Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The squash world must take note of rising French star Victor Crouin as he masters Tarek Momen to reach Qatar final

‘I don’t have a coach so I have been trying to coach myself by writing notes’

Victor Crouin’s analytical eye has been evident this week. A keen notetaker of hundreds of games, the Frenchman has racked up eight years of research since he first started playing competitively as a 15-year-old.

There’s more; his idol is English rugby great Jonny Wilkinson. Crouin saw him up close when he was playing for his home city of Toulon and took in all of Wilkinson’s mental traits.

This fastidious approach has paid dividends for the Harvard graduate so early in his tenure on the PSA World Tour. “It’s hard to believe what’s happening this week,” said Crouin after reaching his first major final today at the Q Terminals Qatar Classic. The 23-year-old beat former world champion Tarek Momen 3-1 in a high-quality tussle which marked out the Frenchman as a future star of the game.

Crouin’s impressive performance sent him through to face Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final after the newly-qualified Englishman beat Mostafa Asal to create the rare occasion of an all-European Platinum final.

Crouin went toe-to-toe with Momen in the opening two games. The Egyptian was executing better, taking the ball a fraction earlier, while Crouin had the better shot choices, his angled and cross-court drops proving highly beneficial.

He wasn’t rushed either and could easily have found the occasion too much in such a big match. But patience prevailed and, at 10-7, the fitter Frenchman even stole a glance at Momen after another lengthy exchange.

“I could see that he was doubting himself,” admitted Crouin. “I wanted to look at him. It wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was just trying to analyze where he is in his head. I used it as a boost.”

At 11-9, 11-7 to the good, Crouin had one foot in his second final in Qatar in three months (after winning the Challenger 30 final on the same court in June). This was quite the step up, however, and after Momen twisted his ankle at 3-3 in the third, the Egyptian took full advantage of the three minute timeout and, when play resumed, rattled off the points to take the match into a fourth.

“I don’t have a coach so I have been trying to coach myself by writing notes,” Crouin said. “Usually it’s in my head, but if things go wrong I like to re-read them and get into the game plan.”

Victor Crouin’s methodical approach paid dividends against Tarek Momen

He certainly would have noted that Peruvian Diego Elias didn’t change the ball when 2-1 up against Momen in the previous round. As soon as Crouin lost the third game 11-5 today, he called for a new ball.

He immediately regained his length and cut out the tin errors. Suddenly he had four match balls, Momen fighting back to 10-10 before the rally of the match, perhaps the tournament, which ended with a winning Crouin drop shot. The match was sealed with a decision in the Frenchman’s favour.

“It’s a huge step to making round three of the Platinum events to reaching the final,” said a delighted world No.18. “I’m proud of the way I’m playing. If I can play consistently like this for the rest of the season I can go into the top 10 and top few.”

He will aim to do so with Toulon great Wilkinson still firmly in his armoury.

“It was the way he approached training, the mental side and preparing for the penalties and kicking the ball,” added Crouin. “It was always something I aspired to.”

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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