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Enora Villard (left) celebrating after her victory over Tinne Gilis

Open De France: French Wildcards Impress In First Session

The Open de France kicked off this afternoon, with the first eight matches of the first round taking place at La Maison du Squash in Nantes.

There were plenty of shocks in the first session of action in Nantes, as both of the French wildcards made it through to the second round.

Aubert Shocks Kandra To Advance

Benjamin Aubert celebrating after beating Raphael Kandra (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

French wildcard Benjamin Aubert produced the victory of the afternoon as he downed Germany’s Raphael Kandra in a mammoth three-game battle.

The pair duked it out for 59 minutes at La Maison du Squash, with all three games reaching a conclusion in tie-breaks, as the Frenchman came back from a game down to win.

Kandra took the first 12-10, but Aubert fought back, winning the second 13-11 to force a decider. Both men had match balls, but it was the Frenchman that came out on top.

“At the start I was just petrified with pressure. I couldn’t see the ball leaving his racquet, and was finding it difficult to read his left hander shots,” Aubert admitted.

“But I managed to come back, and lost only a close game, that put me back in the game I have to say. The next two will be a bit lucky at times I feel, it was maybe down to the one that wanted it more.

“I was aware he was coming back from Bucharest and the individuals. And also, I was so honoured to have been awarded that wild card, I wanted to make them proud, and I hope I managed to do just that.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
[WC] Benjamin Aumard (FRA) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 2-1: 10-12, 13-11, 12-10 (59m)

Wildcard Villard Downs Tinne Gilis

Enora Villard (left) in action against Tinne Gilis (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

At the start of the afternoon, Enora Villard kicked the tournament off with a surprise victory over Belgian World No.27 Tinne Gilis in straight games.

The Frenchwoman, ranked 29 places below her first round opponent in Nantes, took an early lead in the first game, one that she would not relinquish.

She did the same in the second, moving out to a 6-2 lead at one point. Although Gilis looked like fighting back at times, Villard battled through to take her place in the second round.

“The physical side of things played an enormous role today. I was always a fighter, but I was lacking a bit on the speed and the explosivity sides of things. And although I would pick up a lot of shots, I would be a bit late on the ball and not able to act on them,” Villard explained.

“But now, I managed to get early on the ball, and it gives me more choices, and the feeling that I can pick up much more. Those three months of preparation with my coaches, who invested a lot of time and effort in me, really paid off.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
[WC] Enora Villard (FRA) bt Tinne Gilis (BEL) 2-0: 11-9, 11-7 (24m)

Lake Beats Selby In Opening Match

Nathan Lake (right) and Daryl Selby on court (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

Nathan Lake overcame compatriot Daryl Selby in the opening men’s match of the Open de France, beating his fellow Englishman 2-0 in just 22 minutes.

The World No.60 came out firing to being with, and did not let Selby into the first game whatsoever, winning it after conceding just the two points.

Lake then won the second game 11-6 to close out the match, and after what happened to the Englishman at the start of the last campaign, he was very pleased to start this year with a win.

“Very, very happy. You know what you are going to get with Daryl. He is a good mover, reads the game very well, so I was very happy to get off 2-0 and to start the season off with a win,” Lake said after the win.

“I remember last season, it took me a couple of months to get my first win and I wasn’t the easiest person to be around at home so it is nice to get that first win of the campaign.

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Nathan Lake (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 2-0: 11-2, 11-6 (22m)

Aitken Beats Mohamed To Reach Round 2

Lisa Aitken (right) on court against Farida Mohamed (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

Scotland’s Lisa Aitken eased her way through to the second round of the Open de France – Nantes after a comfortable victory over Egypt’s Farida Mohamed.

The World No.37 did not allow the Egyptian into the match, as she cruised to the first game 11-5. Aitken then needed battle hard in the second to take victory, booking her spot in the second round, and setting up a clash with Hana El Hammamy on Tuesday.

“It was important to get a good start and to come firing out of the blocks. I watched her play in the World Juniors, did my homework and worked out what needed to be done,” Aitken said.

“The first two tournaments are best-of-three so I made sure that I got some match practice in because it is important to get a good start. I also tried to implement more solo practice over the summer.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Lisa Aitken (SCO) bt Farida Mohamed (EGY) 2-0: 11-5, 11-8 (20m)

Simpson Downs Coleman In All-English Clash

Chris Simpson (back) and Ben Coleman in action in Nantes (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

In the second all-English battle of the day, Chris Simpson got the better of compatriot Ben Coleman at La Maison du Squash in the first round of the Open de France.

The first game and tight all the way through to 8-8, before Coleman made three straight errors, giving Simpson the first 11-8 in the end.

The second was much more straight-forward for the World No.40, who took it 11-5 to book his place in the second round of his first tournament of the season.

“The first game, I think there is always some nerves, especially at the beginning of the season, and also with best-of-three. I felt like if I had a bad start then it could have been a 20 minute match, which added a little bit more nerves. The rallies, I feel that I controlled them well all match,” Simpson explained.

“In the first, I actually did well to win it because my finishing shots were not really there. I was letting him counter attack me and I got lucky that he gave me three errors from 8-8. That probably made the difference, I think, going into the next game. That meant I could relax a bit and I played some of my better squash then.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-5 (32m)

Van der Heijden Fights Back To Beat Fiechter

Milou van der Heijden (left) in action against Olivia Fiechter (Photo: Nicolas Barbeau)

Dutch No.1 Milou van Der Heijden had to fight back from the brink to defeat Olivia Fiechter in the first round of the Open de France – Nantes.

After losing a tight first game 11-9, the Dutch star fought back to win both the second and third games to advance to the last 16 of the tournament.

Van Der Heijden had never played Fiechter on the PSA World Tour before, and she had to change her tactics throughout the match.

“After losing the first game, I changed my game plan, because I felt I was giving her too many angles, so I basically straightened things up, and made sure each shot had purpose – which I tried to do normally but it’s all about reminding yourself,” the Dutchwoman explained.

“I actually never played her [Fiechter], as we were meant to play in the US Open, but she couldn’t play. Today, she had a lot of time on the ball I thought, and that gave her a lot of options, and she was spraying her volley all over the court, mixing it very nicely. So I was trying to keep her away from there.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Milou van der Heijden (NED) bt Olivia Fiechter (USA) 2-1: 9-11, 11-7, 11-9 (28m)

Clyne Defeats Masotti In Straight Games

Alan Clyne (fore) and Baptiste Masotti in action

Scotland’s Alan Clyne is through to the last 16 of the Open de France – Nantes, after overcoming home favourite Baptiste Masotti in half an hour.

The World No.44 got off to a flying start in his first round match, conceding just four points to the Frenchman in the first game.

The second was tighter, as neither man wanted to give an inch. However, it would be the Scot that took the victory, booking his place in the second round.

“I think I managed to get a few errors out of him, playing a very disciplined squash, my length and width were fine, and when I was able to take it in, the shots were good quality. I’m happy with my game when I get to play like that, I’ll never be a flashy player, I just need my basics to be in place,” Clyne said.

And I’m very happy with the result, as Baptiste is a very dangerous player, he had a very good run here last year as well. Sometimes, it can work both ways when you are at home, it can put the right kind of pressure on you, but sometimes, you are just too much up for it, and you get a bit flat maybe that’s what happened today to Baptiste.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 2-0: 11-4, 11-8 (30m)

Shahin Beats Turmel To Reach Round 2

Shahin in action on court today

Egypt’s Nadine Shahin is through to the second round of the Open de France – Nantes after she defeated Lucy Turmel in a tight three-game affair.

The Egyptian took the first game with ease, conceding just four points. However, Turmel fought back in the second game, taking it 11-7 to force the match into a decider.

The third went the way of Shahin though, as she took victory in just under half an hour, setting up a clash with US No.2 Olivia Blatchford Clyne in the last 16.

“It is always tough against Lucy, I have played her three times including last year in Nantes, where I lost to her. I got my revenge in Gouna, and now this is the third time and I knew it was going to be tough. I am just happy to get through that.” Shahin explained.

“It is a whole different mentality [playing best-of-three]. SO I was thinking that I only needed to win two games, so I should focus on them completely, with no slip-ups. It is much tougher than the best-of-five format.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Nadine Shahin (EGY) bt Lucy Turmel (ENG) 2-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-7 (29m)

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