Squash: A unique atmosphere at French League Play-offs – Willstrop

James Willstrop. PIC: Steve Cuccins./squashsite.com
James Willstrop. PIC: Steve Cuccins./squashsite.com
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What a welcome we received last weekend for the French League Play-off finals weekend in Le Mans, a city a couple of hours train ride from Paris.

ow on the wrong side of 30, I am happily still able to say that squash still offers opportunities to seek out new venues and bustling sporting communities in unexpected places.

The league weekends in France are always an exciting part of the year. Last year Chartres proved to be a similarly warm atmosphere. Pros and amateurs come together in one venue, volunteers get involved, kids are inspired, the club sells plenty of beer, and there is some high quality action to entertain spectators. Everyone wins.

These club events are often the best, reflecting the integrity of the sport; the team emphasis means there is atmosphere, which can be lacking at individual events. Gregory Gaultier is the French men’s world number one, and Laura Massaro the women’s world champion and they compete in the same space as those in Division 4. I always think of this as quite unique to squash and it’s something we are all proud of.

My team Mulhouse won the men’s and women’s doubles. The women, with Massaro leading the way at one string, beat the team from Bourges, led by Halifax-based Sarah Kippax. The men’s title went to the deciding match where team captain Mathieu Castagnet put in an outstanding display to dismiss compatriot Gregoire Marche, playing for Valence. It’s a fifth title in a row for the Mulhouse women, and the second consecutive one for the men.