For the last few years, Mathieu Castagnet has been plagued with injuries. After reaching the top six in the World Rankings in May 2016, the Frenchman suffered calf tears in both legs, along with back issues from wearing braces, which was affecting his balance and causing further problems.
He dropped out of the top 30 in the summer of 2019, but has been able to recover, and now sits just outside the top 20 after a good 2019-2020 campaign.
The 33-year-old admitted that the injury process was still going through his mind at the beginning of the season, and that he was not completely focussed on getting the better of his opponents.
“I am not satisfied with the first part of the season. Instead of thinking about a game plan, I was wondering how to play without thinking of injuries,” he explained.
“I was more focussed about myself, and how to move than how to beat my opponent.
His campaign started on home soil, where he reached the last eight of the Open de France – Nantes presented by Tailor Capital, beating only by the eventual champion Paul Coll.
“The week in Nantes was amazing. We were at home with the French crowd behind us, the atmosphere was extremely hot!” he said.
“I was happy to be there after a long period of training. I was prepared and fit for the event in Nantes and I produced a good squash. I will keep some great memories from that event.”
Talking of France, a few months later Castagnet featured for France at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championships in Washington, D.C.
The French team, which also included Gregoire Marche, Gregory Gaultier and Baptiste Masotti, finished in 3rd spot, the sixth time the team has finished inside the top three since 2003.
You feel a lot pressure, but it’s great and I really appreciate it,” the World No.24 explained.
As the season wore on, though, the Frenchman got back into the groove, and secured his best result of the season, a semi-final appearance at the Canada Cup.
“The second part of the season has been different with a 100 minute encounter against Saurav Ghosal in Chicago. I also beat three players into the top 15 in the world. My approach to the game has changed and I have been more focussed about what to do on the court.”
The Frenchman then produced some of his best squash in the truncated season’s final event, the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, event that he won in 2016, with the best-of-three format suiting his game.
“I think the best-of-three format is great for the game, the promoters, the crowd and the players. People can appreciate watching more than two, three or even four matches on the same day,” he explained.
“At the moment, if we compare with the best-of-five, we won’t exceed 50 minutes of game in best-of-three. It will be a great opportunity for all of us to play more events in year, reduce the injury, increase our prize money and be watched by more people, and more TV coverage.
“A great example with Chicago and Canary Wharf events, there were close in term of dates and I think the best-of-three games format as been appreciate.”
Away from the court, the 33-year-old has used the suspension of the PSA World Tour to his advantage, and he has been able to spend more time with his young daughter, something he would not have been able to do had he been travelling the world.
“I spent a lot of time with my wife and my daughter at home. My daughter is growing so fast and with the Coronavirus, I can share a lot of good times with her,” he admitted.
In short, he is proud of his recovery and how he came back from multiple injuries.
“I am really proud to be close to the top 20 in the world again, that means a lot to me,” Castagnet admitted.
“For three years, I have been struggling with injuries and I have always been trying to stay positive. I have tried to get a real clear answer from different specialists; physios, doctors, acupuncturists… To be honest, it hasn’t been necessarily easy every day…
“But I have accepted the challenge, I met a lot of people, I did different things and I found a solution. I wanted to prove to myself first that I could compete and beat some top players again.”