Monday, March 27, 2023

Victor Crouin: ‘Mostafa Asal has responsibilities as our new World No.1’

Victor Crouin says Mostafa Asal must face up to his responsibilities as squash’s new world No.1 and be a good role model to aspiring junior players across the world. 

French No.1 Crouin – perhaps the most urbane, thoughtful and erudite player on the PSA World Tour – did not hold back with his candid advice to the Egyptian, but did express surprise that no other player had publicly congratulated Asal after he hit the top of the rankings a fortnight ago. 

Crouin told Squash Mad: “Mostafa needs to think about his long-term impact on the game. As world No.1, he has responsibilities. He has such a huge impact on the game and how juniors will think about how to become the best player they can be. 

“The debate around him is completely polarising right now with most of the comments unreasonable. 

“His supporters will say he is the best in the world and that his critics are trying to bring him down by pointing at all the things that go on around his game. But the people against him point to things that are easy to highlight, as he gets conduct strokes in virtually every tight match he plays and there is just so much to talk about around this.” 

Crouin, 23, has had plenty of opportunities to study his younger rival of late. They faced off at the Houston Open where Asal was confirmed as the 22nd world No.1 of the professional era. They then met again at last week’s Tournament of Champions, where Asal withdrew after the opening game of their third-round encounter, blaming “severe psychological and nervous pressure from those in charge of the game in Egypt”. 

Crouin commented: “I had no idea why [he retired] as he didn’t shake hands or say a word to explain, but I was glad to win a game from him having lost the last three times we have played. 

“I was also amazed at how many people were so happy that I won against Mostafa, even though he defaulted, and that is just very telling and, I must admit, sad really. 

“Mostafa is under the biggest spotlight and what I want to say is that he got to world No.1 and he didn’t get a single congratulations publicly from any player. That is quite surprising. 

“Usually when you get to world No.1 everybody congratulates you for such an achievement via social media or whatever, but I don’t know of anyone doing that. For me that speaks for itself. He is the only guy I know who has never been congratulated for winning an event.” 

Victor Crouin

The furore surrounding Asal has not been helped by the recent 10-month tournament ban copped by his father and the persistent speculation that he himself is set to be the subject of a PSA sanction – something the game’s governing body declined to comment on when contacted by Squash Mad. 

“He is the best player in the world, the rankings don’t lie and his squash level is definitely right up there at just 21-years-old,” said Crouin, “But you can also say that his antics don’t help showcase our game in the best way possible. 

“Also, the referees are not managing to deal with him effectively right now. I am not saying Mostafa is the only one, there have been players before him that have used all sort of movement tactics etc to get an edge over their opponents, so for sure he is not the only one who does this.” 

Crouin was keen to balance out his observations by underlining just how much he respects the Egyptian’s skills. “I don’t want to be too critical as I still want to highlight Mostafa’s squash talent and his intelligence on court both of which are huge,” said the French ace. 

“He is very powerful moving to the front corners and is probably the most explosive player on Tour in terms of his athleticism. He also has great hands, is very powerful with his strokes and can unleash thunderbolts from all over the court, never misses and makes very few mistakes. 

“Now I just hope he will think about how he got to world no.1 and how he is viewed by others. Hopefully he will understand that he will be much happier if he approaches the game in the right manner.”  

Turning his attention to this week’s French Nationals, Crouin admits he is a man on a mission. He said: “I have never made it past the quarter-finals of the French championships, so I’d love to win the event. I didn’t play last year due to college and I’ve missed a couple of other years but I am going there to win my first national title and that would mean a lot.

“There are a few contenders with Baptiste [Masotti] and Auguste [Dussourd] who are seeded two and three. I just hope I can get my hands on the trophy as it would definitely be a career highlight.”   

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