Philippe Signoret will take a number of the world’s leading female French players on a tour of the country to help breath life back into domestic squash in France.
The Tournée Nationale Française (National French Tour) will start in Antibes, on August 22 with the Restaurant Wildcard and Riviera Squash Open des Ombrelles Féminin and span four cities across France including Biarritz on August 29-30 and Paris Montmartre on September 12-13, before concluding at Art Sport Café with the Open National Normand Féminin et Masculin in Le Havre on September 26-27.
While a prize money fund has still to be agreed, the tour will take a novel format in that it will feature the elite French women’s national squad that includes the likes of World No.3 Camille Serme, World No.35 Melissa Alves and French starlets Enora Villard and Elise Romba.
But when his elite women’s squad hit the road, they will be facing male opposition in what is a revolutionary slant provided by one of the game’s radical thinkers.
“Since the confinement caused by the suspension of the PSA World Tour through the COVID-19 pandemic, the players have worked very hard but without targets and it was important that we addressed that to give them a competitive focus,” said Signoret.
“I saw that some French clubs had organised some tournaments called ‘national’. It’s for the elite players, women or men, but the top women can play in the men’s draw.
“So, I thought that while waiting for the PSA World Tour to resume it would be good to play in a national tour that co-ordinated all these tournaments and produced a home circuit for our girls in France.
“These tournaments also give some prize money which is vital for players who haven’t made any money in months and I think, hope and believe that both the players and the clubs will really appreciate it and it will help give life back to squash in France.
“The venues selected have been chosen with respect to the ongoing health situation we have and a lot of clubs called me or sent me messages to arrange a tournament at their venues and really the response and the enthusiasm to get involved was, as we say in France, magnifique.
“There has been a lot of hard work that has gone in to arrange safe hotels and free travel for the girls and really I can’t thank the presidents, owners and committees of all the clubs and venues that have bought into this enough.
“What this has revealed to me is that there is a great amount of love for our girls and pride that they are the European champions, and I know that the girls themselves are very excited to have this focus. I am 100 per cent confident this will keep morale high.”
The prospect of matching up his world ranked women, including the current Tournament of Champions title holder Serme, against experienced male French domestic competition is something that does not phase Signoret, who believes it will toughen up his charges.
“We’re going to test our players’ improvement before the PSA World Tour resumes and playing and competing officially against men is extremely rewarding and motivating,” the Frenchman said.
“I think it will also give the girls different problems of physicality and mentality that will challenge their thought processes and I am sure give them trouble because the male players will be desperate to take a scalp and be able to say over a glass of Beaujolais at the bar that they beat Camille Serme or Melissa Alves for the rest of their lives.
“But will they actually be able to do that? I think not. This will be all about getting our girls to impose their game on opposition that are 100 per cent determined not to be subdued and I think the squash will be very lively and that everyone will benefit immensely from it.”