VICTORIES… AT LAST…
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…
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 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…
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
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…
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
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
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 …
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
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
Do you start to feel your age?
Not even remotely. I’m 29. Only bother, a few little injuries here and
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
3 words to describe him:
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?
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
We both had different paths in life, and I think that both of us
arrived where we intended to…
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" !
His main fault ?
Grégory Gaultier talks about Thierry
When did you meet Thierry for the first
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
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,
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,
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.”
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
 Joseph Kneipp (Aus)
10/11(0-2), 11/9, 11/2, 11/1
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…
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
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
 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.
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
Brushed it aside, didn’t you…
Yop, went straight back to Paris, to rejoin my family, and prepare for the
SUPER GERRARD -
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,
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
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…
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…
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
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…
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
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.
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
There we go.
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
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.
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
 Jonathon Power (Can)
9/11, 13/11, 11/6, 7/11, 11/8