THE INAUGURAL NECKER MAURITIUS OPEN HAILED AS A SUCCESS
After several exhibition tournaments, and a two-year wait due to the pandemic, Mauritius Island hosted the PSA World Tour for the first time last week. The full crowd was treated with a great show from world class players – including winner Diego Elias – and the event as a whole was hailed as a success by everyone involved.
WE DID IT !
When asked to summarize the week with a single word, Lionel Kupper chose “finally.” “But in a positive way,” adds the RM Club Mauritius manager, who was also a key member of the organizing committee. “We did it! After three or four postponements, there was a lot of excitement, and I think the event was a success. I saw a smile on everyone’s face, whether it was the players, the people involved in the organization or the spectators.” Among other things, the success of the event lied on its attendance, and tickets were sold out from the quarterfinals onwards. The crowd got involved and cheered enthusiastically for the players, who kept thanking them for their support in their post-match interviews. “There are quite a few people who discovered squash, and they told me they loved the show. Like it or not, professionnal tournaments can attract new players towards a sport, and Coline Aumard’s arrival will be another boost as far as squash in Mauritius is concerned (see below AN EMOTIONAL WEEK).”
The Necker Mauritius Open was a true success as far as attendance goes, and the stands were full from quarterfinals onwards
IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW…
“Most of the tournaments of this scale take place in a venue where a glass court is set up especially for the occasion, and Greg Gaultier told me that for the players it was nice to be in a club, where everything is easily accessible,” says Lionel Kupper. “Putting such an event up is a lot of work, there are constantly small things that need to be sorted out.” Throughout the week, the quality of the organization, as well as this of the infrastructures, was hailed by the players as well as the PSA members who made the trip to Mauritius. With the precious help of the events company RSVP, the promoters pulled out all the stops with a sound and light show before the players came on court, a magician to entertain the crowd between matches etc. “We organized a few things besides the tournament, for example the exhibition match with Greg and Thierry Lincou between the two finals, but we can probably go further in this department,” adds Lionel Kupper. “I think we can take some inspiration from tennis, and have players more involved in some public relation operations. On the other hand, some people travelled from abroad – Kenya, South Africa etc. – to attend the event and we could offer them packages including a participation to a golf tournament, for example. These are ideas that we will explore for the next edition.”
Boosted by the success of the inaugural edition, Lionel Kupper and the Necker Mauritius Open’s organizing committee already have their eyes on 2023
“Hopefully, this keeps happening and I can come back next year to try and win it again,” said Diego Elias during the prize ceremony. Promoter Rémy Mabillon fulfilled his wish a few minutes later when he said “See you next year.” The second Necker Mauritius Open will take place from the 6th to the 10th of June of 2023, and will “probably be a Gold event, although we haven’t had time to discuss that with Rémy yet,” concludes Lionel Kupper. Wait and see…
There were numerous withdrawals in the men’s draw just before the tournament, but for Lionel Kupper it was not such a big deal. “This is part of the game,” he says. “What I want to remember above all is the attitude of all the players, although as far as the competition goes Diego Elias was surely the star of the show.” The Peruvian Puma played at an exceptional level in the last two days, and may have even surprised himself a little bit after beating World No.2 and 3 – Paul Coll and Mohamed ElShorbagy – without dropping a single game. Elias will be full of confidence at the PSA World Tour Finals, that will be helf next week in Cairo. ElShorbagy had made the headlines the day before the tournament, when he announced that he had switched allegiance from Egypt to England, but he also confirmed he was coming back to top form – especially producing a wonderful performance in his semifinal against Tarek Momen. There were very few upsets in the Necker Mauritius Open but some players gave a good account of themselves: Omar Mosaad beat Marwan ElShorbagy in the last 16, while Frenchman Baptiste Masotti seriously troubled Paul Coll during the first three games of their quarterfinal before surrendering.
Diego Elias (on the right) produced an impressive display to dispatch Mohamed ElShorbagy in straight games in the final
A $30,000 women’s tournament, sponsored by American company Expression Networks, was also taking place in Mauritius. The two higher-ranked players – World No.15 Tinne Gilis and World No.18 Farida Mohamed – met in the final. Despite a thigh injury, the 20-year-old Egyptian was able to impose her power to win the biggest title of her career after a five game battle.
AN EMOTIONAL WEEK
The season that is on the verge of ending is definitely a peculiar one for French squash. While Camille Serme announced her immediate retirement a couple of days ago, two of her compatriots said farewell to the PSA World Tour in Mauritius. Grégory Gaultier had already hung his rackets in October 2021, but the former world number 1 and world champion agreed to make a final appearance in a tournament organized by his close friend, promoter Rémy Mabillon. The Frenchman, who produced some good squash to defeat George Parker in the first round, carried the momentum against World No.8 Mazen Hesham in a 17-minute first game but ran out of energy after that. “I’m of course disappointed to have been unable to perform a bit better, but it’s been a pleasure to be on this beautiful court for my last match – on the PSA Tour anyway as I’ll try to keep playing for fun, because I love the sport way too much,” said the French General in front of a crowd that paid him a magnificent tribute.
Coline Aumard and Grégory Gaultier (on the right, with Adam Auckland) bid farewell to the PSA World Tour in Mauritius
The next day, it was Coline Aumard’s turn to say goodbye to the World Tour. Fittingly, she played her 304th and final match against her best friend Tinne Gilis, who beat her in straight games although the Frenchwoman fought until the bitter end. “I have mixed feelings,” said Gilis after the match. “I’m Coline’s last opponent in PSA, so I’m honoured in one way, but very sad on the other side because I don’t want her to leave!” Coline Aumard and her husband, former PSA player Adam Auckland – who was one of the tournament’s physios along Mathieu Benoit – will now be moving to Mauritius, where the Frenchwoman will be in charge of developing the RM Squash Academy. ”It’s very hard to find words but I think you can see how happy I am to be here, it’s happy tears! Something very nice is coming for me and Adam and I feel very honoured to be on this court day to play my last match because it’s where I’m starting my new chapter.”
RÉMY MABILLON, A TRUE SQUASH LOVER
There is one person that players as well as PSA members, for example COO Lee Beachill, have been thanking all week in Mauritius: it’s of course tournament’s promoter Rémy Mabillon, whose involvement has continously increased since he discovered the sport in the mid 2010s. His passion for squash may be relatively new, but it is visibly as big as the respect he has for the players. As a matter of fact, the French entrepreneur barely missed a single rally during the whole tournament …
The tournament promoter Rémy Mabillon (here with Grégory Gaultier) is a true squash lover
TEAMWORK IS KEY
“It’s more than a team, it’s a crew,” often says François Le Jort, promoter of the open international de Nantes, to describe the people working on an event. This was also the case in Mauritius, where everyone contributed their share in many areas: hospitality staff, catering, entertainment, communication, refereeing, medical staff etc. (sorry to all whom I am forgetting). Big up to the court cleaning attendants who had a lot of work during 5 days, because the conditions were very humid and players sweated profusely on court. It cuminated at the end of the semi-final between Mohamed ElShorbagy and Tarek Momen, when they had to wipe the floor after almost every rally …
Numerous people have worked behind the scenes so that the inaugural Necker Mauritius Open would be a success