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Thierry Lincou They Said ] TL E1 ] TL E2 ] TL E3 ] [ TL E4 ] TL E5 ] TL No1 ]

2004
VICTORIES… AT LAST…

You become world number one for the first time.
A sigh of relief? Too much pressure?

To start with, I had an “on the cloud” period, I had trouble getting used to the idea… You know, I never had the dream to become world number one, it was a very recent ambition… Actually, I was working for it for a very little time, and I guess it arrived a bit too early.

The French Press started to get interested in my career, I got invited to a few TV shows, it was really swell… I was up there in the clouds and I had problems getting back on earth….

Suddenly, I realised that I was expected to do very well, that everybody was looking at what I was going to come up with…

And that injury at the worst of times?

Yes, at the same minute I became world number one, during that famous World Open in December 2003, I injured myself playing Amr Shabana in the final. At the time, I just went on playing, which was probably a mistake, as at the end of the game, my ankle had swollen, and by the evening I was limping. I stopped for 10 days, but I didn’t really get it looked at properly, as it was the festive period, and I was just all over the place, everybody seemed to want a piece of me…

And the return to court?

Painful. I was not ready at all for the Kuwait Open, and I take my first slapping, losing against Mansoor Zaman. Then, as I’m not ready, I don’t do the French Nationals, and I have to withdraw from Dayton for injury…

So many things that went wrong. Not to mention that everybody was expecting me… And I knew I couldn’t perform, as I was not 100% physically, as an ankle injury takes time to heal…

Did your number one spot changed anything in your relationship with Céline?

Céline doesn’t give a monkeys! And that is so reassuring for me. She is far away from all this. She sees what’s happening, but she is the one that keeps me on the ground…

Did it help financially?

No, I had a few bonuses from Adidas and Technifibre, but nothing new. And I was a bit disappointed, I was probably hoping to get a bit more interest from other companies, but it didn’t happen. In fact, I think that you need sustained results, you need to prove yourself in the long term. Now, sitting here, I realise that my title was a beginning, not a end in itself.

In France, how do the athletes from other sports see you?

I’m not sure really… There is a form of respect there now, and those who heard that a Frenchman had occupied the number one spot in squash think that it’s rather ok. One day for example, I was invited to the football club l’OM (Olympic de Marseille), to witness a training session, and I must say I was surprised by the mark of respect I got from the players…

It was funny actually, me with my bicycle, them with their Porsches… I’m joking but it was a bit like that… I felt the respect coming from those big huge stars… It was weird really…

Two years ago, in 2003, when we met in London at the Super Series, you didn’t believe for a minute you could become world number one…

No, I didn’t believe I could. And it was because of that lack of belief that I started to work on my mental with a coach, Jean-Marc Labhouze, it was in December '02. Jean-Marc trained a lot of tennis players, Pioline in particular.

He helped me to take a bit more confidence in myself, he was feeding me with new ideas, breathing techniques, relaxation, trying to get confidence in myself…    

And is it at that moment that you realised your true value?

Mhmm, it was more an on going process. We started from “yes, we want to be in the top three”, then to “the top two”, then “the number one”. Now we are at “winning the tournaments”.

In your opinion, what was preventing you from winning tournaments?

Up to now, I didn’t think I was good enough, I didn’t think that I could actually go until the end, and I was happy to get to a quarter. Then I became happy to reach the semis, then a final. Now, I’m more into a process where I fancy going to the end. But it had to get to fruition, it needed time to grow… Sometimes, I’m just happy with too little…

When you became world number 1 in December 2003, I had the feeling that you were more afraid to lose a match, and that you didn’t really think about winning …

It is true that, at the start of 2004, I doubted a lot, doubts about my abilities, as I’d lost my marks because of my injury. I had trained a lot to come back to my level, but I was short of matches, I was “out of phase”, my "physical" and my game were not in equation, I was like “out of rhythm”.

I started to feel a bit better at the Canary Wharf (I lost in final against a remarkable James Willstrop). It’s hard when you let go for a month, mid-season. And you’re right, the fear of losing was there, it was tangible.

Do you start to feel your age?
Not even remotely. I’m 29. Only bother, a few little injuries here and there…

On a career level, what are you afraid of?
Injuries. That’s all. Otherwise, I truly enjoy the training aspect of my job. When you think about it, I’m so lucky to do a job like mine, and when I go and train, I’m full of enthusiasm and goodwill, for each and every one of my training sessions.

Without that, I would be very unhappy I think. I do what I like doing. And in tournaments, I’ve got to find that same pleasure feeling. But I’m not afraid of ending my career, I’m not afraid of aging, of going down slowly. It’s not a problem. I know that I can stay right here for a little while, I’ve got a good lifestyle, I’ve got good physical qualities, I’m not that worried…
 
3 words to describe him:

Fred Lecomte

A word on Amr?

Shabana and I have known each other for quite a while. When I was on the Junior circuit, I was in the under 19 when he was probably in the under 15, or maybe under 17, I can’t remember.

We were not playing in the same age group, but still, he was already feared by an awful lot of people…

At the time, I thought he was very mature for his age, and very quickly, he demonstrated a real maturity in his game. Let’s not forget he is only 26…

And how do you get on?

It’s a bit like with Scott [Handley], we’ve got a lot of respect for each other, and we can talk about anything.

He’s got a very open mind, he likes to laugh, and I like his values in life.

We both had different paths in life, and I think that both of us arrived where we intended to…

Thierry Lincou?

I first saw him when I was playing the Dutch Junior Open. I must have been 12 years old.

He was a stylish player who seemed to love his technique and his game, 14 years later in in Manchester watching Thierry warm up on court in the final of the Gerrard against Nick Matthew, nothing has changed, he still loves his technique and is as keen as he was 14 years ago!!!
 
Outside the court he is a easy going person, nice guy and relaxed, a family guy who doesn't take squash too seriously. he brings good to the game of squash.

As a person and as a player I would characterize him as a perfectionist to the extent that I always joke him with a nick name that suits him and his straight drives in the court: his nick name "TITI TIGHT" !

Amr Shabana


L'Equipe,  21-Décembre 2003
par Pascal Grégoire-Boutreau

 

His main fault ?
  

  
Paul Sciberras

Grégory Gaultier talks about Thierry

When did you meet Thierry for the first time?
I was 10, in Denmark, we were sharing a room.

What did you think then, and did you change your opinion since?
I didn’t know him really, but he seemed a real nice guy. It’s only when I started to play for the French senior tram that I got to know him a bit better.

Since, I’ve learnt to appreciate him more and more, he is now a close friend, a real friend, who I know I can trust…

What is his main fault?
It used to be handling the pressure, but now he’s acquired experience, he is getting very good at it…

His main qualities?
He is a very dedicated man, that’s one of them, also he is very powerful, great speed…


Did he help French squash to evolve?
Thanks to him, squash developed well, the media interest is growing fast, and he is an excellent leader for the French National Team. He is always there for the important moments…

Do you feel a bit of envy towards him?
It’s always good to have somebody in front of you, somebody you can look up to, well, unless you’re the best of course…

He is a role model for me, he shows me how it’s done, and it helps me tremendously.

In your opinion, what makes him a champion?
His speed, his strength, his precision…

Three words to describe him?
Calm, dedicated, determined…

A personal message :

It’s good to share strong moments with a bloke like him…

      

SUPER SERIES FINALS,
LOND
ON ...


A bit about the match itself?
I knew that I couldn’t afford to lose the second after missing out on the first one. I had to take a mental ascendancy, I saw in him that he was getting tired, but I also knew that I couldn’t relax, and I was still wary of him. I was really happy to win the second 11/9. I realised that Joe was going to get tired, but I didn’t expect him to let me win the last two games so easily. But then again, I was not going to complain now, was I???

You’re always doing well in London, aren't you ?
In three appearances in London, I've finished 2nd, 3rd and at last 1st. This tournament agrees with me I think… And it made up for the 4 or 5 finals that I had lost over the previous year.

On top of that, you were ill when you arrived there, weren’t you?
Yes, after the Europeans in Rennes, I was bedridden for 10 days with a bad flu, I couldn’t play or train. So I went there extremely relaxed, with no expectations at all, I didn’t have any pressure whatsoever. The presence of one of my two coaches, Franck Carlino, calmed me and reassured me. This was a beautiful day for me, especially to win in front of my parents and my coach.

At last a victory?
Yes, I was really, really happy. It meant a lot to me having lost so many finals. This was my first win in a big tournament and to do it in front of my parents and my coach was the best feeling. Having come so close in 2002 and finishing third the previous year, this tournament really meant something to me and I was delighted to win it.



Daniel Lincou :
“I’m not going to tell you how emotional we are right now, his mum and I! And it’s a good consolation prize after his defeat in the semis of the PSA Masters in Qatar against Peter Nicol. Now that he has been world number one, I just hope that he will win some more big events once in a while, without having the pressure of the rankings.”
  

FINAL:
[1] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
[7] Joseph Kneipp (Aus)
10/11(0-2), 11/9, 11/2, 11/1
 


Super Series Finals

HONG KONG OPEN ...

So, your first Super Series crown…
Yes, and I must say I was really delighted to win, in particular in front of a Chinese audience in Hong Kong. They always make me feel welcome over there, and I get a lot of support from the crowd. I feel as if I won the tournament for me, of course, but also for them…

Have you been to China?
No, but since forever, I've fancied going to a little village near Canton, in China, where my grand-parents lived  before the Communist Revolution forced them to exile to La Réunion Island. Ma mum, Luk Lan-Sun went back, but I haven't been farther than Hong Kong so far…

The new scoring seems to agree with you…
Yes, you can say that again! Since we’ve gone to 11, it’s been a string of victories! The new scoring shortens matches, but it is a lot tougher mentally for the players. I think that the mental now plays a role as important as the physical, and one’s got to play each point times ten, and never let one’s opponent to take a considerable lead…

What about Hong Kong tournament itself…
This was the perfect tournament for me. I didn’t waste too much time and energy as I finished most of my matches 3-0. I played each of my matches the way I wanted to, and I put the pressure on each of my opponents. As there were so many upsets during that tournament, so many unexpected results, nobody was paying any attention to me…

And the minute you won?
When I finally realised that that was it, that I had actually won, I praised God and thanked him, as I always do after each of my victories, I crossed myself, but I just couldn’t believe that I won, it wasn’t sinking it at all. It took me an awful long time to realise that, at last, I had won a tournament, a prestigious one, and maybe the one I wanted the most.

It was back then the most beautiful moment of my career…


Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open







FINAL:
[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
[8] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11/4, 11/8, 11/10 (3-1)
 

US OPEN - BOSTON

Not good, the 2004 US Open, you get hammered in the first round…

Thanks for reminding me… But Simon fully deserved his victory, he showed his true qualities as a fighter. On my part, I didn’t get into the match, I wasn't aggressive enough, I was playing unusual volley drops…Physically, I didn’t feel very well. I was quickly out of breath, and to crown it all, the rallies in the first two games were rather long.

You had a little bit of a break down in the third, didn’t you…

Yes, after winning the second I felt short of energy, extremely tired, then hypoglycaemic in the fifth.

OK. But I seem to remember that there was a pretty hard physical contact at some point…

When I got off court the doctors on duty advised me to go to casualty as I took an elbow in the ribs at the end of the second game. At the time, for five minutes, I couldn’t move, but I didn’t feel any pain afterwards. I want to say clearly that it didn’t affect my game whatsoever. Simon played very well. So, to put everybody’s mind at rest, I went to hospital for a check-up, and left at 2.30am, absolutely knackered, but there’s nothing broken.

Brushed it aside, didn’t you…
Yop, went straight back to Paris, to rejoin my family, and prepare for the Super Gerrard…
SUPER GERRARD - MANCHESTER

You don’t exactly start well against Lee…
I just couldn’t find the mental energy to fight, I couldn’t motivate myself, and was stringing mistake after mistake. On top of that, I hadn’t played a match since my US Open defeat against Parkie, I didn’t have any marks, couldn’t find my length, had lost my timing. I had to get back in, and quick…

There is also the famous penalty game against David Palmer for the use of the F word…
Well, we were playing a very physical match. Several times, I was pushed off balance as I was trying to get to the ball, and the pot was starting to boil… and in the fourth, once again, I go to try to get the ball in the front of the court, Palmer pushes me off balance once again, and the word just came out! Actually, after the final, I did apologise…

Yes, and I must say you stunned me actually…
I know I was at fault, and I shouldn’t have said it, but really… During the whole match, David didn’t stop discussing with the ref, contesting his decisions, arguing, getting in and out of court, being very hard indeed, and he doesn’t get any warning of any kind, no penalty. And for once, I open my mouth, I take a penalty game! Even David was surprised, and he came to tell me that it was a very harsh decision…

Yes, that’s what I thought I well, you should have heard me when I heard…
On top of that, I had a good scare, when the ref said “game” I thought he was going to say “game and match” against me, and that I had lost the match! I was soooo relieved when I realised that I only lost a game…

And then?
I had a minute and a half to recover. Thank God I had Isabelle [Stoehr] to calm me down. She said, forget what happened, and what pretend that you were 2/2”. And we talked game plan. And I eventually won the match…

You are now in the final against John White…
Against him, I was very strict and followed my game plan for the whole duration of the match: good length, varying the pace between slow and fast… I was more aggressive than I was in our previous encounters, I played more boasts, volleyed more, in particular volley drop shots, and in my opinion, that’s what made the difference…. At the end of the match, John got a bit tired, and gave me a few points. But if I was letting go of the pressure, he would jump and use any opportunity to assassinate me with his short shots…

How would you describe his game?
To make it short, when you play against John, you’re playing a battle for the T. He hits low, he tries to volley to the back. I had to play as straight as possible, to try and contain him close to the walls and prevent any opening. I don’t think I gave him much chance to play his lethal volleying game, and he got tired going and getting the ball from the back.

And you won…
Yes, my game plan worked, but the game was very close, and it was anybody’s game. In the five games, it all came down to the mental, and down to the one who wouldn’t make the error…

Not too bad, the Super Gerrard, after all…
Yes, I came lacking matches, took a good beating to start with, but it came back, little by little, and in the end, I had a ball…



FINAL:
Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
John White (Sco)
13/11, 5/11, 11/9, 8/11, 11/7


Gerrard Super 8

CANADIAN CLASSIC - TORONTO
 


That tournament was right after the British, where you got injured playing Adrian Grant…
Yes, since that event, I had a constant sharp pain in my right leg posterior “jambier” , but thank God, throughout the Classic, I didn’t feel any restriction whatsoever. Everything was rolling smoothly, and it got better as the tournament went on… I found my marks and confidence in my movements. After my victory in the semis, I was ready to take on local Graham Ryding…

Then, another local, in the final, the Magician Power…
After winning against Graham, I was really up to do well in the final, to give everything I had in front of this crowd. Beating Jonathon in his homeland, and especially in front of this home crowd, meant something really special to me.

What happened in the 4th…
I was sure my ball was up and I got angry. Tension was very high.

Overall, a good match then…
Well, to beat Jonathon, you really have to play your best squash. I think that's what I did. I kept to my game plan. Keep him in the back before going short. You can't attack too early with Power. I was waiting for him to put me in the front of the court, rather than me put him there.

Throughout the tournament, I think my level just went up and up. It's good I had my peak in the final.

  
Paul Sciberras just after the victory in Canada…

There we go.
It’s fantastic.


He’s done it, because he wanted it mentally.

In the past six tournaments he’s participated in, Thierry has won four. We can be proud of him. He is the French Ambassador of Squash in the world.

I think he is starting to realise his potential. He realises he doesn’t have anything to envy to the other players, and he is different from anybody else.

This tournament is a great moment for me, even more than the others. To beat Jonathon, the Magician, at home, in front of his home crowd, it’s a great moment. I think that Thierry has gone one step up today.

It would be great if we could finish the season with a big bang, by winning the World Title in Doha.

He’s got all the weapons to do it, and if he wants to, he’ll do it.


Canadian Classic

 

FINAL:
[2] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [7] Jonathon Power (Can)
9/11, 13/11, 11/6, 7/11, 11/8

Thierry Lincou They Said ] TL E1 ] TL E2 ] TL E3 ] [ TL E4 ] TL E5 ] TL No1 ]

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