At each fight, a referee :
A squash competition would not exist without referee : We asked 5 questions to Marko Podgoršek (SVN) - WSF Referee and "Tournament Referee" for this event :
1. Marko, that will be the second time you come to referee the Open International de squash de Nantes. You were present at the very first edition in 2015 where the glass court was at Le Lieu Unique. What do you remember about this edition ?
The obvious things to remember are the stunningly beautifull city of Nantes and the amazing venue , Le Lieu Unique. But the thing which amazed me the most were the spectators! First thing about them was that the venue was practically sold out from the start of the event, which is amazing. But even more important than that was their attitude. They saluted every player, win or lose, with a huge round of applause and sincere admiration for their efforts.
2. You're going to be the "Tournament Referee" of this 3rd edition under the naves, what role do you will have in the refereeing team ?
My role as the Tournamen Referee will be to assign referees to matches and to liaise with PSA during the event. Besides that it is my responsibility to assist in solving any problems regarding refereeing, should they occur.
3. A new system of refereeing is gradually installed on the PSA World Tour : Central referee + video referee. This system will be applied in Nantes for this 3rd edition. What do you think of this evolution on the professional circuit ?
I have refereed quite a few matches as a Central referee with Video referee and I have to say I really liked it. It makes it easier for the Central Referee to controll the match, yet on the other hand gives a lot more significance to the role of Video Referee, compared to 3-referee system. Yes, there's a lot more pressure being alone in the Centre, but a good Video Referee makes a lot of difference.
4. You are Slovenian, squash is not very widespread in the country... Explain to us a little bit : What made you become one of the best referee in the world in squash ?
Unexpected sequence of events, actually. Back in the day every country which participated at the European Team Championship had to provide one referee, regardless of his/her standard. Being just shy of making the team I was sent as a referee to ETC in Vienna, where I overheard Italian referees discussing a refereeing course with an English assessor. I took part in that course, subsequently got invited by the Italian Squash Federation to the World Junior Championships in Milan later that year and so it began...
5. We're a little bit curious. WSF referee, is it your real job ? Is it possible to be a squash referee at full-time ? Or do you have a professional activity in parallel ?
There aren't any professional squash referees. We get our expenses covered and with some extras, but to make a living on that is absolutely impossible. So all referees are either allready retired or have careers back home. So not a single one of us does it for the money - we all do it for the love of squash, travelling and meeting amazing people allower the world.
We asked 5 questions to Joey Barrington (ENG) - Iconic commentator of Squash TV, former world number 24, son of the legend of squash, Jonah Barrington (IRL) :
1. Joey, you comment all the huge events of the PSA World Tour, you came to Nantes last year, what did you think of the event ?
When i came to Nantes last year i was completely blown away. The organisation and set up was worthy of a world series event. I have never seen a light show and opening to the days play like i saw at Nantes. I feel tournaments wanting to progress should take note and watch last years opening show to the match days.
I also loved the fact that the crowds were full from the first match and people were queuing an hour early to get a decent seat for the matches. I remember along with my co commentator Simon Parsh, being swept up by a sea of people rushing to get their seats. It was reminiscent of the tournaments in the 80s when squash was at its full height.
The people involved with the organisation were lovely too. The squash tv boys work their socks off at events and they were looked after on a 5 star basis with respect and appreciation. That was refreshing and good to see.
2. You have been a former professional player (note : ex world N°24). Do you take as much pleasure in commenting as in playing ?
I got into squash as pro very late relative to my fellow pros. So i had to play catch with my training and experience of tournament play at the highest level. I loved the physicality of the sport but i did get quite nervous playing in tournaments. I think the next best thing to competing is sitting there watching and analysing it. I have never really had nerves when it comes to commentating and presenting so perhaps i have finally found my niche.
I love taking the sport forward with the developing Tv coverage and i like to bring a humour with a professional and analytical view to the game. I also enjoy the rapport i have with my fellow co commentators.
3. Squash has terribly evolved in recent years, how to stop the Egyptians on the international circuit ?
The Egyptians are going through a real boom they have taken the womens game to new heights and upped the intensity and the level.
They offer a huge amount of variety and styles of play which are mostly attacking and fantastic to watch. They come through at very young age on both tours.
The Europeans need to respond and i really hope they do as the world tour needs to be as international as possible for the game to continue to progress. Once the older generation of Nick Mathew,Greg Gaultier and Willstrop finish. There is a bit of a void.
I just hope the younger players of the other countries are hungry enough to see how you can make a fantastic living out of squash and take on the Egyptians.
4. In your opinion, what should be done to include squash in the Olympic Games ?
Squash ticks all the boxes for an Olympic sport and more. I just don't think this was presented well enough in the past.
We have terrific TV coverage now and extenstive viewing figures world wide. I feel the PSA should be put in charge of any future presentation as they are the shop window of the sport and have been solely responsible for its progression.
5. To finish, your father was a squash player, you were a squash player and what about your future children ?
My father is the Legend of the sport. I was never pushed or forced to play it. I enjoyed team sports more growing up but then i caught the squash bug halfway through my University life. It has been an amazing journey that has taken me all around the world. I hope my son plays but that will have to be his choice. Whatever he does with his life i will be eternally proud, i love being a dad! He is named after his Grandfather so we shall see.
Interview carried out by PSA (Professional Squash Association) - psaworldtour.com :
World No.34 Chris Simpson is aiming to be back in action for the Open International de Squash de Nantes, PSA M25 tournament in September after being sidelined with injury for the majority of 2017.
The 29-year-old from Guernsey has been ruled out of action since January with a hip injury but is hoping to be ready for the tournament in Nantes – where he finished runner-up last year to Frenchman Gregoire Marche.
“There has been a lot of rehab. I’ve been doing a lot of fitness work like biking and swimming for quite a while,” said Simpson.
“In terms of loading the hip, I’m starting to get there, I have been doing some solo practice and I’m looking to be on court doing some routines in the next week or so.
“It’s the middle of the summer so that has given me a bit of leeway hopefully in terms of the speed and progression for now but at the moment my goal is to be back in September and opening the season in Nantes.
"I have to say that the venue and crowd at the tournament was one of the best, if not the best, I have ever played in. The light show was brilliant, and it was great to have lots of people that were new to squash watching and getting excited.”
Simpson, who had equalled his best world ranking of World No.20 before injury curtailed his season, is starting to build up to full training and admitted he can’t wait to be back on court.
“I’m setting myself goals for when I want to be back competing on court on Tour rather than thinking ranking wise. It’s very difficult with the ranking because even when I come back and if I’m playing some great squash, I’m not going to have a full complement of tournaments throughout the year because there will be this nine-month period of no tournaments so as always if you play good squash then the ranking will come.
“It’s a frustratingly long process. I think beforehand I didn’t realise how tough it was going to be and how non-linear the recovery was going to be, so day-to-day it can be good and bad but overall each month it is definitely getting better.
“I’m starting to get back onto the squash court, which is something I have missed and I’m hoping the next stage of the recovery is going to go smoothly.”
Simpson had intended to play on despite the hip problem until April this year, but was forced to bring his operation forward after the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, held at New York’s Grand Central Station.
“It’s really frustrating, I felt like the last year had gone really well and at the time I was playing really well. I got back to my equal highest in the World Rankings and I had quite a busy schedule planned for the start of 2017.
“My hip had been niggling for a while but I didn’t think it was much more than a niggle and maybe didn’t realise the severity of the injury. Once I got a scan and realised what was going on in there it was time to get it sorted out.
“It’s a part of sport and I think when I look back it was frustrating but at the same time I had six years of being relatively injury free so I’m glad I managed to get those six years and hopefully I can get a few more.”
The qualifying stages of the Open International de Squash de Nantes will be held between September 4-5 at La Maison du Squash, with the main draw staged between September 6-10 at Les Machines de l’île.
The tournament also features a Women’s tournament offering $15k in prize money - a $10k increase on last year.
Tickets for the tournament start from 6 € and can be purchased here : http://uk.opensquashnantes.fr/the-practical-information/tickets,35.html
Action from the main draw will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
Chris Simpson PSA Video Interview : www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTQAWOIA6qM
We asked 5 questions to Hana Ramadan (EGY) - Winner of the Open International de Squash de Nantes 2016 :
1. Hana, you won the very first women's edition of the Open International de Squash de Nantes. You will be back in Nantes to defend your title. What did you think about the Nantes' atmosphere?
I Fell in love with Nantes. It is such a beautiful and artistic city. Above that the tournament was really well set out and had a lovely loud audience. I'm really excited to come back especially to the all glass court and try to defend my title
2. The prize money increased to $15,000. The main draw will be stronger, you will probably not be among the great favorites ? What will be your goal this year ?
It's great to see that the prize money increased. It shows how Squash is getting bigger and bigger. Playing in a stronger draw will definitely be tougher but I love a challenge and have been training hard in preparation for this tournament. I'd love to defend my title but I'll take each match one at a time and focus on playing as well as I can.
3. Nowadays, Egypt dominates squash more and more. What makes you so strong ? What is different in Egypt to train young players like you at such this high level ?
I feel like at a very young age Egyptians are exposed to a very high level of squash. Having so many great talents to look up to there are higher chances of developing really strong players.
4. Do you spend all your time in your professional squash career ? Or do you do other things outside (study, work ...) ?
Although the main focus for me is playing squash, I am also studying physiotherapy at the University of Nottingham. I'm very passionate about it and would love to practice as a physiotherapist after university while playing on the PSA tour. Until I finish my further education I can't do as much as the full time professional but I can do the quality of a full time pro ! it's all about finding the perfect balance.
5. Beyond your coming in Nantes, what will be your goals this season on the world tour ? And in the future ?
I am aiming to get into the world's top 20, but my coach says he wants more. It's important for me to take one tournament at a time, and a big result in Nantes could be a great springboard for my ranking.
We asked 5 questions to Grégory Gaultier (FRA) - Strong support for the event, World No. 1, world champion 2015 :
1. Greg, a question now usual : You are currently world No. 1 in 2017, world champion 2015, at soon 35 years old, almost 900 matches on the counter and soon 20 years of career ! But how far will you go ? What is your state of mind today ?
I intend to play again a few years, I do not know how many, I do not set an "exit date" yet. For the moment I'm making a very good 2017 start after a frustrating year in 2016 because of many injuries, I was back up like a pendulum after Christmas and really motivated to hand over the i's. As long as I manage the small physical problems, take pleasure in training and competing, I continue.
2. You are European champion in teams and you have 6 consecutive victories in international opens including the mythical British Open. Do you have time to think about the post-career ? Have you ideas of orientation ?
I do not think too much at the moment but I have some ideas. Either to stay in the squash to bring my experience and my knowledge or another kind of job, one of my partners has already proposed to me to work for him.
3. With this extraordinary record and a career of legend that any professional sportsman could envy, what was according to you the recipe? Do you think you had to adapt your game or your training as new players arrived ?
There is no real secret, you have to be rigorous, disciplined, always on the lookout for detail, well surrounded, work with the people you trust, get to adapt constantly, be fully informed and communicate with his team. I had to adapt my workouts over the years of course, on the one hand because I age so exercises where you preserve a maximum my body and also get to adapt with the new generation of players, scoring that also changed during my career etc...
4. Nantes has now become a place where French squash is represented on the professional circuit. We have also been keen for two years now to create a staging around this playful and spectacular sport. Did you hear about the event ? Can we imagine a day before the end of your career having a world champion in our venue ?
I saw a lot of images from last year's tournament and all the players and PSA members told me positive things, that the organization was outstanding I even looked at some Grégoire Marche's matches on PSASquashTV of whom semifinal and final of course. I would like to one day be part of your show, I would be very happy to play a PSA in France especially with this kind of organization and public.
5. You who have known everything at the highest level in the world, would you have advices to the organizers of an open which wants to differentiate themselves in the eyes of the public and satisfy the players ?
Satisfying the audience, you already do with the atmosphere you create. Then to satisfy the players, it is just that the player feels good and that he/sha has only to focus on its match, to play good squash. Putting everything at the disposal so that he/she is performing, suddenly it gives a better show for the public.
Interview with Michel Bouvet - Poster artist of the Open International de Squash de Nantes
1. How did the Story begun with the Nantes Open ?
In 2014, Tournament Director, François Le Jort, calls me up "you work in the Cultural sector, how would you feel about working for a sport event, but with the artistic angle ? Would you be interested in the adventure and beyond?" Well, I had nothing against sport, I watch sport, I do sport, so... I was all for it.
2. Is it the first time you work in the Sporting field ?
No, I had done a few posters for Sporting events already, for Créteil for example, also for the Figaro Cross, not to mention the 2024 Olympic Games.
Well, let's say I use the same method always. I do a dozen ofsketches, with different concepts. It's hard to explain really.It's hard to imagine too ! I'm trying to have completelydifferent ideas on the same subject. For the Open, I'm fascinated by the venue configuration and the increase in the energy over the whole event ! The third year is decisive. For two years, one gets to know the desires of the client. But the third, you go one step further: you now possess the subject. One can juge the success of the communination of an event on the long term: a hat-trick, and you have a series !
3. Where do you find your inspiration for the Open, and how do you work ?
4. How do you master the challenge ?
The true challenge of squash is that there are only three symbols that characterise the sport: the ball. the racquet. the court. I have to use those three elements in different arrangements. Let's take boat racing for example. You can use all what has got to do with the sea. But for squash, it's very reducted. You have got to place those three elements in a different context: it demands a very methodical work to find your basic marks to make sure it's different every time, and avoid the repetition.
5. What makes a great poster in your opinion ?
That's a tough one. A good poster is a poster that answers the question. People needs to remember the poster instantly, it needs to make a true impression on them, so how do you assemble elements that will speak to many ?
Does the success of an event rolls off from a poster? That would be extremely pretentious of me to say. But on the other hand, abad poster can definitely wrong an event. A good programmation and a good communication go hand in hand.When there is fusion, then things click in the right place. People understand the importance of the poster. Not a long time ago, a Theatre Director told me "a play onlyexists one the poster is conceived". I find that conceptinteresting. As if a visual was actually insuflating life. The 2017 Nantes poster is easy to grasp, very plastic from anaesthetical point of view. As a graphic symbol, an animal is aformidable element, there is a sort of emphaty with an animal,more than we can feel for a squash racquet...!
6. Does a poster make an event you think ?