t know what to expect from the other players. Last year I didn’t play that well against Declan in the quarters, but in the years before I enjoyed it. It’s close to home, there’s a bit more pressure on you, but at the same time it gives you more motivation.”

The French tournament is renowned for its innovative locations and spectacular shows which accompany the squash and this year will be no different, with the tournament being held in the picturesque Chateau des ducs de Bretagne.

“I enjoy playing the new venues every year, they do a great job to organise the event, it’s not only about squash, it’s also about putting on a real show for the people who don’t know squash at all, and in Nantes, squash is getting really popular,” Marche continued.

“Even though it’s the same city, it’s a different atmosphere every year and they try to do something besides squash. Last year it was the music with the opera, the year before they had all the light shows.

“People come to watch the squash, but it’s not only about that, and I think the crowd are really happy about this. It’s great to see different things, as a player you just think about squash, but when you watch the other games and relax, you can enjoy it a bit more compared to other tournaments.”

Marche has become the new men’s French No.1 since compatriot and former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier sustained a knee injury at the 2018 US Open, and Marche admitted it brings a different kind of pressure.

“It’s a different feeling for me to be the French No.1 and top 16 in the world. I have been working with my mental coach to become more relaxed and more confident in my squash. That’s what I’ve done for the past year, but it’s not easy every day.

“Some days it’s easy to do what you’ve learnt, but other days you feel stressed and under more pressure. I have the keys now to relax as much as I can. It’s more pressure but I like to be in that place and it’s more fun sometimes.

“It’s not easy to control, but that’s what I’m training for every day and we’ll see how it goes in Nantes.

“I played pretty well from January to the end of the season, I had some good points, but not until January last season, I didn’t play very well.

“I have nothing to lose, I’m going to stay relaxed and if I play well then the ranking is going to go higher of course. I’m not thinking too much about the ranking, my goal is to reach top 10 because I know I can do it, it’s really possible.”

The Open de France features equal prize money for the first time, with $147,000 up for grabs across both draws. La Maison du Squash will host round one matches, while round two matches will be split between there and the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne. The Chateau des ducs de Bretagne will host all matches from the quarter finals onwards.