France Eyes Up Record World Games Medal Haul In Wroclaw
After all four French players made it through to today’s quarter-finals of the World Games Squash Championships in Poland, three progressed on to tomorrow’s semi-finals as the nation set its sights on a record medal haul at Hasta la Vista in the city of Wroclaw.
Squash is making its fifth appearance in the World Games, the quadrennial multi-sport event for non-Olympic programme sports – the 10th edition of which is the biggest sports event ever to be staged in Poland, under the patronage of the IOC.
Frenchmen will be on either side of the men’s semi-final draw after Mathieu Castagnet and Gregoire Marche – both 5/8 seeds – fought off quarter-final opposition on the all-glass showcourt at the 33-court Hasta la Vista, the world’s largest squash club.
World No.24 Castagnet twice came from behind to beat German left-hander Raphael Kandra 8-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7, 11-3.
“He’s such a talented guy, definitely much better than he was before,” said 30-year-old Castagnet. “He has so much control and really good drop shots – it’s not easy to play him.
“I led 10-6 in the third and was really depressed that he beat me. My coach Renan (Lavigne) gave me some positive thoughts in the break (pictured above) and that worked – I played much better in the next game.
“I really want to bring back a medal. It’s so important for us to do well here. We have to do all we can to get our sport into the Olympics.”
Later Marche produced the biggest upset in the event when he despatched Hong Kong’s No.2 seed Max Lee 11-8, 11-9, 11-2.
Despite being ranked six places behind Lee, Marche boasted a 5/2 head-to-head advantage over the Hong Kong 29-year-old going into the match.
“Maybe he doesn’t like my game?” Marche suggested.
“I really felt tired at first and I don’t think I was leading in the first game until I played two good shots and managed to win the game. That gave me confidence,” added the 2014 French national champion.
“I was happy because I managed to stay focussed.
“Having two of us in the semis is good for France. There is a great atmosphere amongst us all – we feel we are part of an Olympic team.
“Being here at the World Games with athletes from other sports is so different from, say, the European Team Championships. We feel all the others sports are behind us.
“Sport is really important for the French. It would be good if we can show we can get medals here – and then at the Olympics.”
In the last women’s match of the day, France’s top seed Camille Serme needed just 19 minutes to see off 20-year-old Egyptian Nadine Shahin 11-3, 11-4, 11-1.
“I was surprised, as I thought it was going to be tougher than that,” said the world No.3 from Creteil (pictured above in action). “I played her before and beat her 3/0 – but that was tough!
“For us, it’s the middle of summer, so we don’t really know what to expect – but I’m feeling better and better each day.”
For a place in the final, Serme will face Great Britain’s Fiona Moverley, a 5/8 seed who pulled off the only upset in the women’s event when she beat compatriot Millie Tomlinson, a 3/4 seed, 7-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-9.
“I was a bit nervous, a bit edgy – it’s difficult playing someone from your own camp,” explained Moverley, a 30-year-old from Hull (pictured above) who is enjoying a new phase of her career after taking four years off.
It was Moverley’s first ever win over world No.26 Tomlinson. “I’m not sure I’ve even got a game off Millie before?
“For an unfunded player, it means a lot to do well. I’m looking to make my way up the rankings.
“It’s great to be in the semis of the World Games – I’m now guaranteed a medal match! Hopefully I can get on the podium.”
The other women’s semi-final will see defending champion Nicol David, the record three-time World Games gold medallist from Malaysia, take on Asian rival Joey Chan.
Hong Kong No.2 Chan, a 3/4 seed, recovered from two games down to beat 5/8 seed Coline Aumard 7-11, 5-11, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8 – denying the French camp 100% representation in the semi-finals.
Second seed David took on 5/8 seed Nele Gilis, a 21-year-old Belgian making her country’s debut in the event. Despite training together, the pair had never played each other before.
“Nele and I train together in Amsterdam so I knew she would put me under pressure,” said former world number one David after her 11-9, 12-10, 11-7 victory in 45 minutes.
“There were some long rallies and I had to make the big points count.
“I really enjoyed the match – we both wanted to play the ball. It sets me up nicely for tomorrow’s semi-finals.”
Marche’s semi-final will be 3/4 seed Diego Elias, a 20-year-old from Lima who is the first Peruvian to compete in the World Games.
After a one-sided start, in which he won 13 points without reply, Elias had a tough battle on his hands trying to fend off Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung before winning 11-0, 8-11, 11-9, 13-11.
“I’ve not played him before but he has a really good hand and likes going for his shots.
“I was 8-10 down in the fourth but managed to pull it back.
“Being in the semis feels pretty good – I was really nervous before, so it’s a big relief to be through. I think I had a pretty tough draw – and probably the toughest second round opponent – so I’m happy to be playing tomorrow.”
The day’s final match treated the capacity crowd in the showcourt arena to a dazzling display of court coverage from top-seeded German Simon Rösner and the ‘Colombian Cannonball’ Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
In a finely-contested battle which ended up by being the longest match of the tournament to date, Rösner clinched a 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 7-11, 11-7 victory after 74 minutes to secure his anticipated place in the last four.
“It’s always tough against Miguel,” said the 11-time German national champion (pictured above celebrating his win). “I found myself losing the first game – then in the second tried to get more aggressive and play my game. Then I lost my way in the fourth.
“It’s the same for all of us, but it’s really the first tournament after the summer break and we trying to find some rhythm.
“I had to remind myself that this tournament only happens once every four years so I had to push myself through the pain.
“I’m really happy – but I need to recover now for tomorrow.
“This event feels like the Olympic Games to us, with other athletes and officials coming to support us. You don’t get that too often!”
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt [5/8] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 7-11, 11-7 (74m)
[5/8] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [9/16] Raphael Kandra (GER) 8-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7, 11-3 (67m)
[3/4] Diego Elias (PER) bt [5/8] Yip Tsz Fung (HKG) 11-0, 8-11, 11-9, 13-11 (37m)
[5/8] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt  Max Lee (HKG) 11-8, 11-9, 11-2 (42m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [5/8] Nadine Shahin (EGY) 11-3, 11-4, 11-1 (19m)
[5/8] Fiona Moverley (GBR) bt [3/4] Millie Tomlinson (GBR) 7-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 (39m)
[3/4] Joey Chan (HKG) bt [5/8] Coline Aumard (FRA) 7-11, 5-11, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8 (50m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [5/8] Nele Gilis (BEL) 11-9, 12-10, 11-7 (45m)