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Coline Aumard was one of two French players to make it through from the second session on day one (Photo: Mikael Ropars)

Open de France: Double French Delight In Evening Session

There was double delight for the French crowd during the evening session on the first day of the Open de France, as both Coline Aumard and Mathieu Castagnet made it through to the last 16.

They both had to go the distance in their first round clashes, and will both go through to face the defending champions on the glass court on Tuesday evening.

There was also plenty of other action at La Maison du Squash, including some English and Spanish glory, along with a win for South Africa as well.

Ibrahim Downs Pajares To Reach Last 16

Youssef Ibrahim (fore) in action against Iker Pajares Bernabeu

Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim is through to the second round of the Open de France after making his way past Iker Pajares Bernabeu at La Maison du Squash.

The Egyptian, who is currently studying at Princeton University in the United States, played his first ever match in a best-of-three tournament, and succeeded.

Both games were tight, but Ibrahim came out on top to close out a 2-0 victory in half an hour, winning out 12-10, 11-9 to book his place in the last 16 of the tournament.

“I am absolutely relieved that I won in two games. It is my first ever best-of-three tournament and it is really difficult, you know, because there is no time to relax. You are always under the cosh,” Ibrahim said.

“I had to be very focussed to beat Iker because he is a very tough opponent, he doesn’t give you freebies, so I am really relieved that I got this one in two games.

To prepare, I tried to play best-of-five and win the first two games, or at least win the first game to get the momentum going because in the last tournament I was 2-0 down and here, that would be the match.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 2-0: 12-10, 11-9 (30m)

Mendez Beats Hany In Tough First Round Clash

Mendez (left) in action against Hany in Nantes

American World No.42 overcame Egypt’s Mayar Hany in a three-game battle at La Maison du Squash, sealing her place e in the last 16 of the tournament.

In what was the first meeting between the pair on the PSA World Tour, Mendez made the early running, and went on to take the first game 11-7.

However, the Egyptian fought back, conceding just five points in the second game. It would be the American that took the victory though, as she went on to come back from 7-3 down in the third to winning it 11-7

“The first game, I came out with nothing to lose, and tried to be as aggressive as possible, psyche myself up really, but I think I was so desperate to get a win in the first round of those big events, I just got ahead of myself, thinking I won one game, that I could win the next one,” Mendez explained.

“That gave her confidence coming to the third game, I was down 7-3. I’m naturally very calm on court, and that was very out of character, but I thought I needed to go for more fist pumps and shouting and I went for it.

“That court is a bit tricky, it’s very dead, a bit like a sponge, and you need a little more effort than normal to get to the back. And I guess that extra aggression gave me the energy to get the ball deep in the back.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Haley Mendez (USA) bt Mayar Hany (EGY) 2-1: 11-7, 5-11, 11-7 (27m)

Parker Beats Gamal In Intense Clash

Parker (right) and Gamal playing at La Maison

England’s George Parker is through to the second round of the Open de France after getting past Mazen Gamal in a tough clash in the round of 32.

The Englishman needed over half an hour to claim the victory, in what was the first ever meeting between the pair on the PSA World Tour, despite both having been professional since at least 2013.

The World No.39 took the first game 11-9, and kept trying to hurry his opponent during the second. It worked, as Parker took it 11-8 to close out the victory in 32 minutes, booking his place in the last 16.

“I was so nervous, I had a good season last year but a terrible end of it. I was banned for a month, and after that, I couldn’t get back into things really,” Parker admitted.

“So today, I was very keen to get a good start, but it was so disappointing. I have been playing my best technical squash recently, hitting the ball the best I’ve been doing for a long time, but today, all the summer training I did just went out of the window.

“I won 2-0 but I might as well lost 2-0. It was so frustrating. I’m happy to go through, obviously a win is a win – ugly or nice – but it was not the way I wanted to win.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
George Parker (ENG) bt Mazen Gamal (EGY) 2-0: 11-9, 11-8 (32m)

Fuller Cruises Past Courtice Into Second Round

Alexandra Fuller (left) and Julianne Courtice on court

South African No.1 Alexandra Fuller booked her place in the second round of the Open de France, after she beat Julianne Courtice at La Maison du Squash.

The World No.40 overcame the Englishwoman, who sits ten places above her in the World Rankings, in just 18 minutes.

Fuller came out firing, a tactic she attempted to employ in what was her first best-of-three clash on the PSA World Tour. It worked, as she won out 11-7, 11-5.

“I was not so sure on the whole best-of-three thing but sometimes it does suit me because I tend to come out firing before losing a bit of my momentum. I thought if I could play my attacking, fast squash, I thought I could hurt her, and I do think I did that,” Fuller explained.

“I got a little bit nervous when I was 10-3 up in the second, but I am really happy I got through it. This is the first best-of-three tournament I have played, so I did do a more aggressive warm-up, just to make sure that I was on it, so it was definitely a different mental preparation.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Alexandra Fuller (RSA) bt Julianne Courtice (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 11-5 (18m)

Golan Outlasts Fallows In Three-Game Battle

Golan (left) in action with Fallows in Nantes

Spain’s Borja Golan showed his staying power on Monday at La Maison du Squash, as he managed to battle back from a game down to beat England’s Richie Fallows in the first round.

‘El Toro’ was playing just two days after battling Raphael Kandra in the final of the European Individual Championships in Bucharest, and it seemed to show in the first game, as Fallows came out firing.

However, Golan fought back after losing the first 13-11, to record a victory in 47 minutes, punching his ticket through to the second round of the tournament, where he will face No.1 seed Simon Rösner.

“It was really hard. I played on Saturday with [Raphael] Kandra, five games, the final of the Europeans, and it took a lot of energy from me. Then travelling a lot yesterday, my body didn’t recover, but at the end, I was competing really well.

“He got to the centre really quickly in the first two games, he was reaching all my shots at the front. I was maybe a bit slow and that was the difference. I tired to play a bit more solid in the second and I felt that I was both physically and mentally stronger towards the end.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Richie Fallows (ENG) 2-1: 11-13, 11-9, 11-4 (47m)

Aumard Succeeds In All-French Clash

Aumard (left) and Alves in action in the all-French battle

In the only all-French clash of the day, Coline Aumard managed to find a way past Melissa Alves, booking her place in the last 16 of the Open de France.

Aumard, who is ranked 12 places above her compatriot, came out firing in the first game, and went on to take it 11-7. However, Alves fought back to take the second.

The World No.33 would go on to take the win though over her countrywoman, winning the third 11-8 to book her place in the second round, setting up a clash with another compatriot, this time the tournament’s No.1 seed, Camille Serme.

“I felt a bit flat, I was dreading the match, I was playing 5 games all week, and that’s a different dynamic from the best-of-three, especially with Melissa, if she gets the timing right she can get all her shots in,” Aumard explained.

“So I was really trying to prevent her time on the ball, as she is so powerful and dangerous. I think the difference today was my experience. In the past, I lost so many matches like that, but today, I just tried to be patient, and weather the storm, fighting as much as I could with what I had.”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Coline Aumard (FRA) bt Melissa Alves (IND) 2-1: 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 (37m)

Castagnet beats Tandon In Tense Three-Game Affair

Castagnet (left) on court with Tandon in Nantes (Photo: Mikael Ropars)

Mathieu Castagnet ended the first day’s proceedings with a victory that pleased the home fans, as he came from behind to defeat Ramit Tandon in the first round.

The Frenchman went behind after losing the first game on a tie-break 12-10, but fought back to win the second in convincing fashion.

He then went on to take the third game on a tie-break, reversing the score from the first, moving through to the second round of the Open de France, where he will face defending champion Declan James.

“Today was not about winning or losing – although very happy to win and to play tomorrow on the glass – it’s about not being injured at the start of the season. For three seasons now, I missed the first events of the year because of injuries sustained during the summer training,” Castagnet explained.

“The hardest this summer was to train physically on my own, getting nobody to go with me at the gym, nobody to compare or share my training with, but at the end of the day, it was a personal ambition, and I’m so happy it paid off.”

Result – Men’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Ramit Tandon (FRA) 2-1: 10-12, 11-4, 12-10 (36m)

Whitlock Eases Into Second Round In Nantes

Whitlock (left) and Nasser doing battle in the first round

Emily Whitlock is through to the second round of the Open de France – Nantes after beating Egyptian Menna Nasser at La Maison du Squash on Monday evening.

The Englishwoman, ranked World No.21, needed just 20 minutes to get through her first round clash, despite both games being tight to the end.

Whitlock took the first 11-9, and had a commanding lead in the second before a slight wobble. However, she was able to pick her game up again to win the second 11-7 to set up a meeting with defending champion Nele Gilis on the glass court at Chateau des docs de Bretagne on Tuesday night.

“I played well up until a certain point and then I lost it a bit, but I am just getting into it. I don’t find it any different to a best-of-five, which is good in terms of preparation,” Whitlock explained.

“We played here last year, that was tough game. But we have played since and I have won in three, so in my head, I know where I stand when I am fresh and feeling good. I feel different than I did to last year, so hopefully this year it will be different. I wanted to win today to try and get on the glass court!”

Result – Women’s First Round: Open de France – Nantes
Emily Whitlock (ENG) bt Menna Nasser (EGY) 2-0: 11-9, 11-7 (20m)

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