Dutch take first title as England's men
continue to reign supreme
was an historic day at the Val de L'Arc sports centre in Aix en
Provence as the European Team Championships saw new women's
champions crowned, ending a 32-year domination of the event by
England, who had won every event since its inception in 1987.
Netherlands, who conquered England in the semi-finals after
losing to them in the last seven finals, met hosts France, who
had themselves beaten the Dutch in their final pool match two
days ago to reach their first-ever final.
However, on the Glass court in front of a packed audience, the
Dutch team truned the tables to become champions of Europe for
the first time. Vanessa Atkinson scored the first point for the
Dutch, beating Camille Serme, but France's Isabelle Stoehr came
through a five-game thriller to beat Annelize Naudé and level
the match for the French.
Noom was dominant in the decider though, beating Maud Duplomb in
straight games to claim the historic victory.
France was also represented in the men's final, where they had
lost to England in nine of the last ten years. Despite the
fervent home crowd, the result was the same with England running
out 4-0 winners to claim an 18th successive title.
France knew they needed to win at the top of the order, but when
James Willstrop outlasted Thierry Lincou in a thrilling
five-game 82-minute match and Nick Matthew beat Gregory Gaultier
in straight games at number one, the writing was on the wall for
Daryl Selby duly wrapped up the title with a straight-games win
over Mathieu Castagnet and Peter Barker won the dead rubber
against retiring French captain Renan Lavigne to secure an
emphatic win for England.
James Willstrop gave England the perfect start as they set out
in defence of their European Teams title, but my, didn't he have
to work hard for it.
Thierry Lincou is known as a slow starter, but he was fired up
and playing his best squash from the outset today, always
leading the first game and taking it after 19 minutes of tough,
The second was a strange one, with the Frenchman tinning
frequently and seemingly a yard off the pace. James played well,
but not that well. Perhaps Thierry was saving himself, for he
came out for the third in the same way he started the match,
again leading from the off and again holding on to it again to
regain the lead.
The last two were Willstrop's though. There were some fantastic
rallies, which got the crowd even more excited, but the closest
Thierry got was when he pulled back a four-point deficit to
level at 7-all in the fifth. James was having none of it though,
and four points later it was the English who were cheering the
"I was pleased with that," said the winner. "His level seemed to
drop after those tough first and third games, I could feel it as
soon as we went back on court, I was pretty consistent
throughout. If you beat Thierry in front of a crowd like that
you know you've played well."
Matthew so solid
Gregory Gaultier just couldn't find a way past Nick Matthew
today, no matter how hard he tried.
The Englishman was solid as a rock, as he has been this past
year or so, putting his opponent under constant pressure, giving
him nothing, and putting it away when the chance arose. Both
played well, and the rallies were as long and as tough as you'd
expect at this level, and in front of this crowd - the first
game took was 26 minutes.
But it was Matthew who pulled three clear at the end of the
first, and although Gaultier saved two game balls he couldn't do
it a third time.
In the second it was 9-all before Matthew applied the finishing
touches, and you could feel the passion being drained out of
both Gaultier and the crowd.
The start of the third was tight, but from midway through the
dam burst, it was all Matthew, the finish coming quickly to
leave England needing three more games to be certain of another
title, and France in need of a miracle ...
Selby seals it, Barker makes it four
Daryl Selby made sure that the miracle didn't happen, although
Mathieu Castagnet certainly tried his best to prevent another
England victory over France in the final.
The young Frenchman led the
opening game 4-1, saved a game ball at 9-10 but couldn't stop
Selby taking the next three points.
Essex man eased away from the middle of the second and was in
complete control in the third, clinching an 18th successive
title for England.
Last up, a best-of-three dead rubber between Peter Barker and
French captain for many
years, Lavigne is retiring after this event, and in
commemoration of the many fierce battles he has led the French
team into against England, winning captain Nick Matthew
presented Renan with a signed England team outfit at the end of
the presentations !
two days ago Camille Serme beat Vanessa Atkinson at the Set Club
to send France on their way to an upset victory over the
Netherlands, but today on the glass court the Dutch number one
gained her revenge in the opening match of the final.
Spurred on by a passionate and noisy crowd at Aix's Val de L'Arc
sports centre, Serme took a great start, led the first game 6/2
and closed it out after 12 minutes.
It was Atkinson on top thereafter though, her greater experience
on the glass court, and in these situations, seeing her through.
Serme, almost certainly feeling the pressure, started making
more and more unforced errors, and fell 7/1 behind in the second
and third games, no coming back from there.
The fourth was tighter, Atkinson getting nervous now too, but
from mid-point the points started going Vanessa's way, and the
first point was soon in Dutch hands.
sort of match, playing for your country, it was more
nerve-wracking than my world open final!
"The crowd were so noisy, I just had to try to block them out
and play my game, but playing in such an atmosphere has to lift
"In the end I think it came down to my experience against an up
and coming player just out of juniors. She played the same sort
of game as the other day, but hitting it low and hard doesn't
work as well on a glass court, and I was finding the corners
better than last time.
"She was making errors too, when I was feeling it physically
she'd give me a couple of points which gave me a lift."
Isa saves the day
a decider it's to be ... but it could have been different,
France's Isabelle Stoehr had to come from behind to deny the
Netherlands the title both so desperately crave.
The match was mainly about Isa - Annelize played steadily pretty
much throughout, but when she put anything loose Isa would
attack it, normally on the volley, mostly to good effect, but
with enough errors to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
Annelize kept ahead for the latter part of the first to take the
lead, and held game ball at 10-9 in the second too. Isa saved it
with a volley kill, then hit two more winners to level matters.
Three game balls in the third proved enough for Annelize,
although again Isa saved two of them with winners, tinning on
Isa took the final two games both 11/8, but gave the crowd some
nervous moments along the way as she built good leads in both -
9-4 and 7-2 respectively - but almost squandered them with
Still, she came through in the end and the crowd went wild. Joy,
or relief, she was asked immediately afterwards .... "both, I
think," was the reply.
Orla wins it for the Dutch
Dutch couldn't have wished for a better start in the decider.
Orla Noom, striking the ball well as she does, raced into an 8-1
advantage over Maud Duplomb, and although the Frenchwoman pulled
two points back, Orla soon took the lead.
She almost contrived to throw away a similar start in the
second. Looking in complete control at 6-1 she allowed Maud back
into it, and at 8-all it was in the balance. Three winning shots
later it was double advantage to the Dutch.
The third was close all the way, nothing between then up to
7-all, but Orla found the shots, and the nerve, to close it out.
You have to feel for the French, but after losing seven finals
in a row to the English before finally beating them yesterday,
you have to conclude that the Dutch deserved it. Well played
girls, well played ...