Quarters

• Internationaux de France • 22-27 Sep 2008 • Paris •

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Thu 25 Sep, Quarter-Finals:              

[4] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [5] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)                    11/7, 11/2, 11/5 (42m)
[2] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Joey Barrington (Eng)                          13/11, 11/8, 11/6 (47m)
[1] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [8] Renan Lavigne (Fra)                        11/5, 11/4, 11/7 (33m)
[6] Borja Golan (Esp) bt [2] Thierry Lincou (Fra)                11/8, 6/11, 11/9, 4/11, 11/9 (84m)

Borja rewrites the script

According to the seedings, the form guide, and the script, it was supposed to be two Anglo-French semi-finals at the Stade Charlety in Paris.

While the first three matches went according to that plan, Nick Matthew, James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier all executing straight-game victories, Borja Golan had other ideas. The sixth seeded Spaniard overcame second seed Thierry Lincou in a see-saw encounter to leave the large, passionate crowd stunned.

It was a nailbiter to the end - at 7/4 in the fifth Borja looked the likely winner, but five points in a row put Thierry back on track. Then it turned again and as the Frenchman hit the ball back at himself on match-ball down, Borja had the best win of his career and the seedings, the form-guide, the script - and Borja's waiting flight to join Paderborn for the European Club Championships in Austria - were all ripped up ...

Watch the last rallies

MAUVAISE JOURNÉE
POUR LE PATRON…


Si les trois premiers quarts de finale se sont déroulés « comme prévu », Nick l’emportant sur un LJ en peu en dessous et qui n’a jamais vraiment mis l’Anglais en danger, James, bien plus mentalement présent, qui s’est débarrassé rapidement d’un Joey pourtant très en jambes, et un Kid à l’attitude parfaite ne laissant aucune chance à Renan, même si nos deux français ont produit un superbe troisième jeu, le quatrième quart, lui, nous a brisé le cœur.

Jamais je n’aurais pensé que Borja allait battre Thierry. Le Patron n’avais jamais perdu contre l’Espagnol, et même si on le sait très dangereux, je pense que nous nous préoccupions tous beaucoup plus de savoir si James pour la finale était en forme, que de Borja en quart…

Grosse erreur.

Borja a joué le jeu parfait, il n’a jamais laissé le français avoir les deux pieds au sol, en croisant les balles, en volleyant tout ce dont la largeur n’était pas parfaite, en contre-attaquant toutes les amorties et surtout, surtout, en saisissant toutes les opportunités d’attaquer qui s’offraient à lui.

Et il a surpris un Français qui n’a jamais réussi à se libérer, un Thierry qui voulait tellement bien faire, et qui n’avait pas de jambes, exactement comme en 2004, en finale des Europe à Rennes, quand il s’est pris « une leçon de squash » par le Boss. Sous la pression médiatique et du public, il n’avait plus son explosivité naturelle. Pareil aujourd’hui…

«J’ai l’impression de n’avoir rien montré ce soir, tous ces gens qui étaient là… » La pression est devenu trop forte pour notre Patron….

Mais attention, cela n’enlève rien à la superbe prestation de l’Espagnol, qui avait le soutien de son compagnon d’entraînement Miguel Rodriguez, mais aussi du club d’Ornano pour lequel il joue en France, qui ont encouragé Borja tout au long du match, et qui étaient sans doute les seuls Français hier à être ravis…

Et on y a cru jusqu’au bout… Après la perte du 3ème, quand Thierry a bien capitalisé sur ses efforts dans le 4ème, avec Borja en perte de physique, les spectateurs se sont dits, c’est tout bon. A 7/4 pour l’espagnol dans le 5ème, ils se sont dits, c’est tout mauvais. A 9/7 pour Thierry, c’était gagné…

Et non… Deux plaques, une en retour de service à 9/9, et la suivante à la fin d’un long échange, et Borja nous brise notre rêve d’avoir, comme nous l’avions eu au British 2007, deux français en finale des Internationaux de France…

                                   

Greg a été sharp d’entrée de jeu, il n’a pratiquement rien raté, sauf un peu au début. Et quand tu vois qu’il ne loupe rien, que même ses longueurs – alors que c’est ma force – sont parfaites, eh bien, tu ne sais pas quelle tactique adopter… Je n’ai pas pu le déborder.

Comme d’habitude, je n’ai rien lâché, ça a toujours été ma force, et au troisième, je le contre même devant à gauche, c’est son point fort, donc c’est très positif…

De nos jours, le niveau est très homogène, et dans les tournois, il faut rester vigilant à tout moment. Surtout avec ce système en 11, la moindre défaillance est fatale… Mais même s’il ne m’a pas forcément avantagé, ce scoring est très bien pour les gens que tu veux intéresser au squash, il faut mieux ne pas avoir des matches de plus de deux heures…

Pour finir, dans les derniers tournois que je fais, je me prends trop souvent le 1 à 6, et très souvent un français ! J’aimerais bien pouvoir m’essayer à des 6/16, pour une fois….

                   

C’était un très bon match, j’étais beaucoup plus en jambes que hier, je commence à retrouver mes sensations, j’ai bien bougé. Renan lui aussi, a joué libéré, sans pression, il a très bien joué, surtout au dernier, car comme le public en voulait plus, ils étaient derrière lui, et c’était très bien, j’ai trouvé, ça a donné une super ambiance. Je pense que les gens étaient très contents, et que c’est positif, et pour lui, et pour moi.

Je n’ai pas fait trop de fautes, sauf au premier, 4 ou 5, après je joue un peu plus haut pour moins faire d’erreurs, pour le faire bien travailler, et prendre l’ascendant dans le second.

Dans l’ensemble, c’était pas mal j’ai trouvé !

Demain, Nick, il a l’air en forme, moi, je suis en train de monter en puissance. J’essaie de retrouver les sensations que j’avais quand j’étais au top, pour être non seulement aussi bon qu’avant, et même meilleur….

                    

C’était un match piège, il a tout contré, il a été très présent à l’avant, et il m’a empêché de me libérer et de me détacher au score. J’ai joué sur la retenue tout le match, et sans trouver vraiment de solution tactique. De plus, il m’a manqué un peu de tonus musculaire, j’étais un peu plat, j’avais l’impression de ne rien avoir dans les jambes.

J’étais trop tendu, les attentes étaient trop importantes, avec l’envie de trop bien faire. On ajoute à ça le manque de compétitivité, qui a engendré une fluctuation de la concentration tout au long du match, due sans doute à un manque de compétition.

C’est dommage, parce que hier, je me sentais vraiment bien, et même aujourd’hui avant le match, et j’avais vraiment envie d’aller jusqu’au bout. Et cette envie de faire plaisir aux gens, de répondre à leurs attente.. J’ai l’impression de n’avoir rien montré ce soir.

Borja était en réussite totale, il a réussi un super match, il avait sans doute plus faim que moi. Moi, j’étais dans la gestion, et lui, dans la gagne.

                                                                       


En Bref
/ Histoires de

Head to Head

Press Cuts

[4] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [5] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
     11/7, 11/2, 11/5 (42m)

ACCURACY IS THE THEME…
Framboise reports

Like Nick, I was expecting a very tough match, as I consider LJ as one of the most determined fighters on the circuit. But today, after taking a good start, extremely accurate indeed on both backhand and forehand straight drives, preventing Nick to find his width, LJ seemed to lose his way a bit mentally in the second.

Maybe it was just a drop of energy, I’m not sure, that gave the English boy just the confidence he needed. From that moment on, Nick was doing pretty much anything he wanted with his volley drop shot at the front, scotching LJ so far at the back that the Dutch, with all the will and great legs we know he possesses, just couldn’t reach in time.

If squash fans around the world are worried about Nick, don’t be. He is as precise as ever, and if anything, hungrier than he’s ever been. And that’s a sure key to open success doors…

"In general, my width and length have been pretty good, although it’s tough to say, as it’s only my second tournament!!!! But I really felt that my shots were more penetrating than in the first round, I guess that I was more used to the courts, and also, Davide doesn’t let you getting in any kind of rhythm

"Today, even when I was 4/1 in the first, I said to myself, don’t panic, it’s not like you are doing something wrong tactically. So I just kept on doing what I was doing, and I found my rhythm in the middle of the first.

"LJ will be disappointed with the way he played today, he kept on playing into my racquet, and played far too many loose cross courts. He started well, but seem to loose his way, and never got back in. He was finding it hard to get in and out of the corners, because maybe his width and length, normally his strength, were not as precise as usual.

"I’m pleased with that result, I was expecting a tough battle, as LJ has been playing very well recently. So I have plenty in the tank to play probably Greg tomorrow. And I can’t wait, because I haven’t played at that level for a while now, you learn so much from playing the top guys, and win or lose, this will be a great test for me, and a step in the right direction."

"I think I should have played at a higher pace. James’ control is on the best on the circuit, it’s so difficult to play him when he plays that tight. He is a very experienced campaigner…

"I feel a bit frustrated, I really wanted to get a result today, but it’s so pleasant to play James, it’s always a quality and a fair game.

"Still, I lost 3/0, and I’m disappointed…"

[2] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Joey Barrington (Eng)  
               13/11, 11/8, 11/6 (47m)

JAMES TIGHTER
Framboise reports

The British National Champion was more or less all there today, mentally anyway, which was a great improvement from the previous day’s performance. We saw him stretch his ankle a bit before the match, but if he was a bit careful on it at the start of the match, he really ran like a rabbit at the end, and seemed to move perfectly fine.

Joey played a good game, and in particular found some superb attacking shots and good tactics, twisting and turning James in particular in the first two games, but just couldn’t close them.

Weirdly enough, the second was as tight as possible, never more than a point between those two, until 8/8, where Joey played a first loose shot, James killed it, 9/8. Another short rally, another loose shot from Joey, James finds a perfect length at the back. 10/8, game ball, a tin, game and somehow, match over, like that, in a matter of seconds, after so much hard work and long rallies…

I thought that Joey raised his game during this match, but still, it’s a 3/0 victory for James, so he will be disappointed of course, even if he fought till the end, saving three match balls from 10/3 to 10/6…



James started the third strongly though, and even though Joey pulled a few point back, 10/3 is generally a winning lead, and so it proved.

"It was always going to be a level game, and I knew I had to do something better today than I did yesterday, because I was all over the place.

"It’s starting to be difficult to operate with no clothes, only two T-shirts and a pair of shorts that I bought yesterday. So, the glamorous life of a squash player consists of washing my kit at night, instead of living the Paris night life…

"Today, I had to be more focussed, and it showed. I could have never won that like that if I hadn't been focussed. Joey was very consistent in his play, despite the fact that my backhand was very tight, he was fluid, moving well, didn’t do much wrong actually. I guess we had to get to grips with each other… He played at a solid level, a solid pace, and with a good accuracy. And I think it’s only my backhand accuracy today that won me the game…"

[1] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [8] Renan Lavigne (Fra)
             11/5, 11/4, 11/7 (33m)

GREG IN CONTROL
Framboise reports

In the Franco-French battle, the World number two was of course the favourite to win, as he has never lost yet to his Team Captain Renan Lavigne. And although the Marseilles resident tried his utmost best, no solutions could be found to destabilise Greg’s rhythm.

Still those two gave the large French crowd an excellent show, in particular in the third game. “This is I think the best game of squash I’ve seen so far,” told me François Peisson, for the famous l’Equipe Sports paper. And it was a very good performance from Renan indeed, with a Greg always right in the match, not drifting away as he can sometimes do.

And actually, what stunned me since the beginning of this tournament, is the French number one's attitude on court. We all know that he can sometimes have a touch of arrogance in his behaviour, that has become a sort of style of his, somehow, and which probably cost him a few defeats in the past.

But since his defeat in Cairo, it’s like the penny dropped. It’s like Greg suddenly realised a few things, and I must say, I was utterly please by his concentration in his match, but most of all, by the respect he is giving to his opponent, and somehow in a strange way, to himself.

I hope that this change is here to stay. From the bottom of my heart…

"Greg was very sharp from the word go, and hardly missed a shot, apart from the first game. And when you see him not missing anything, in particular in the length department, that’s supposed to be MY thing, well, you just don’t know what tactic to apply…

"As ever, even in the end, I didn’t let go of anything, that was always my strength, and in the third I was able to counter attack in the front left corner, his strength, so that’s positive.

"Nowadays, the level is so homogeneous, you need to stay vigilant at all times, especially with the scoring to 11. Although it maybe didn’t suit me really, I think that it’s better when you’re trying to interest new people in squash that matches don’t go over two hours!

"Well, I hope that in my coming tournaments, I’ll get a bit more of the 6 to 16 ranked players, and not the 1/ 6 like I seem to get, and especially the French ones…"

"It was a very good match, I was moving much better, I’m starting to find my marks again… Renan too played well, relaxed, no pressure, especially in the third, as the audience was behind him, as they wanted more, and I thought that gave a great atmosphere. I think the people were happy, and that’s good for both of us, very positive…

"I didn’t make too many errors, apart from the first game, to make him work and take the ascendancy in the second.

"Overall, not too bad!!!!

"Nick tomorrow, he looks sharp, I’m on my way back where I used to be, I’m trying to find the way I used to feel on court when I was at my top, to get back there, and move even further up…"

"What a tricky game that was. He counterattacked everything, he was very present at the front of the court, and he prevented me from liberating myself, and to get ahead scorewise.

"During the whole match I was holding back, and I wasn’t able to find a real tactical solution. On top of that, I missed a bit of reactivity tonus wise, I was a bit flat, like I didn’t have much in the legs.

"I was far too stressed, the expectations from everybody, and I so wanted to do well. You add to that a lack of competition, that led to a fluctuation of focus during the match…

"Shame, because yesterday I was feeling really good, and today too I thought, and I really wanted to go to the end. And that desire to please people, to respond to their expectations. I have the feeling I didn’t show enough tonight.

"Borja didn’t put a foot wrong the whole match. He was hungrier than me for victory. I was managing the situation, he was willing to win…"

[6] Borja Golan (Esp) bt [2] Thierry Lincou (Fra) 
             11/8, 6/11, 11/9, 4/11, 11/9 (84m)

SUPER GOLAN

Of course nobody expected such a match in the quarters. In everybody’s mind, the deal was simple. We were going to have a nice French/English seed 1, 2, 3, 4 battle, with if possible an all-French final.

Well, I for one never for a second imagined that Borja, who Thierry had never lost to, who had struggled in five against Jonathan Kemp yesterday, had a chance against him in front of a French crowd. I guess that Thierry didn’t either. I suspect that like most of us, he was probably more tuned into his semi-final against James than his quarter against Borja. And that is a mistake that cost him a very disappointing defeat.

How did it happen? Very simple indeed. Borja played the match of his life, with the perfect tactic against the former World number one. He never let the Frenchman alone, he constantly took him out of his comfort zone, twisting and turning him, volleying every shot whose width was not good enough, crosscourting every other shot, gluing his straight drives to the wall, counterattacking every short ball, and seizing every opportunity that a never relaxed Thierry offered hmm far too often for his own good.

”I had no legs, I just couldn’t move fast enough”, said my stunned compatriot after the match. “All the expectation, all those people that want you to do good, it’s….” The world he was$ looking for was “paralysing”…

The French don’t have many opportunity to play big matches at home, and I remember last time, in 2004, when Thierry played the Boss in the final of the European Teams. He didn’t have any legs either… Too much press attention, too much expectation, couldn’t settle into the match, and tried to force the issue, making the error, hence frustration mounting.

Deja vu ...

Borja today was absolutely magnificent, people. He didn’t put a foot wrong, he was determined, and although he had a little drop of energy in the fourth, he soon came back to his game plan, always believing that he could win. At 7/4 in the fifth, he thought he had the match won. At 7/9, we thought Thierry had found the way home. But at 9/9, a nervous Thierry put his service return into the tin, and despite a last stunning rally with all the French crowd hoping for a miracle that the Frenchman has produced so many times, it was the Spaniard who was raising his arms in the air, breaking the heart of a whole nation, and mine on the way, as I’m sure you all know…

”Well played man”, Thierry said to his opponent as the Spaniard was leaving the arena. That summarised it ... Well played Borja…

"Right now, I feel nothing, this is the best win of my career, sometimes, things are actually possible…

"This morning, I received three emails from a friend of mine, who advised me to play Thierry from side to side, and not forward backward. And it seemed to work for me.

"I really tried to put him under pressure with my volleying, crosscourting a lot. But most of all, I concentrated on my length, because with Thierry, if your length is not perfect, he volleys everything. So first, I was thinking about perfect length, and then, I tried to attack more than I normally do.

"This is an incredible feeling, it’s like a dream come true. But also, I know that he lost here, in front of his home crowd, and that I feel for him, I know what it is to lose when you are at home, and he must be feeling terrible."

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