BIO EXPRESS – MELVIL SCIANIMANICO
representing Squash des Volcans
Coach: Christophe Carrouget – Rankings: No. 15 in France, No. 209 PSA
🥇 French Champion -19 years 2023
🥇 French Champion -17 years 2021
🥇 French Champion 2nd series 2021
🥇 French Champion -15 years 2019
🥇 French Champion -13 years 2018
Winner of the PSA Satellite Amiens 2023
Winner of the PSA Satellite Puy de Dôme 2022
🥇 Winner of the Dutch Junior Open -19 years 2023
🥇 Winner of the French Junior Open -19 years 2023
🥇 Winner of the French Junior Open -15 years 2020
🥇 Winner of the Swiss Junior Open -13 years 2017
🥉 Bronze medalist in the individual junior world championship 2023
🥈🥈 Vice-European team champion 2022 and 2023
Semi-finalist in the junior European individual championship 2023
Last week, French Melvil Scianimanico won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championship in Melbourne.
While he regretted narrowly missing an even more remarkable achievement (he had a match ball in the semifinals against the eventual winner, Hamza Khan), the young Frenchman became finally aware of his level in that event.
He has significant ambitions for his short and long-term future, which he discusses openly in an interview.
BETWEEN JOY AND FRUSTRATION
Jérôme Elhaïk for FFSquash:
Melvil, what are your feelings about your journey in the Junior Worlds now that you’ve had a few days to digest it all?
It’s a bit strange. I’m obviously happy with my bronze medal, and I know that only big names in French squash have stood on the podium before me (1). But I can’t help but feel frustrated; I came within a point of qualifying for the final of a World Championship. It’s tough; in the following hours, I replayed all possible scenarios in my head.
J.E.: Have you watched the semifinal since, especially THAT match ball at 10-9 in the 5th?
M.S.: I’ve watched that semifinal six times! Well, with a return trip of about 40 hours, I had time on my hands.. As for the match ball, it’s not necessarily what gives me the most regrets; he played a great shot and placed the ball perfectly to the sidewall. However, there are many other moments, and if I had to do it again, I would make different choices.
J.E.: The French team coach, Yann Menegaux, told me that your journey in Australia made you realise that you have nothing to envy from the best players of your generation. So, despite the disappointment, could it be an essential step for you?
M.S.: Absolutely, let’s say that when I arrived in Australia, I was nobody, and in my mind, I may not have felt capable of beating guys like Hamza Khan. On the other hand, I still had the goal of becoming world champion because the draw was wide open.
There are many good players, and our world rankings probably don’t reflect our level because we don’t play much on PSA (if I take the example of the Egyptian Kareem El Torkey, recently he beat three players from the top 100). However, there isn’t one guy who stands above the rest and plays top 20, like Mostafa Asal did when he was still a junior.
J.E.: Are satisfied with your performances throughout the event?
M.S.: Yes, I am! I’m happy with what I produced and my level of play. However, when I review my matches, I see plenty of areas for improvement. This frustration I mentioned will serve me because I only have one desire, to train even harder to continue improving.
We’ve just returned, but this afternoon I will have a PMA (Physical, Mental, and Technical) session. There’s no time to waste; the following challenges are coming quickly.
“The frustration of being so close to something great
makes me want to train even harder”
J.E.: Which was your best match, maybe the round of 16 against David Bernet?
M.S.: It’s true that it was a good match; I managed to create opportunities and be very incisive at the front of the court, which is not my primary quality.
However, my best performance was my first-round match against the American Arhan Chandra. He’s an outstanding player; in the consolation matches, he even won 3-0 against Toto (teammate Antonin Romieu). Against him, the quality of my game was there, and I was super accurate.
J.E.: Although you won the Dutch Junior Open, you didn’t feel great in the weeks leading up to the event ?
M.S.: Yes, even though I still played one or two good matches in the Netherlands. Thing is, the French literature exam (bac de Français) made me think a lot, and I didn’t train much. Even when I was on the court, I didn’t have good sensations. Fortunately, once I arrived in Australia, I felt much better.
Next Season coming up fast
J.E.: First big challenge awaiting is the wildcard tournament for the Paris Squash 2023, from August 16th to 19th in Aix-en-Provence…
M.S.: I can’t wait! The Junior World Championship gave me a lot of confidence, and I’m going with the qualifying in mind. Nobody is unbeatable, although there will be excellent players in the draw. I want to measure myself against them to see where I stand mentally and physically.
J.E.: The stakes are enormous since the winner will participate in their first Platinum tournament in France
M.S.: It’s clear that it would be crazy to qualify …
“My goal is to qualify for the Paris Squash 2023.”
J.E.: Do you understand how the PSA tournaments work with the ranking calculations and all?
M.S.: I’m still young. I hadn’t really looked into it until now, but I’m starting to learn. With my coach Christophe Carrouget, we’ve already started targeting which PSA tournaments I could play, knowing that I can’t be away for several weeks due to studies. The goal is to break into the top 150 quickly, considering that qualifying for the Paris Squash 2023 could change everything, including my season schedule, as there are so many key points (2).
J.E.: Actually, you made a nice jump in the PSA rankings (from 239th to 209th in the world), thanks to the points awarded to the bronze medalists of the World Juniors…
M.S.: That’s true, but when I saw that it could have been even better if I had won the points for the winner, it added to my frustration!!!
J.E.: You’re not yet 19, so in your schedule for the next season, there will be junior tournaments as well…
M.S.: I’ve clearly targeted three of them. The US Junior Open in December, which I’ve never participated in before, and my parents will come with me, so it will be cool.
Then, the British Junior Open, in early January. Even though it’s different from a World Championship, most of the players who did well in Australia will still be in the under-19 category. After winning the bronze medal in Australia, I hope to be seeded 3/4.
Finally, there will be the European Championship in the spring of 2024.
J.E.: We’ve talked about this for a while now: we can dream of a French trio, with you and Lauren Baltayan in the individual events and the team competition where you will have Antonin Romieu on your side, among others.
M.S.: Every year, we say this time it’s the right time, that we can beat the English, so I prefer not to say too much (3). Indeed, it’s a great opportunity, but, for example, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t forget Jonah Bryant will be there, who is the defending champion and a great player.
Sky’s the limit
J.E.: Your style of play seems mostly based on retrieval and physicality; has it always been like that?
M.S.: Yes, for my father and myself too; apparently we like to be 2-0 down to win in 5 games!!!… It’s true that from the beginning, I liked running after the ball…. People often tell me that it looks easy for me, that I’m never tired.
And it’s true that physically, well, I wouldn’t say that I feel inferior to anyone, but let’s say that against many players, I have an advantage at that level. Now, we know that if we want to reach the highest level in the world, we can’t rely only on that; we have to work on our attacking shots, and that’s what I will continue to do next season with Christophe Carrouget in Clermont-Ferrand.
J.E.: We also know that you’re a player who plays every ball, rarely asking for lets or strokes, and never complaining to the referee.
M.S.: I think that’s thanks to my parents’ education. As for the rest, in the past, I was too nice, I let my opponents block me, for example. But while I’ll always prefer to play a ball rather than hope for a stroke, I have evolved in that area; I don’t hesitate, for example, to take my position to play a ball.
J.E.: For the past two years, you’ve been part of the Regional Training Centre of Squash des Volcans, with Christophe Carrouget; can you tell us how that happened?
M.S.: At one point, there was talk of me going to the Aix-en-Provence pole espoirs, but it couldn’t happen for several reasons. I no longer had anyone to train with in Paris (5), and if I had stayed there, I might have quit squash. Fortunately, the opportunity in Clermont-Ferrand came up. It happened very quickly; everything was settled in a week.
J.E.: Did you know Christophe Carrouget before that?
M.S.: I had seen him often in junior tournaments, but we didn’t know each other that well. The connection was immediate between us.
J.E.: I believe you will stay in Auvergne for an additional season.
M.S.: Yes, first, because I must finish my secondary education and get my high school diploma. Then, even though I don’t have a player at my level to practice with daily in Clermont, as I mentioned earlier, I have many areas for improvement. I’m convinced that Christophe has a lot to offer me. Afterwards, indeed, the plan is to join the French Pole in Aix-en-Provence in 2024-2025 and devote me 100% to squash.
“It became clear in my mind a year ago:
I want to be a professional squash player”
J.E.: Do you think joining a French pole is often a necessary step to reach excellence in France?
M.S.: Clearly. Beyond the competition and being on the court daily with the best French players, there’s also the environment. All day long, we are surrounded by professionals who live for squash, and we soak up that.
J.E.: And when did you decide to be a professional squash player?
M.S.: I would say it’s been about a year since I’ve been thinking about it; maybe before that, I didn’t feel capable of it. It’s also true that I have gained maturity; I used to let matches go, for example, but now I don’t do that anymore.
There have also been discussions with my parents that opened my eyes to many things. I realised that academics were not really for me and that being a squash player was what I really wanted to do. I will give 100% to achieve my ultimate goal, which is to become world number one.
(1) In chronological order, Thierry Lincou (1994, 3rd), Isabelle Stoehr (1997, 2nd), Grégory Gaultier (2000, 2nd), Camille Serme (2007, 2nd), and Victor Crouin (2017, 2nd): in other words, all players who later became part of the top 10 in the world rankings (and even much better) and won major titles on the senior international circuit.
(2) If Melvil Scianimanico qualifies for the Paris Squash 2023, he will enter the top 150 in the world rankings after the tournament.
(3) France has never beaten England in a team competition in junior squash.
(4) Melvil’s father, Thierry Scianimanico, came to squash later in life but won the French Veterans Championship 17 times and was even a finalist in the last World Championship in the +55 age category. Like father, like son…
(5) Melvil was previously coached by Lucas Vauzelle, who left Paris for Nantes in 2019.