• European Individual Closed 2009 • 27-30 May, Herentals • 

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TODAY in Herentals - Fri 29th, Day THREE:

Semi-Finals :

[3/4] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [2] Laura L-Massaro (Eng)
             12/10, 11/9, 10/12, 11/5 (44m)
[1] Natalie Grinham (Ned) bt [3/4] Isabelle Stoehr (Fra)
             15/13, 11/8, 11/6 (38m)

[3/4] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [2] Nick Matthew (Eng)
             6/11, 11/8, 11/4, 11/7 (65m)
[1] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [5/8] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
             5/11, 11/8, 11/1, 11/9 (67m)

France & Holland Guaranteed Gold ...

Gold medals for Holland and France were guaranteed after the semi-finals produced a first-ever all-Dutch women's final and second consecutive all-French men's final on a bad day for the English in Belgium.

The first match of the night saw the Netherlands' Vanessa Atkinson, appearing for the first time since she took the title in 2005 in Prague, upset the seedings with a closely-contested four game victory over Laura Lengthorn-Massaro, the second seed.

Top seed Natalie Grinham, making her debut in the event, then made sure that there would be a Dutch winner when she defeated reigning champion Isabelle Stoehr in straight games.

The first men's semi-final saw another upset as France's Thierry Lincou guaranteed himself a repeat or better of last year's runner-up spot, beating England's second seed Nick Matthew in just over the hour in a gruelling match.

World number two Gregory Gaultier, unbeaten in this event for the past five years, dropped the first game against LJ Anjema but roared back to deny the Dutchman and set up a repeat of last year's all-French final.

 Draws & Results
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En Bref #3

Framboise reports
from Herentals

"I didn’t have the feeling that I made that many errors today, but for the last year I’ve been working on making my game a more attacking one, so of course, it comes with doing more errors…

"Today, I was not, well, it was like I wasn’t there mentally. It’s like I had to force myself to do well. After the Europeans Teams, it was like the end of the season for me, and this week, although I’m confident in my fitness, confident in my game, I’m not confident in my match practice, and on there, it was like all cloudy, and I didn’t know what to do with myself really…

"It’s a tough part of the season, season’s over, we are starting the summer training… But I’m really disappointed there won’t be an English player in the final…

"Now, back to training, and I’m going to try and work to get where I want to go, and as for this one, I’m going to try and finish third…"

[3/4] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [2] Laura L-Massaro (Eng)
             12/10, 11/9, 10/12, 11/5 (44m)


Today, I had the feeling we had one very hungry player, and one who was never comfortable. Vanessa was as precise, strong and tactically strong as she was a few years back, at the top of her game. Laura seemed unsecure, went short far too early, and made too many errors.

Still, the English lady found some stunning trickle boasts, both left and right, and took a lot of energy out of Vanessa, who counterattacked by taking the ball earlier and earlier, volleying to perfection.

Shame neither of the girls used the lob, I feel it’s a shot they both do not use enough…

If Laura seemed to recover mentally in the third, Vanessa came out like a shot in the fourth, taking a 6/0 then 7/2 lead. Laura clawed back to 5/7, but the Dutch was not to be stopped today. The fire was under HER belly…

"It’s nice to play well, and still be able to compete at that level, and if I had lost today, I would have been disappointed, but still happy I was able to compete at her level, it’s nice to feel that fire in the belly…

"Laura is a strong and fit player, she had some pretty good results lately, it’s a good win, and she is motivated, something I’m struggling with at the moment.

"I don’t know what makes me get that motivation, maybe today it’s the feeling to be there, with the team. When I’m on my own, on yet another tournament at the other side of the world, I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s sometimes difficult for me to get that fire, which I used to have all the time before. So nowadays, I make sure I only do the tournaments I want to do, and not the ones I need for points, there is no point…"

[1] Natalie Grinham (Ned) bt [3/4] Isabelle Stoehr (Fra)
             15/13, 11/8, 11/6 (38m)


A type of match we all know of, a first game that is crucial, both from a mental and physical point of view.

Isabelle Stoehr, recovering from injury, is fit enough to play, but match wise, you can feel that she still a little short. And Natalie just relaxed and soared from the second game on, her short game firmly in place today, with an end result no longer in doubt....

"The first game was crucial, I think especially for Isabelle, I think it was a big mental blow for her. Not so much for me, fitness is not so much of a problem, I know she is recovering from injury. Only thing, after winning that game, I was able to play more freely…

"Today I was more comfortable than yesterday, I’ve played her a lot, it’s easier to stick to a game plan, whereas yesterday I didn’t know Camille’s game at all. Also, yesterday, there was one door open on the right side of the court, and I was struggling to see the ball, I was constantly a bit late in that corner.

"But don’t misunderstand me, I don’t say that it was easy to play Isabelle, she is a tough player, and she can play some beautiful mix…

"Tomorrow, it will be a good day for Netherlands, number 1 and number 2 playing in the final…"

"I hear that some people say that I don’t attack enough, that my game compared to the Egyptian is not as flamboyant, I don’t play that many nicks, that I play “the old squash” way.

"Well, I do attack, another way, that’s all… And I think I probably showed it today, by finding some good short game, by mixing the shots, high, low, in the front, at the back, but still, as ever, it’s my length that saves me. That’s where I win the match…

"In the first game, he was in total control of the T, so I forced myself to take the ball earlier, to play faster, and I was lucky, all my shots went in.

"But God does he have great forehand cross courts, he got so many points with that one!!!

"And now, a good rest for tomorrow…"

[3/4] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [2] Nick Matthew (Eng)
             6/11, 11/8, 11/4, 11/7 (65m)


I've known Nick for a while now, and I rarely saw him as frustrated as he was in the middle of the third game here tonight …


First game, typical Lincou, a bit slow, both players planted on the service line, volleying everything, but at that game Nick is that much better, volleying is Nick’s middle name. Thierry makes a few errors, and Nick takes the 13-minute game.

It all changes in the second as Thierry accelerates his pace, takes the ball earlier, succeeds to push Nick more and more to the back, and as both of them play very tight on the side walls, attacking is not that easy.

But strangely enough, it’s at the front that the Frenchman starts to make the difference, as he lets his shots go freely, he is perfectly relaxed, varies the shots at will, preventing Nick from controlling the game as he normally does.

And frustration grows on the English boy who maybe “expects” Thierry, 33, to be overwhelmed with the pace that Nick is imposing on the court now. And why not? Nick on paper is the better player, and I don’t know many players in the world who can beat the Englishman at this point in time...

But the Frenchman is in the zone, as simple as that. The shots that found the tin in the first game are now perfect nicks, the pace, he accepts it, but goes for it, and takes the ball earlier and earlier. Nick gets more and more frustrated after losing the second, but it gets worse when Lincou gets a 4/0 lead in the third.

Nick is unsettled, discusses a bit with the ref, testosterone is flowing, looks between the players, you know the drill, and the Frenchman takes the third, 11/4.

When he comes back on court, all is forgotten between the two, but the momentum is with the French, who plays as explosively at the front as he did in NY against Ramy, with a length and width that prevents Nick from developing his game. But at 9/5, the Frenchman is suddenly reminded that he is 33, and really hits the wall.

Nick feels it, accelerates, finds stunning shots, runs after every ball, and doesn’t let the Frenchman breathe. Points are piling up, pace is getting faster and faster, and all the French camp knows that their man desperately needs to win this one, that he won’t last a fifth. Thierry knows it, and so does Nick.

A stunning rally at 9/7, Nick is lobbing beautifully, attacking at will, a rally that lasts and lasts, probably the longest of the match, but out goes the ball. 10/7 match ball. And Nick hits a tin.

Thierry is happy, but completely emptied, he gave all he had there.

“Nice to still win again matches like that” he murmurs, totally exhausted. I don’t think he truly thought he would win that one.
I for one didn’t…

[1] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [5/8] LJ Anjema (Ned)
             5/11, 11/8, 11/1, 11/9 (67m)


You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to see that the Frenchman was struggling whit his motivation today. He was clearly not in the mood to play, this is in the middle of his holidays, and a few days before his summer training.

LJ played very well in the first game, and although Greg reassessed, it was not a great performance from the French number one. I know he will still play at his best tomorrow, and especially because it’s an all French final, but I could feel in his standing on court he really had to concentrate hard to stay mentally switched on… And he is not the only one, as the timing of this event is maybe not the best…

In the first game, Greg makes 7 unforced errors while hitting low and hard, and will change his tactic by playing higher shots that seem to unsettle LJ, who’d rather play at a much faster pace.

In the third, what went in the tin in the first now finds the wining slot, and Greg is comfortably dominating the fourth 10/4 when a ball called good by the three refs – a crosscourt rolling nick – is finally replayed when Greg, in a good spirit, asks the crowd what they think. “We want more”, somebody shouts…

LJ, too happy to have a second lifeline, bless him, plays “le tout pour le tout”, out of his skin to claw back at 10/9, much to the pleasure of the audience, but won’t be able to catch an nth and last winning drop shot…

thanks to André, French coach, for his notes on this match

"The glass court is less forgiving. Yesterday, on a traditional court, it was more difficult for Peter to expose my weaknesses. It was harder for me today on the glass court, I was struggling…

"This was a great week, and tomorrow I’m glad to play the 3rd/4th place, that’s what I need, more and more matches, because even if when I was injured I still did a lot of cycling, etc, I was not out of form as such, but my training was not squash specific…

"I’m happy with the way I played yesterday against Peter, beating him the way I did, and again today, with the way I played. That’s a good base to start again and build on…

"Happy with my performance, and if somebody told me a month ago that I would play the semis in the European Individuals, I would have taken it immediately…"

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