In the next part of a series taking a look at back at the 2019-20 season to date, MATT COLES spoke to Lucas Serme about his form over the last 12 months.
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Frenchman Lucas Serme has had one of those “What If?” seasons over the 2019-20 campaign, with several near misses throughout the ten tournaments he featured in.
It is because of those near misses, including six matches that were lost by a 3-2 scoreline, that the World No.40 would only rank his term as a 5/10.
“I would give it a 5. Overall, I am disappointed with my season,” he admitted.
“Between September and March I lost six matches in five games (after having been up 2-1 or 2-0 more often than not), and had I won a few of these my season would have been very different!
Those six 3-2 defeats include his last four losses on tour, which came at the Channel VAS Championships at St. George’s Hill, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the Troilus Gold Canada Cup and the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family.
However, Serme knows that each of those defeats came about differently, and he feels that more belief will surely help him going forward.
“All those matches were different, and I felt I was different in each of them,” the Frenchman explained.
“One time an injury occurred, another time I let myself being overwhelmed by pressure, and sometimes the other guy just played better.
“But I feel that overall it always goes back to the mental side for me, if I believe in myself again then I will return to my natural game, the one I was playing a few years back when I did not feel any pressure or external expectations.”
Serme in action at the Windy City Open in Chicago
The Frenchman has now been inside the top 40 for the best part of two and a half years, but he, like everyone else, wants to improve, and push further up the rankings.
He believes that the ability to take opportunities when they arise will help him rise above his best positioning of World No.32 in the future.
“I need to be able to seize opportunities when they present themselves (such as these six matches), and I need to believe in myself more. I have been doubting my abilities for the past two or three seasons, but I need to step up and be more confident. I think a lot of good things can come from a slightly more positive attitude.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the Frenchman began his 2019-20 campaign much earlier than the majority of the top 40 or 50 players in the World Rankings, as he participated in the Growthpoint S.A. Open in August.
However, after reaching the final of the Challenger 10 tournament, where he was defeated by Youssef Ibrahim, Serme took confidence from the event.
“I was thinking for a while of playing a ‘smaller’ tournament again. I was only playing Platinum events at that time and losing more matches than I was winning,” the 28-year-old explained.
“I thought it was a good challenge to put myself in a position where I was supposed to win. This event in South Africa gave me the opportunity to win more matches and gain confidence, but also paradoxically to put myself out of my comfort zone as the top seed of the tournament.”
Following on from that solid performance in Cape Town, Serme then made it into the last 16 at the J.P. Morgan China Squash Open, where he was beaten 3-2 by then-World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy.
A week later, the Frenchman reached the quarter-finals of the HKFC International Squash Open, where a second straight 3-2 defeat followed, this time against home favourite Tsz Fung Yip. Despite the two defeats, Serme felt he was playing well, but a poor result at the U.S. Open, losing to American wildcard Andrew Douglas, put the brakes on a solid start to the campaign.
Serme (right) in action against Douglas in Philadelphia
“I think I felt fresh and ready, and also somewhat confident after the tournament in Cape Town,” the Frenchman added.
“Things went kind of sour only after my loss in the first round of the US Open. I really panicked after that result and questioned absolutely everything. It really crushed me back then, and I am still working on building my confidence back since this match.”
Despite the poor run of form following that defeat in Philadelphia, Serme picked himself back to up win the French National Championships in February, beating Sebastian Bonmalais in the final.
The 28-year-old said that it was one of his goals to win the event, and he was happy to do so. However, other goals did not come his way in 2019-20.
“The only goal I’ve achieved this season was to win the French Nationals, which was good. But I failed at achieving any other goal I had on my list for this year,” he explained.
What next for the World No.40? With the extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic, he is looking forward to spending time with his wife Anna, a fellow PSA World Tour professional, along with making sure he is ready for a return to action when the time comes.
“[I am] trying to stay physically operational, and mentally sane! I’m taking the extra free time to work on everything I usually don’t have the time to do,” Serme said.
“[I will be] trying to stay productive and ready for when the time comes for us to head back to the courts.”