LONDON — Every so often, the answer to where players first started out in the sport yields an unexpected answer. Baptiste Masotti, who played his 250th match on tour this week at the Canary Wharf Classic, is no different. “I was playing in my doctor’s squash court,” says Masotti.
Born in Niort, in the mid west of France, the town was shorn of courts until a squash fanatic local doctor who knew the Masotti family built one on his surgery premises.
“I started pretty late in squash as an 11-year-old,” Masotti told Squash Mad on the East Wintergarden sidelines this week. “My doctor had a court in his office. He is a big fan of squash and so built one himself and my first coach came twice a week.”
Ten years on from his first match on tour, Masotti is on the fringes of the top 20 [he has a career high of 19] and part of a stable of emerging French players alongside Victor Crouin.
He first left home to La Rochelle, one hour away from Niort, as a young teen before moving to Aix-en-Provence at 16. He turned professional a year before Covid and started to focus full-time on the sport as his bachelor and Masters in commerce and marketing came to an end.
It has, he says, been a long journey while there was a reward to savour this week when he took out Egyptian Marwan ElShorbagy in front of his watching father Jean-Michel, a former nationally-ranked player.
“My dad was there for the second round and to play in front of him at this location was huge for me,” he admits. “My parents sacrificed a lot of things to help me live my dream.
“I left home when I was a young guy and to play in this location is electric and what we are training for every day. I can’t eat with them on Sunday and try to see them quite often but it’s not that easy. I’m happy that I can show them we made the right choice together.”
Masotti, 27, is relishing the current uptick in French squash success. “We have a big group in the south and it’s great for us,” he adds. “Victor pushes us on and we are trying to get into the top 10 as soon as we can. All together we are trying to get to the top.
“We are thankful to have Renan [Lavigne, national coach] in France. He is a true fighter and a clever guy. He knows how to work smartly and he knows what it is to make the top 20. He is very focused and dedicated to us.
"Well, why listen to me when you can hit winners like that!?" 🎯
Baptiste Masotti fires in a perfect winner to stop Marwan ElShorbagy (and commentator @LisaAitken1) in their tracks! pic.twitter.com/e6eEtkRmz0
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) March 13, 2023
“I have a lot of things inside me so I need to deal with that as well. Sometimes it can be a weakness, sometimes my strength as I have a big heart. But in the end, if you want to reach the top you have to be like an animal.”
Having reached the Classic quarter-finals and defeat to World No.1 Mostafa Asal, Masotti is now setting his sights on two more events in the UK swing of the PSA Tour after clearly enjoying the best-of-three format.
He adds: “I hope I have 10 years more in front of me. I’m not a player who plays long matches in my career so I think I’ve saved some time in my body!”