Cristina Tartarone makes Italian squash history

Cristina Tartarone

Cristina Tartarone ended a 10-year wait for an Italian title winner on the PSA Tour last weekend by lifting the trophy at the $3k Costa Brava Open.

Tartarone’s 11-9 11-5 11-9 victory over France’s Kara Lincou in the final in Santa Cristina d’Aro, Spain, was her first ever appearance in a Tour final and therefore, of course, her first PSA trophy.

In addition to being the first Italian player to win a Tour title since the legendary Davide Bianchetti at the Austrian Open 2014, Tartarone’s win on Sunday made her the first Italian female winner in Tour event since ex-world no.25 Manuela Manetta at the Welsh Open back in 2009!

As well as its historic significance, the win was also an important milestone for 23-year-old Tartarone – it confirmed her comeback from a difficult three-year period in which Covid-19, an ankle injury, a wrist injury (both requiring surgery) and university studies severely interrupted her squash career.

She told European Squash: “It was my first tournament on the PSA Challenger Tour for two years following my surgeries and it feels great to get the victory. I am proud of this achievement and I hope I can bring another few trophies home – starting this weekend in Brussels [where she is playing another PSA $3k event].”

Tartarone finishes her architecture degree at the University of Bologna next month and will then play squash full-time. Her first tournament as a fully-fledged pro will be the ESF European Individual Closed Championships in Cuenca, Spain, in late August.

She currently trains at the Federazione Italiano Gioco Squash in Riccione with her coach, Marcus Berrett. “We have a good relationship,” she says. “There are some good male players here to train with but no girls apart from a few juniors, so there is a big gap between us.

“The Italian federation are doing a great job. I train here at the national facilities and have use of a physiotherapist. Hopefully in September they will be able to help pay for me to travel when I am on the PSA Tour.”

The world no.187 is originally from southern Italy and learned to play at the five-court Squash Scorpion Club in Cosenza. Although there aren’t as many clubs across Italy as there used to be, several large, strong facilities remain. “There are a few cities with clubs working really well, even if the infrastructure isn’t big all over the country,” says Tartarone.

Now injury-free and ready to dedicate herself to the sport full-time, Tartarone’s focus is on a bright future – one that includes the prospect of becoming an Olympian in four years’ time at LA 2028.

“Obviously it will depend on what happens with qualification and selection,” she says. “When it was announced that squash had made it into the Olympic Games, I was really, really excited. The main dream of every young athlete is to be at the Olympics. I’m going to do my best to get in, but I don’t want to say too much in case it doesn’t happen!”

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