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Throwback Thursday: Story of the 2018 Men’s Open International de Nantes

There are just four days until the Open de France – Nantes 2019 presented by Tailor Capital gets under way, and it will be the first tournament of the 2019-20 season to be broadcast live on SQUASHTV, Eurosport Player and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.

The tournament – previously known as the Open International de Squash de Nantes – has upgraded to a PSA World Tour Silver event this season and features its strongest ever draw in addition to a record prize money total of $147,000.

It promises to be a fascinating week at the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne – to get you in the mood, we’re looking back at the story of last year’s men’s event.

Results
Round One
Shehab Essam (EGY) bt Carlos Cornes Ribadas (ESP) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 11-8 (61m)
Charlie Lee (ENG) bt [WC] Benjamin Aubert (FRA) 3-2: 4-11, 11-7, 11-1, 7-11, 11-2 (55m)
Bernat Jaume (ESP) bt Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) 3-2: 11-8, 8-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6 (67m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Rohan Mandil (FRA) 3-0: 11-1, 11-1, 11-2 (21m)
Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) bt Ondrej Uherka (CZE) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-3 (38m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Matias Tuomi (FIN) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (34m)
Auguste Dussourd (FRA) bt David Baillargeon (CAN) 3-1: 3-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-6 (55m)
[WC] Christophe Andre (FRA) bt Joeri Hapers (BEL) 3-0: 11-4, 12-10, 11-7 (36m)

Wildcard Christophe Andre led the home charge as play got under way at La Maison du Squash. He powered past Belgium’s Joeri Hapers by an 11-4, 12-10, 11-7 scoreline to set up a second round clash with experienced Fin Olli Tuominen.

It was a fruitful day for the French contingent as Sebastien Bonmalais, Baptiste Masotti and Auguste Dussourd all prevailed in their respective round one clashes to join Andre in the last 16.

Benjamin Aubert and Rohan Mandil were the only home players not to make it past the opening round as they fell to respective defeats against English duo Charlie Lee and Patrick Rooney.

Round Two
[2] Declan James (ENG) bt Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 (41m)
[5] Lucas Serme (FRA) bt Charlie Lee (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 15-13, 11-5 (52m)
[8] Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt [WC] Christophe Andre (FRA) 3-1: 11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 11-4 (43m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt [6] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (40m)
[7] George Parker (ENG) bt Shehab Essam (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (39m)
[3] Zahed Salem (EGY) bt Bernat Jaume (ESP) 3-1: 11-13, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (61m)
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9 (51m)
[4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (51m)

It continued to be good news for the French players as World No.57 Masotti became the only non-seeded player to advance to the quarter-finals, dispatching No.6 seed Campbell Grayson at La Maison du Squash.

Andre saw his tournament come to an end at the hands of Tuominen, while former World No1 James Willstrop avoided a scare against compatriot Rooney to book his last eight berth as play began at the glass court located at Théâtre Graslin.

Defending champion Gregoire Marche also got his attempts to win a fourth successive Nantes title under way with a deceptively hard-fought victory against fellow Frenchman Dussourd.

Quarter-Finals
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [5] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (42m)
[3] Zahed Salem (EGY) bt [7] George Parker (ENG) 3-2: 13-15, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 (95m)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt [8] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-2: 11-9, 7-11, 7-11, 11-2, 12-10 (66m)
[2] Declan James (ENG) bt [4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-6 (55m)

Defending champion Gregoire Marche suffered his first ever defeat in Nantes as his 12-match unbeaten run at the tournament came to a halt against England’s Declan James.

The Frenchman was outclassed by the World No.17, who joined compatriot James Willstrop in the semi-finals after he too overcame French opposition in Lucas Serme.

The other two quarter-final fixtures went the distance to five games as Baptiste Masotti toppled Tuominen to reach his biggest PSA semi-final, while Zahed Salem overcame a two-game deficit to beat George Parker.

Semi-Finals
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [3] Zahed Salem (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 11-13, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5 (78m)
[2] Declan James (ENG) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-7 (48m)

Top seeds Willstrop and James ensured that they would do battle in the title decider after coming through their semi-final encounters in contrasting styles.

Willstrop moved through to his first PSA final in 15 months, coming out on top in an enthralling 78-minute clash with Salem. The two players had the packed-out crowd in raptures as they displayed some of their best squash, with the Englishman eventually prevailing 11-6, 11-13, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5.

Meanwhile, Masotti’s giant-killing run finally came to an end at the hands of James. The Frenchman’s shot-making skills were on display – with an outrageous ‘tweener winner going on to be named PSA Men’s Shot of the Season – but he was unable to knock James off his stride.

Final
[2] Declan James (ENG) bt [1] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 2-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9 (76m)

James claimed his first ever win over Commonwealth Games doubles partner Willstrop in a dramatic five-game encounter which saw the two towering players showcase their best squash.

Willstrop took the lead, before 25-year-old James fought back to level the scores in the second. The momentum of the match continued to constantly shift between the two Englishmen right up until the last moment when, with the scores locked at 9-9 in the fifth, James held his nerve to edge ahead and claim his biggest PSA title with a 2-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9 victory.

“Along with the Commonwealths earlier in the year with James, this is probably the best moment of my career,” said James afterwards.

“I had a really good mentality before I went on and I just said to myself that the result doesn’t matter, it’s just an occasion to enjoy and as long as I leave everything on the court then I will be happy.

“I had to dig really deep, James was making me do so much work and was unplayable at times, but I knew that would be the case because of how much class he has got. I just had to dig in as much as I could.

“It all just happened really quickly in the end but it’s a really special moment for me.”

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