With Martha Lewis, my trusty photographer and navigator, I arrived in Millau on Wednesday night. On Thursday, I played with one of my partners, Thierry Bouvier (from Annecy), in the Regional Doubles tournament, organized on-site at the Parc de la Victoire. Nearly 200 teams entered, and we lost in the 1/8 finals, which meant a payday.
On Friday, opening ceremonies took place with well-deserved tributes to Damien Mas, who announced his retirement after this year’s games. In the morning, I took in the Millau stage of the “Masters of Pétanque.” The Masters is a star-studded, invitation-only, series of one-day, televised triples tournaments. A traveling Pétanque circus, it meets in different cities across France during the Summer. Points are accumulated by players, and a champion is crowned at the end of the year. The French Federation assures that its World Championship team members play together in the Masters — and in the Mondial de Millau — which gives the French invaluable match experience, at the highest level. The Millau stage was won by Quintais-Lacroix-Suchaud, defeating Bruno Leboursicault-Bruno Rocher-Damien Hureau (World Champions in 2004), 13-9, in the semis, and destroying Pascal Milei-Zvonko Radnic-Foyot in the finals, 13-2. We then drove a half hour to a small town on the Larzac plateau to play boules against locals.
The rest of this report is designed to highlight Martha Lewis’ photos, rather than to provide a comprehensive account of the tournament. Martha took many photos of Pétanque in the Park, of the vast majority of players who would never see the Carré d’Honneur. For a selection of her favorites from Millau 2006, click here. This year, in these and the other photos, she did not focus on the elite players as much as the overall ambiance of the park.
The 2006 Open Singles Championship was won by Stéphane Robineau, from Nièvre, defeating Dominique Léonard, 13-11, after being behind 6-11 at one point. Léonard, whom I had never seen play before, had an amazing run, defeating Jean-Marie Pucinelli, 13-11, in the quarter-finals (although starting 2-9), and former World Champion, Didier Choupay, 13-5 in the semis. (I did not play in the Singles tournament, given that my partner, Thierry, wanted to play in the Mondialito-Doubles that afternoon instead; we lost the third game, at nearly 2 a.m.).
In the 2006 Open Triples, Quintais-Lacroix-Suchaud won their second consecutive title, winning 13-0, against Raphaël Bauer-Albert Bauer-Pierre Riviera. I lost the third game, to the team that knocked out Marco Foyot-Zvonko Radnic-Dylan Rocher in the first round. We were tied 8-8, when we lost a round of five points after the bouchon was inadvertently shot on our last ball.
The 2006 Open Doubles Championship was won by Stéphane Robineau and Thierry Figueres. This year, I got selected to play in the Carré d’Honneur for the first time, in the 1/32 finals. On a court to one side, Marco Foyot and Pascal Milei were playing a nasty game with lots of fighting and booing from the crowd; on the other side, defending Doubles champs, Michel Loy and Simone Cortes easily defeated their opponents. According to the organizers, I was the first North American to make it that far in the history of the Mondial. The announcers gave us a long and enthusiastic introduction, emphasizing the fact that I was licensed with La Boule New Yorkaise, and the stands were packed. Damien Mas, the founder of the tournament sat in the front row of our court, next to Martha Lewis. My American partner, Xavier Thibaud, was there as well, proud that I wore my Olympique Marseille jersey, which the crowd apparently thought was hilarious. We dominated early, leading 6-1 after four frames. Thierry Bouvier and I lost the match, however, giving up six points in one frame! Our opponents, a team from Paris, shot five balls at seven meters, carreaux or palais each time, while Thierry missed twice. If we had won, we would have had a shot at winning the 1/16 final, which would have put us on the big stage in the morning.
For Martha Lewis’ selection of photos of the Singles, Doubles, and Triples championships, Millau 2006.
The women’s events broke all records. In Doubles, 297 teams competed, with the final won by Martine Sardi and Muriel Scuderi. In Triples, the team of Marie-Christine Virebayre, Angélique Papon, Ranya Kouadri beat out 168 other teams for the title. Papon has more titles than any other player, male or female (see first section). In 2006, there was no women’s Singles, and the Mixed was rained out.
For Martha Lewis’ selection of photos of the Women’s competition.