The Challenger Tour visits France once again, as the Archi Factory Open Lorient, a Challenger 5 level men’s event, takes place this week at the Top Form Squash & Fitness in Larmor Place.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event had limited entries, with only those residing in Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland and the host nation, France, being allowed to participate.
Five nationalities will feature in the draw, with four of those being represented among the top five seeds in the draw. Germany’s Valentin Rapp, the World No.119, will lead the way.
He will face a tough challenge to claim the title, with five other members of the top 200 in the World Rankings also in action. The Swiss pair of Robin Gadola and Yannick Wilhelmi, along with the French duo of Edwin Clain and Toufik Mekhalfi, and Spain’s Ivan Perez, will all be aiming for glory.
We spoke to Mekhalfi ahead of the event, with the Frenchman coming into this tournament off the back of claiming his first win on the Tour. He took victory at the Annecy Lake Open at the end of March, and he admits that it has given him more confidence.
“It was my first win on a PSA tour. It has a special taste. To win this PSA boosted me for the end of the season,” he explained.
“I was so happy to win this title, specifically knowing that it took me up 50 places on the world ranking. The work I provide with my coach and all the staff starts to pay but the road is still long.
“Winning the Annecy Lake Open made me more confident. I will definitely use this strength to go as far as possible at the Archi Factory Open Lorient.
“I don’t have to be stressed and I will consider each match one after the other. I will do my best to play the same way I played during the Annecy Lake Open.”
Once again, Mekhalfi will be playing on home soil, with the 19-year-old yet to play a tournament on the PSA Tour outside of his native France due to the ongoing pandemic. However, he is more than happy to be playing in his home country for the time being.
“It is always pleasant to play in my country. With the COVID we live the tournaments differently than before but I know that we are lucky to keep playing,” he admitted.
“I like French tournaments because my family and the people I care can come to see me but I am not sure that it changes the way I play. I hope that the situation is going to get better soon to travel all around the world freely to play PSA tours.”
Mekhalfi currently occupies the World No.160 spot in the rankings, having risen 47 places in the April update following his victory at the Annecy Lake Open. Next step, the top 100!
“The fact that I moved to World No.160 will take me to play in bigger tournaments. Now, my goal is to be top 100 by the end of the year. For this I have to work very hard,” the teenager said.
The event takes place from Thursday 29 April to Sunday 2 May at the Top Form Squash & Fitness in Larmor Place, Lorient. Follow the PSA Challenger Tour on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates from the event.
First Round Draw: Archi Factory Open Lorient
 Valentin Rapp (GER) – [Bye]
Pablo Quintana Estevez (ESP) v [9/16] Aron Astray (ESP)
[9/16] Manu Paquemar (FRA) v [WC] Antonin Romieu (FRA)
 Miguel Mathis (SUI) – [Bye]
 Nils Roesch (SUI) – [Bye]
Laszlo Godde (FRA) v [9/16] Laouenan Loaec (FRA)
[9/16] Paul Gonzalez (FRA) v Pablo Dolz (ESP)
 Yannick Wilhelmi (SUI) – [Bye]
 Ivan Perez (ESP) – [Bye]
David Bernet (SUI) v [9/16] Rohan Mandil (FRA)
[9/16] David Maier (LIE) v [WC] Melvil Scianimanico (FRA)
 Edwin Clain (FRA) – [Bye]
 Toufik Mekhalfi (FRA) – [Bye]
Baptiste Bouin (FRA) v [9/16] Quint Mandil (FRA)
[9/16] Joshua Phinera (FRA) v Antoine Riehl (FRA)
 Robin Gadola (SUI) – [Bye]