The Cognac Open takes place on French soil this week, with the Challenger 10 level event playing host to a mainly-French draw, including World No.44 Victor Crouin.
The event is limited to domestic entries due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with Japan’s Ryosei Kobayashi, who lives in the country, the only non-Frenchman in the draw.
World No.36 Lucas Serme is the top seed for the tournament, with World No.44 Victor Crouin, World No.62 Sebastian Bonmalais and World No.72 Kobayashi the top four seeds in the draw, and they will be the expected semi-finalists this week at Squash La Belle Allee.
Crouin is in the form of his life, having won his last two events on the Challenger Tour. The young Frenchman won the PSA Bordeaux Nord in his final appearance of 2020, before also taking the crown at the PSA Challenger 10 Le Reve Nancy earlier this year. On both occasions, he defeated Serme in the final, and he is feeling good ahead of this week’s action.
“I was definitely playing some good squash in the last two events I played. I’ve come to realise the progress I made during the last four months of 2020 and it helped me tremendously to adopt a positive mindset during matches. It also helped me to trust myself more on court regardless of my opponent,” he explained.
“We don’t get the opportunity to play as many official matches as usual, so I am trying first to have fun and enjoy the moment. Playing training matches is one thing, but the adrenaline isn’t quite the same as during official matches.
“Of course, I am more confident in my abilities when stepping on court with Lucas and I am excited to meet again this weekend if we both make it to the final.
“I am confident I can make three out of three but I know Lucas will be hungry to get his revenge and therefore will raise up the level of the game, which promises to make it an exciting match to watch again.”
Crouin is part of a big group of French players inside the top 50 in the World Rankings, in both the men’s and women’s games. Camille Serme, Coline Aumard, Melissa Alves and Enora Villard are in the women’s top 50, while Gregoire Marche, Mathieu Castagnet, Gregory Gaultier, Lucas Serme, Baptiste Masotti and Benjamin Aubert are alongside Crouin in the men’s top 50.
He believes that the group all spur each other on despite having a wide range of ages and styles. He knows he has to work harder than ever to maintain his place.
“Although we all come from different generations, we are still close to each other off court. The most experienced players inspired the younger generation through the years and the younger generation pushed the most experienced to continue to work hard and progress in order to stay at the top of the national ranking,” the World No.44 said.
“As I said previously, Lucas will be hungry to reaffirm himself as a member of the top 4. I believe the competition is dense in France at the moment and this dynamic is certainly pushing each of us to surpass our limits and work harder everyday to reach the top of the world ranking. We learn from each other and I am very grateful to be part of such a successful group of players.”
This event will also be live-streamed, with the action LIVE on the Squash La Belle Allee Facebook page.
First Round Draw: Cognac Open
 Lucas Serme (FRA) v Joshua Phinera (FRA)
Alex Dubarry (FRA) v  Edwin Clain (FRA)
 Manu Paquemar (FRA) v Paul Gonzalez (FRA)
Maceo Levy (FRA) v  Sebastian Bonmalais (FRA)
 Ryosei Kobayashi (JPN) v Laouenan Loaec (FRA)
Adrien Douillard (FRA) v  Toufik Mekhalfi (FRA)
 Quint Mandil (FRA) v Rohan Mandil (FRA)
[WC] Baptiste Bouin (FRA) v  Victor Crouin (FRA)