Open de France moves to a graffiti-covered warehouse as street grime meets world squash
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
The English trio of Declan James, Nick Wall and Charlie Lee all won through on the opening day of the Open de Squash de France in Nantes, with Wall now facing top seed Marwan ElShorbagy in today’s second round at Hangar 24.
Playing best of three scoring, Wall and Lee both caused first round upsets at La Maison du Squash, getting the better of Egypt’s Yahya Elnawasany and Spaniard Bernat Jaume, respectively.
Lee had to fight his way through a tough match against Jaume, winning 11-9, 7-11, 11-4 in 45 minutes and his reward is a second round tie against No.3 seed Saurav Ghosal of France.
Lee said: “Sometimes you’ve got to realise that the hard work will end up paying, although you lose the game. I’m still relatively inexperienced on the World Tour with my time out, but I’m learning every day. And these matches are exactly what you need, especially with a different pressure with a best-of-three.
“I was really happy to win the first, having that mental advantage, and then normally, you relax a little bit, not fully, but a bit more aggressive because they have to take the next game. And although I lost the second game, and then it’s a shoot out, I came out quite well in the third game. That’s when my best squash came up.”
Wall was the victor over World No.44 Elnawasany, taking two tight games 11-7, 11-9 to set up a clash with top seed ElShorbagy today.
Wall explained: “It was my first tournament playing best-of-three, so that was interesting, I think it suits me because I like to play quite explosively, also, putting pressure on with longer rallies. First match of the season as well for me, you don’t know really where your level is. I tried to find my foundation and basics.
“Tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough one against Marwan obviously, but the pressure is off a little bit more. Hopefully, I can let my arm go and really try and take it to him, and see what I can do.”
James, the 2018 Nantes champion, came into this event off the back of a confidence-building run in Doha, and beat wild card Benjamin Aubert 12-10, 11-5 in 26 minutes.
He needed to dig deep in the first game, after being 10-7 down. He won five straight points to win it 12-10, before then a quick start in the second game saw him cruise to victory.
James’s response was: “Relieved! The first game was a little bit tense, I made five errors which you just can’t do at this level. You can’t give anyone a five point lead and then I found myself at 10-7 down.
“When you’ve got the confidence and the momentum, you can get yourself out of those situations, and I think that is what happened there. I am feeling good and I got myself out of trouble, and then the second was more straightforward. I put a big push at the start of that one, so I am happy to get off 2-0.”
With the glass court venue a closely guarded secret, the location turned out to be a graffiti-covered warehouse called Hangar 45 on the banks of the River Loire.
With the IOC becoming increasingly keen on urban activities, this was a smart and brave move and in contrast to some luxurious earlier venues in Nantes.
France’s Auguste Dussourd delighted the home crowd in Hangar 45 with a straight games victory over Scotland’s Rory Stewart, and he will now face compatriot and No.2 seed Gregoire Marche in the last 16 of the Bronze level competition.
Stewart did most of the early running and led 6-2 in the first game, but a quick run of points saw Dussourd fight his way back into it, and he would eventually go on to take it on a tie-break. He carried the momentum through into the second, dropping just five points, to take a straight games victory and set up a clash with compatriot Marche this evening.
Dussourd said: “He is a really tricky player. You never know what to expect from him. He has so many shots, he changes the pace all the time and it is really difficult to play against him, even more so in the best-of-three.
“I saw earlier that so many matches were so close. I knew I had to take the first game, even on a tiebreak, and I knew it would be hard. When you are 1-0 down and you have to win two games, it is so hard, so I am happy to come through this match!
“I had the chance to play here once, in the theatre in Nantes. I lost 3-0 to Gregoire [Marche], the same player I will face tomorrow! It is always amazing to play in France, and in such an amazing venue like this!”
In the first match on the glass court, Egypt’s 18-year-old Salma Eltayeb came through a thrilling three-game battle with compatriot Kenzy Ayman to win an astonishing and decisive tiebreak to take the match 8-11, 11-9, 21-19 in 52 minutes.
It was an amazing way to start the tournament inside this exciting new venue and a delighted Eltayeb, having saved numerous match balls, said said: “We just played two weeks ago and Kenzy has always been beating me in Egypt, but here and at the World Champs, I have beaten her! It is never an easy game with her!
“It is so different playing here, because you are with so many good players, so you want to perform to be at their level. That is what I am aiming for, that is my mission as I finish my junior career, to be there, or to compete against the top players on the PSA World Tour.”
England’s former World No.20 Millie Tomlinson beat German No.1 Saskia Beinhard 12-10, 11-7 to clinch her spot in the next round, where she faces Canada’s Nicole Bunyan.
Tomlinson said: “I’m honestly just super happy to be here especially having Nantes as my first tournament, it’s nice – a lovely city. Really happy to play in the event. Now, physically I’m fine but happy it’s best-of-three!”
The evening concluded with a tribute to French legend Gregory Gaultier. It took the form of an exhibition doubles match with Gaultier and young French player Baptiste Bouin against England’s Nick Matthew and Daryl Selby.
In 2017, 13-year-old Bouin was a court cleaner at the event. Tonight he starred alongside “The General” as all four players entertained a packed crowd.
The second day of the Open de France de Squash will see the seeded players take to the court at both La Maison du Squash and Hangar 24 in Nantes today. The action will begin at 12 noon local time (GMT+2) and all the action will be live on SQUASHTV.
Open de France de Squash, Nantes, France.
Men’s First Round:
Nick Wall (ENG) bt Yahya Elnawasany (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 11-9 (26m)
Declan James (ENG) bt [WC] Benjamin Aubert (FRA) 2-0: 12-10, 11-5 (26m)
Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Juan Camilo Vargas (COL) 2-1: 11-6, 9-11, 11-2 (41m)
Charlie Lee (ENG) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 2-1: 11-9, 7-11, 11-4 (45m)
Aly Abou Eleinen (FRA) bt Mazen Gamal (FRA) 2-1: 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 (41m)
Leonel Cardenas (MEX) bt [WC] Edwin Clain (FRA) 3-1: 11-7, 10-12, 12-10 (46m)
Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) bt Faraz Khan (USA) 11-3, 10-12, 11-6 (47m)
Auguste Dussourd (FRA) bt Rory Stewart (SCO) 2-0: 13-11, 11-5 (36m)
Men’s Second Round (Tuesday, September 13):
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Nick Wall (ENG)
Declan James (ENG) v  Shahjahan Khan (USA)
 Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) v Lucas Serme (FRA)
Charlie Lee (ENG) v  Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Victor Crouin (FRA) v Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY)
Leonel Cardenas (MEX) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 George Parker (ENG) v Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND)
Auguste Dussourd (FRA) v  Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Women’s First Round:
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt [WC] Ana Munos (FRA) 2-0: 11-3, 11-6 (12m)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) bt Saskia Beinhard (GER) 2-0: 12-10, 11-7 (27m)
Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY) bt Nadia Pfister (SUI) 2-1: 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 (25m)
Fayrouz Aboelkheir (EGY) bt Julianne Courtice (ENG) 2-0: 12-10, 11-5 (17m)
Cristina Gomez (ESP) bt [WC] Elisa Romba (FRA) 2-0: 11-1, 11-7 (18m)
Nardine Garas (EGY): Walkover
Salma Eltayeb (EGY) bt Kenzy Ayman (EGY) 2-1: 8-11, 11-9, 21-19 (52m)
Marie Stephan (FRA) bt Tessa ter Sluis (NED) 2-0: 11-4, 11-4 (14m)
Women’s Second Round (Tuesday, September 13):
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) v Satomi Watanabe (JPN)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) v  Nicole Bunyan (CAN)
 Enora Villard (FRA) v Nour Aboulmakarim (EGY)
Fayrouz Aboelkheir (EGY) v  Melissa Alves (FRA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v Cristina Gomez (ESP)
Nardine Garas (EGY) v  Lucy Turmel (ENG)
 Cindy Merlo (SUI) v Salma Eltayeb (EGY)
Marie Stephan (FRA) v  Nele Gilis (BEL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour