Nantes International Open Preview – A Guaranteed Spectacle!
By James Roberts, Squash Mad Reporter
The qualification rounds of one of the most innovative tournaments on the PSA World Tour, which also has the privilege of kicking off another amazing season of live squash action on Squash TV, started yesterday. The Nantes International Open is now in its third year and has already left a huge impression on the PSA World Tour, both with the players and squash public alike. Billed as a mix of squash, art and culture, the tournament has certainly innovated by showcasing iconic locations in its host city of Nantes, as well as through its amazing presentation and staging, particularly its innovative use of light, music and digital technologies.
This year will be no different, with the stage now set at one of Nantes main tourist attractions, “Les Machines de L’Ile” located in “Les Nefs” (the Naves – Nantes former shipyards). One of the machines is ‘Le Grand Elephant’ and is sure to form an interesting backdrop to the squash action.
The team behind the Nantes Open has worked hard over the last 2 years to provide more than just a sporting attraction and this will make a fitting start to the live action on Squash TV this season. Commentators Joey Barrington and Paul Johnson will without doubt once again be waxing lyrical about the visual presentation, but with the increasing prize money alongside an innovative tournament experience the quality of player taking part has increased year on year, guaranteeing that the quality of the squash action will also sparkle.
This tournament is set to keep on developing, growing and surprising and perhaps one day may be able to become the official ‘French Open’ and take its place amongst the group of World Series tournaments. This is the ultimate objective of the organising team and we at Squashmad wish them every success in this quest.
The below tournament preview article was written by Jérôme Elhaïk, Sports Journalist and squash expert, and appeared in its original French on the website of the Fédération Française de Squash. I have done my best to translate it into English, but you can access the original article here.
The Open International de Nantes, the third edition of which kicked off yesterday, may have left an imprint on the memory thanks to its presentation, but there is sure to also be a spectacle on the court with two top level draws.
In the men’s draw, Grégoire Marche will be aiming for a hatrick of titles, but will face stiff competition, notably from a trio of top players returning from injury. Although the women’s competition, whose prize money has been tripled, will have a distinctive English and Egyptian accent, the French player Coline Aumard will be hoping to come out on top.
Every organiser of a sporting event knows this: a good showing by a player from the host country is always a plus for the success of the event. Up until now, the Open International de Nantes has benefited from this through the double victory of Grégoire Marche in 2015 and 2016. The number 2 French player has obviously returned with the firm ambition of notching his hatrick. Although he is the no. 1 seed, he will have his work cut out because there is the return of several players from injury whose ranking does not reflect their level. Notably amongst these is Chris Simpson, who Marche beat in the final last year and who he could face as early as the quarter finals. He has been absent since January due to a hip operation, and has chosen Nantes, a tournament that he has particularly appreciated, as his big return to the tour. However there is also Mathieu Castagnet, who had reached the ranking of no. 6 in the world before seeing his year 2016-17 spoilt by injuries. “Participating in the Open de Nantes for me was a given”, the number3 French player revealed to us, “I was thinking about it even when I was at my former ranking. Each year, we compete in the same tournaments in the same countries and frankly this tournament is a breath of fresh air! I am very happy to play at home, my only disappointment is to be playing a French player in the first round (Editor’s Note: Lucas Serme). Finally, Mazem Hesham will be one of the main attractions of this edition. This Egyptian, with an ultra-spectacular style reminiscent of Ramy Ashour, has also missed numerous tournaments last season, but he has obtained encouraging results since his return last Spring.
Amongst the outsiders, it is worth mentioning the Swiss Nicolas Muller (30th in the world) who had to withdraw at the last minute the previous year, but also young and improving players like the Englishman Declan James (WR 36) and the Qatari Abdulla Al Tamimi (WR 42). The latter’s opponent in the first round will be the Frenchman Auguste Dussourd, who is the beneficiary of the wild card entry this year. Their task will be difficult as none of them are top qualifying round seeds and 7 others are currently competing in the qualifications (yesterday and today) with the firm intention of progressing: Geoffrey Demont, Baptiste Masotti (who has just entered the top 100 for the first time), Christophe André, Sébastien Bonmalais, Enzo Corigliano, Benjamin Aubert et not forgetting Victor Crouin, who became vice World Junior Champion just a few weeks ago.
In terms of the women, the top seeds are English: Mille Tomlinson (WR 22), the recent runner up in the European Individual Championship behind Camille Serme, and Fiona Moverley (WR 24). Amongst their main challengers will be the young Belgian Nele Gilis (WR 27) and of course Coline Aumard (WR 26). The number 2 French player should be extra motivated playing in front of a crowd that will be fully behind her. “My objective will be to go as far as possible in this draw”, she indicated (source: http://www.opensquashnantes.fr). “The tournament is in France so to win it would be magical. I will be taking it match by match, whilst giving my all to get to the final”. There is no tournament without Egyptian players these days and one of the particularities of this draw is the presence of two players who won the World Junior Team Championships this Summer. The Nantes public will also be able to admire Rowan El Araby, who at 17 years old also won the individual title. The other French players face the same situation as their male counterparts: one of them, Julie Rossignol, has benefitted from an invitation and will have the privilege of facing Tomlinson in the 1st round, whilst the others (Chloé Mesic, Énora Villard, Charlotte Delsinne, Élise Romba, Cyrielle Peltier et Laura Gamblin) will try to defy the rankings and land one of the 4 berths in the main draw.
Full draws are available on:
You will find presentations on the players, with interviews and videos on the tournament’s official site: