[2] Paul Coll 2-1 (Nzl)  Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 13-15, 11-3, 11-9 (63m)

That moment where Superman broke the French Crowd’s Heart….

It was a bit fascinating I have to say, and I’m not sure many people saw it. That moment where Paul Coll, gentle superman, found his All Blacks Rugby Player/Warrior roots, a bit of a Hulk moment, that started with a racquet in the face (accidental, I want to stress) from Mathieu, and a Kiwi pushing away his opponent a bit more vividly that he normally does.

And then I saw gradually the All Black shining through, getting greener and greener (if you never seen a Hulk episode, you have no idea what I’m all about, tough!), and even from 8/4, 9/5, I had that feeling that Paul wouldn’t be denied. And as he closed out the match, having scored against all odds 6 points in a row, the roar and pose he displayed to celebrate was one that furiously reminded me the All Black Haka….

Rewind.

Mathieu had had a great run in the event, ousting Simon the round before in a magisterial manner, but a few – and I was one of them – thought that Paul was going to be a step too high for the coming back to form Frenchman.

One element I omitted: the French crowd and the extraordinary atmosphere that Nantes creates, transforming the French players in Egyptians at home. As in, superpowers….

A good start from Paul, 3/1, only to go point for point from 4/4 to 7/7. 9/7 for the Kiwi, and we think that’s it. But an uncharacteristic error and a stroke, and it’s game ball Mathieu, 10/9. The crowd is frantic, and the ground is trembling! And despite Paul having 2 game balls, it’s the Frenchman that clinches the opener in 27m, 15/13 on his 3rd attempt.

Paul comes back fuming and plays his best squash. And after a few rallies, completely dominated scorewise, Mathieu decides to let it slide, recovering for the next game, 7m, 8/0, 11/3 Paul.

The third is close up to 2/2, 3/3. Mathieu is truly dominating the Kiwi, who like I mentioned at the start, is getting more and more intense, actually diving several times in a single point (and losing the point) to get to 8/4 France.

At 9/5, Mathieu for the first time of the match, expresses his contentment by a big fist pump, 9/5. It would be his last point.

From that point on, the All Black is on the rampage, the rallies are ridiculous – but then again, they have been all match really – and with a crowd making a beautiful noise of support for Mathieu yet admiration for Paul, the All Black carries his torch through the finishing line, 11/9 in 26 very long minutes.

 

Paul

Amazing crowd, I thoroughly enjoyed tonight…

I am very relieved to get through that. I thought it was quite high quality in the first. I had my opportunities to close it out which would have been nice, and the I played well in the second.

I’m happy with the way I was playing today, the way I adjust to his game, the aggression I displayed. Six months ago, it probably would have taken me six rallies to get control, today, in the second, I came out firing and got a good gap.  I still switched off a couple of times, but that was not too bad.

At the end, there were a lot of emotions running on court, I’m happy to dig into my culture when I need to, and use my emotions when I need to. I also need to channel those emotions and not direct them towards my opponent, poor Mathieu, I gave him a push there, there was no harm intended,  he is a good friend.

He is such a fighter, and I always think that I have got him but he just keeps digging in. He looks like he is about to fall over but he keeps going. He is a real pain, but I loved the battle. It was amazing to hear the crowd and the atmosphere, as much as I didn’t enjoy it, I also absolutely loved it.

At 9/5, I pushed my shoulders back and stood up a bit taller. I told myself to fight and take the last bit of the game to him. It was now or never if I was going to save it. I had a few mental words to myself to push myself to the finish line.

It is best-of-five tomorrow so it is probably going to be even later than tonight. I am just going to have a good day tomorrow, sleep as long as possible after doing my recovery tonight. Just relax tomorrow, it is a long day because it is not until the evening that we play, so I will probably have a hit and then see what happens.