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France's Crouin reflects on PSA and World Games ambitions

By RJ Mitchell

His season ended with a title, an accolade, and a career high ranking, while off the court he majored in Economics at Harvard.

Now, Victor Crouin will play a key role in spear-heading France’s bid for World Games glory this week in the USA, though the Frenchman is already looking forward to next season.

The 23-year-old’s 16th PSA title came when he won the QSF 4 Challenger 30 event in Qatar after defeating Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas in a match that featured not one but two epic tie-breaks and was the latest instalment in a rivalry that goes back to their junior days.

That win in turn took him to a career high of World No.18 in the PSA rankings, something recognised when the man from Toulon was awarded the PSA Challenger Tour Player of the month for June.

Crouin picked up a famous win over then-World No.1 Paul Coll in London

A classically trained pianist, Crouin takes an urbane view on things when it comes to altering his appearances from Challenger to PSA World Tour level, where this season at Canary Wharf he recorded the finest victory of his career by defeating then World No.1 Paul Coll in straight games.

He said: “It was my only option to play the QSF 4. Although I could have played the [Gold-level Necker Mauritius Open] event, there were only 10 days after I graduated from college at Harvard in the US. That meant I only had a week to prepare back home in France after all the commitments that went with my graduation, with friends and family and something we call senior week where there were a few parties!

“So, I had three weeks to train for the QSF 4 after I came back from Boston and get myself ready and I trained hard with the objective to win the event and end the PSA season as strongly as I could and I don’t think I could have done better.

“The final with Leonel was always going to be tough as we have a history of tough matches and we were 2-2 before the event in head-to-head and we go back to the semis of the British Junior Open in my last season as a junior when I got the win.

“So I have always struggled with Leonel, and as the score shows it was really tough and the key was I won the crucial points in these two tie-breaks.

“But with my ranking going to No.18 and also winning the Challenger Player of the Month Award, it has been a great way to end the season especially with also majoring.

“I love playing the Challenger events as I would rather go to a tournament and play four matches to win the event than go to the other side of the world, play a match and then go home.

“For me, it makes more sense to play a tournament and get the matches in and also having been based around Boston at the start I had a lot of professional players to play with but now there are not so many and that meant I needed the matches.

“But I won two 20ks in the first half and a 30k and that all helped my ranking climb and showed my improvement.”

Though a proud Frenchman, Crouin admits that he hasn't specifically targeted being French No.1: “I have always said that it is not a direct goal to be French No.1 but if I do well on the PSA Tour and reach my PSA goals, which is to be in the top-15, top-12 and hopefully the top-10 by the end of next season, then I will be French No.1.

“That it is not a direct goal or my whole focus, it is just that it will happen if I perform better than my fellow French players. Obviously there is Grégoire [Marche, World No.13] and Baptiste [Masotti, World No.20] who can also perform really well and they could both be French No.1, so the competition is there.

“If I make it then it would be a real honour to be the No.1 Frenchman, but that will only happen if I do well on the PSA Tour.”

Crouin ranks his win over Karim Abdel Gawad as a career highlight.

While the headline-grabbing victory over Coll was Crouin’s most famous of the season, the 23-year-old explains that it’s not the one that he ranks as his best: “Paul was World No.1 and I had just finished my college season and I was on vacation at the time and I went to London and was just enjoying myself and it just happened.

“I felt like I had an opportunity after winning the first game and with it being best of three at Canary Wharf, but I was determined to take it and I played well in the second game to get the win, a win over a No.1 in any format is great and you take it.

“But two days later I lost 11-3, 11-3 to Mazen Hesham and that kind of brought me back to earth and it really showed me I needed to have a greater consistency.

“Then at the ToC [Tournament of Champions] in May against Karim Abdel Gawad, that was a bigger win for me. Yes, he has been struggling with his foot and it was probably a worry during the tournament for him, but it was still a really solid performance for me and a really big win.

“So, those two matches are the highlights of my PSA season for sure.”

Crouin will soon be relocating to Toulon, where he hopes that home comforts and the tutelage of his father and coach Emmanuel can help propel him to his goals next season. “My dad Emmanuel is my coach, he took over the coaching at our club when I was six or seven and that was because he was passionate about squash and I was one of the kids that was going along and he started to coach me in that group.

“But I played tennis and also the piano and I never thought as a kid about playing squash at a professional level. To be honest, I was more focused on tennis but I played a lot of competitions and I got frustrated as there was a lot of pressure from the coaches, eventually I got frustrated with the environment and then I began to enjoy my squash more and just played it for a fun.

“Then I played a qualifier event for the French Nationals at under-11 and won the event went to the nationals and unfortunately food poisoning meant I lost the first round but I won the consolation and then the following year I came back and won the event.

“That was when I realised I wanted to make it in squash. I started to get extra coaching from my father at the Palm Squash Club in Toulon and it all came from that. So, my dad is still my coach to this day and we have a great working relationship.

“Going forward, Toulon will be my base, I will be living with my dad and I will work with him on a daily basis, even at Harvard I collaborated with him every day and he gave me ghosting sessions and we talked and reviewed matches, but now I am back home we can really work on making the improvements I need to make for next season.”

Before next season’s campaign gets underway, though, Crouin has the excitement of pulling on the national jersey for France at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is seeded 3/4 and will begin his campaign in the second round having received a bye.

“Since Doha I have been practising for the World Games then I have commitments in New York and after that I have three or four weeks to get ready for the first event of the PSA season in Egypt.
“The World Games are like a kind of Olympics for non-Olympic Sports. I got selected by my Federation and it is a great opportunity to wear the French jersey and win a medal for France and that would make me very proud.”

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