Victor Crouin (FRA) 2-0 Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 14-12, 11-3 (32m)
It’s official. The 2022 French Open will have a Frenchman in the final. After the exploit from Auguste Dussourd in the first men’s match of the evening, the Iron Marshall aka Victor Crouin made sure he would have a bit of energy left taking the victory in two games.
To be frank, I had never seen Leonel on a glass court, only on traditional, and I have to say I was truly impressed by his touch and volleying ease. Anything loose and it’s a winner really. Lovely hands.
Victor had played him a few times, and it was NEVER easy. They had played in the juniors as well, and it was a 4/2 for the Frenchman, but always, always tough battles on traditional courts…
I’m happy to report that the drunken first time seeing squash nest had gone home, and was left only a knowledgeable crowd, neither booing the ref nor clapping loudly Leonel errors as it happened in the first French presence match. Sorry, but I was not that comfortable with the partial and one sided atmosphere on that quarter. But that’s me.
What was Victor’s game plan? Twist and Turn it seems. Lots of crosscourts, varying front and back, side to side to front to back. Repeat. And to be honest, I feel that even if Victor had lost that opener – he saved two game balls – the very hard work he had put in his opponent’s legs would have paid off in the second.
Still, it’s always better to be up 1/0 than 0/1, especially in that format, “it’s in the head” commented Victor after his match.
in that opener, Leonel made more winners – 10 – but also more errors – 4. Plus conceiding 2 strokes. Victor, 2 errors. But it was close the whole way, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 8/8, 9/9. 10/9 game ball Leonel, saved at the back by Victor, 10/10. Another chance for the Mexican, a sublime forehand winner, 11/10, but an error and we are back levelled 11/11.
The Frenchman, feeling a bit of tiredness in this opponent movement made the last rallies longer, more intense, more gruelling, upping the pace as well, and takes the crucial first game on his second attempt, 14/12, 23m of very high standard squash.
As I said, the hard work produced paid off for the French Iron Marshall, 5/2, 11/3 in 7m. The French have their all Bleu semi-final….
“It was crucial to get that first game, just to get my confidence going more than anything.
Also, I think I was able to hurt him a little bit quicker on the glass than I normally do on the hard court. If you look at the stats, it normally takes me 3 games to tire him off, while today it took me a big game. Now, the glass exposes his weaknesses but also improves his qualities, his shots are even crisper. So you’ve got to work at making sure you expose the weaknessess.
It was really a BIG first game, maybe not as flashy or entertaining for some of the neophyte crowd, because it was more of a tactical game than anything else. Because he knows he might suffer a bit physically, he is so good at slowing down the pace.
And I had to make sure I kept calm and serene, and I’m super happy I managed to take it one point at a time. I had to hurt him with each shot, focusing on every ball. But I had to play two, three winners and make sure where I was playing them, cause anything loose and you are dead. He can really hurt you, and as he knows how to take his space, it’s not easy to get through.
So yes, crucial first game, although I want to believe I would still have won the match had I lost the opener, as the physical damage was done but it must have hurt him even more having lost that game. It’s in the head…
One thing, the more I play someone, the better. It’s like I was collecting data, I recognise their qualities, highlight their weakness. During my junior career, and even now, it can take me a little time to beat someone, but once I do, I feel rather comfortable although you need to always to reassess your tactics and results. I collect data and experience really.
Still, it was not an easy day today, I went through hell trying to think about how to prepare for the match. You know with the BO3, one element you lose completely is endurance. And if I managed to tire him tonight, I did it because he is not top 10. Once he’ll reach that level, he’ll be very difficult to beat. I’ll have to be even more precise.
On the other hand, the BO3 forces us to be focused on each single point, each single shot, to be sharper. That’s why I think the two format are good for our Tour, it creates surprises as well. That said, I’m not unhappy to switch back to BO5 tomorrow against Auguste.
We’ve played so many times with Auguste, it’s never EVER easy matches. On PSA we played in Manchester back in April, and I took it but in five. He is one of the players I was always struggling with as juniors, he is like Leonel, you give him that, and he take it all! Like him, he is so good at slowing down the pace so much you fall asleep a bit and zoom, he surprises you, explodes and takes the point. You have to be so vigilant at all times.
He is playing his best squash I think, I was really impressed by how he played that last game today. It’s good to see him playing this way but I hope he has an off day tomorrow.
Happy to switch to BO5, but based on the quality of squash Auguste demonstrated today, I’ll have to be very, very good….