Robbie discusses his run to the Semi-Finals of the Men’s Open International d’Angers 2015, including his now famous win against first seed and world no.58, Steve Finitsis.
June 2015 has brought the defining moment of my career so far, in run to the Semi-Finals in the $10,000 International d’Angers. This wasn’t my biggest victory in terms of importance or rankings, but it was certainly a defining moment which has changed a lot.
I arrived in Angers seeded 7th for the event and began with a 12-10, 11-6, 11-6 victory over Scotland’s Jon Geekie. The reward for this win was a quarter-final berth against Steve Finitsis, a good friend of mine who I’ve known for a long while, in what would become probably my biggest result to date.
Steve’s a very fair player so I knew it would be a good contest but I didn’t expect the result! Steve claimed the first 11-7 but I recovered to win the second 11-8. Steve responded emphatically though to win the third 11-4 to claim a 2-1 lead. If it wasn’t for the crowd, who were magnificent and my Spanish amigo, Bernat Jaume, I’m not sure I would have managed to pull it back. With their aid, I triumphed 11-9 in the fourth to set up a decider, which I managed to win 11-7! I never could have anticipated this before hand. I seemed to find better form than him on the day and realising that was a huge moment for me.
I’ve always believed that I can beat players like Steve. Now though, I feel like I will beat them. It’s a subtle but massive shift in mindset. I’ve been told I should now be expecting to win these sort of matches!
After dispatching Steve, I faced Tayyab Aslam, the 3rd seeded Pakistani in the last four. It was difficult regrouping from all that had just happened and unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it happen. Tayyab, the world no. 86, was fresher than me and just had that extra edge when it mattered most, winning 11-9 in the fifth game. It was an 85 minute marathon I couldn’t quite handle after the match against Steve the day before. Despite being disappointed, I was pleased to be able to compete well even when I wasn’t on song.
What made the breakthrough possible?
As with all successes, this victory was the coming together of lots of factors, which all finally clicked in Angers. It was a breakthrough in realising my potential for me. I’ve been working hard on my movement and have also been working through a new training program, which has given me a new lease of self-confidence and a new love for the game, which is incredibly important when you’re training professionally.
I’ve also been developing my tactical skills and become better at what I call ‘mapping out the court’, which means I’m able to navigate my way through matches better, which is taking me away from an erratic and frantic style.
What was the media coverage like?
I got an overwhelming response on social media and from the local media. Doing interviews felt surreal, as did seeing my face in the local paper.
The PSA also gave me a mention, which is always nice. I took it in my stride and actually enjoyed it. I just tried to keep my mind calm and focus on the next game, which I’m pleased with given it was a first for me in the senior game.
The media coverage isn’t as intense in squash as other sports and doesn’t really happen to us so much but I do like the way Gregory Gaultier handles the media. In the earlier rounds, he’s often more chatty and relaxed, as there are fewer unexpected defeats in the opening rounds in squash compared with other sports. When he gets to the later rounds though he’s much more serious and eager to get the interview over and done with.
As I mentioned earlier, some thing has really changed in my mindset. Before, I knew I had the skill and thought I could do well but now I feel I ‘will’ achieve my goals. I compare myself with the top 20 players in the world and how good they were at my age and I don’t think it’s out of reach. The top 20 is the benchmark I’m aiming for, with a view to making the top 10, though this can depend on circumstance. If you look at Nicolas Müller, he was often getting the top seeds in the opening rounds, which stifled his rankings for a long time. Now he’s really breaking into that elite group. Simon Rösner, was always close to the top 10 as well and has recently upped his game and now broken through, edging a lot of closely contested matches.
Angers has made everything real for me. I now believe I will achieve my mission to make the top 20 in the world, and beyond.
You can see some highlights of Robbie’s match versus Steve Finitsus and also follow his progress on: