Howard Harding reports
European Championships Double In Amsterdam
It took well over four
hours in just three matches for England to beat long-time
rivals France 3/0 in today's (Saturday) men's final of
the European Team Squash Championships after the
England women's team also defeated Netherlands 3/0 in the
other final at Frans Otten Stadion in Amsterdam to
record the double for the 16th
made up for the disappointment of losing to France in
yesterday's men's semi-finals to beat Germany in the
bronze medal play-off, while the women's bronze medal went to
France who beat Ireland 2/1.
With France now
boasting two players in the men's top five, the stage was set
for a dramatic men's final which would go to the wire. Both
countries' national coaches had acknowledged on the eve of the
final that France - runners-up for eight of the past nine years
- had a good chance to win the title for the first time after
building up a two-match lead by their world top five stars.
But powerful and
focussed performances by England players meant that the script
failed to materialise. First on were the second strings - with
England left-hander Peter Barker facing Thierry Lincou,
the former worlds champion from Marseille whom he had never
Barker, ranked 12 in
the world, earned a game ball in the first game - but his
experienced opponent, the world No5, came back to take the game
and the expected lead. But Barker was in defiant mood - and
after 90 gruelling minutes battled to an 8-10, 9-7, 9-1, 10-8
victory to put England in the lead.
led England's next attack - the world number three taking on
long-time rival Gregory Gaultier, ranked one place
higher. It was another high-octane encounter in which the
Englishman's opening game lead was cut back when Gaultier, the
reigning British Open champion, took the next two.
Midway through the
fourth, Gaultier collapsed with cramp in his left leg. After
treatment by the team's physio, the 25-year-old limped back onto
court only to throw away the game shortly thereafter.
Despite cutting back a
5-1 lead by Willstrop in the decider, Gaultier was clearly
hampered by his injury and Willstrop went on to claim a 9-7,
2-9, 7-9, 9-1, 9-3 win after the 101-minute marathon.
It was left to fourth
string Adrian Grant to clinch overall victory for England
when he beat Julien Balbo 9-1, 9-2, 9-6 in 65 minutes in
his first ever meeting with the Frenchman.
"I think the results
speak for themselves," said team captain Lee Beachill,
the squad number three whose match against Frenchman Renan
Lavigne was not played. "The performances by Peter and
James were just outstanding - and, although we were all ready to
perform when we needed to, those guys really pulled out
something special and thoroughly deserved the wins they
"It just proves what a
great team spirit we've got - no-one wanting to let anybody down
and everybody so focussed.
"It was also a great
debut for Joey (Barrington) who has really made himself a strong
member of the team and, although he's only just joined us for
the first time, he's fitted in as if he's been with us for
years," added Beachill, the former world No1 appearing in his
ninth European Championships."
manager Peter Berden was delighted with his squad's
performance in taking the men's bronze medal. "I am very happy
- especially as ours is a young squad. Our fifth player
Piedro Schweertman was 8-2 down in the fourth game of his
match, and fought back to win it and then take a 5-0 lead in the
"It was also an
emotional occasion for us as it was Sjef van der Heijden's
last appearance as our National coach. A podium finish was what
he wanted and it was good that we achieved that for him."
Despite losing to the
Netherlands, fourth place marked Germany's best finish since
1996. But notable too was the outcome for Switzerland,
who lost to Wales in the play-off for fifth place - but
secured their first time in the top six since 1990.
recorded the highest finish by a non-seeded country by finishing
in 18th place. Serbia, in their maiden
appearance in the event, finished an impressive 23rd.
The England women's
team extended their remarkable record to 31 titles since the
inaugural women's event in the Netherlands in 1978. The top
seeds - in their sixth successive final against Netherlands -
showed their determination in the first match when third string
Alison Waters, ranked 11 in the world, despatched Dutch
opponent Karen Kronemeyer 9-0, 9-5, 9-0 in just 24
The second match
featured Vanessa Atkinson, a ten-time Dutch national
champion, ranked nine in the world, and Vicky Botwright,
the England number one ranked one place lower and also trailing
3-8 in the pair's head-to-head tally.
Putting behind her a
rare England defeat in the earlier qualifiers, Botwright took
the first game for just a single point, then maintained her
composure to clinch the second after a late comeback by
Botwright continued to
pile on the pressure - and disappoint the partisan local crowd -
and finally beat Atkinson 9-1, 10-8, 9-3 after 36 minutes to win
the match - and secure the title for England.
Squad number three
Jenny Duncalf made it maximum points for England when she
beat Annelize Naude 9-4, 9-1 in the best-of-three dead
"What really pleased
me was that the coaches had faith to pick me - and that gave me
extra confidence," said a jubilant Vicky Botwright, the England
captain, after her triumph. "This week's been a bit of a
turnaround for me - as I haven't been playing that well
"And I wanted to do my
best to win, to take the pressure off the others. If Vanessa
had got a game, it could have turned things around."
When asked about the
pressure of maintaining England's supremacy in the event,
Botwright explained: "We don't take anything for granted - we
don't underestimate anyone. Yesterday's semi-final against
France was a good example. That could have been a tricky tie,
but we were very professional and did what we had to do."
smiles were even wider as she revealed that she was now engaged
to Australian international Stewart Boswell. "We were
out for a walk on a lovely sunny Sunday some weeks ago when I
noticed that Stewart was rummaging around in his coat - and I
wondered what he was doing. To my complete surprise, he asked
me to marry him! We're hoping to find a date next May, if there
is suitable gap in both of our squash commitments!"
In the play-off for
third place, seventh seeds France beat Ireland 2/1
to win the bronze medal for only the second time - and
Germany defeated Denmark 2/1 to take fifth place.
But perhaps the most
notable achievement in the lower order was recorded by Wales,
the eight seeds who beat Belgium 2/0 in the play-off for
seventh place to record their highest finish of all-time.
Champions England Cruise Into European Championship Finals
seeds and defending champions England cruised into both
the men's and women's finals of the European Team Squash
Championships after comfortable semi-finals wins at Frans
Otten Stadion in
The men's squad, led by the new world No3 James Willstrop,
defeated surprise opponents Germany - the fifth seeds
making their first appearance in the semi-finals for 12 years -
and will now face long-time championship rivals France in
France, seeded three after losing to Netherlands at the
same stage last year, avenged their defeat by beating the hosts
Much to the delight of the local crowd, Netherlands
battled to a 3/0 win over Ireland in the women's
semi-finals to claim a place in the final for the sixth year in
a row. And, for the sixth year in a row, the second seeds will
face favourites England - and will be looking for their
maiden win over the period!
England extended their
remarkable record of reaching the final each year since the
inaugural women's competition in 1978 - also in the Netherlands
- by beating France 3/0.
After a significant
upset over fourth seeds Wales to claim their surprise
appearance in the men's semis, Germany met their match in
England. But German number one Simon Rosner, ranked 60
in the world, took the opening game against James Willstrop.
However, the England
number one quickly regained the upper hand and beat the former
European Junior champion 3-9, 9-1, 9-3, 9-5. Team-mates
Adrian Grant, Lee Beachill and Joey Barrington
went on to record straight games wins to set up England's eighth
final meeting in the past nine years with France.
France, led by
Gregory Gaultier - the world number two and highest-ranked
player in the event - were looking to make amends for their
absence from the final in 2007, and gain revenge over
But, in the opening
match of the tie on the three-sided-glass showcourt at the
impressive 21-court centre, Dutch number one Laurens Jan
Anjema took the opening game, spurred on by the packed
When the Frenchman
fought back to take the next two games, it seemed that the end
was nigh for the local hero. But, despite being ranked 15
places lower in the world, Anjema battled back to force the
match into a fifth game - and in the decider again saved
numerous match-balls from 8-1 down before Gaultier finally
established the 4-9, 9-3, 9-3, 7-9, 9-5 victory after 87 minutes
which put the French team ahead.
France maintained the
pressure on the hosts as Renan Lavigne, Thierry Lincou
and Julien Balbo beat Tom Hoevenaars, Dylan
Bennett and Lucas Buit, respectively, to record their
4/0 tie win.
"We were really
disappointed to lose at the same stage last year," said French
national coach Andre Delhoste, whose team has
never before won the title. "But the good thing is that we're
not favourites tomorrow - and also the draw is to our advantage
for the first time, which could be very significant."
The playing order for
the final - all matches of which will be played on the
centrecourt - will be 2-1-4-3.
"So if our two top
players (Gaultier and Lincou, ranked 2 and 5, respectively, in
the world) win 3/0 or 3/1, we have a chance - and the pressure
will be on England for the first time to fight back," explained
Delhoste. "If we do it, it will be a fantastic achievement."
All eyes in the
women's semi-final between hosts Netherlands and surprise
opponents Ireland were on the top string match featuring former
world champion Vanessa Atkinson, the ten-time Dutch
champion, and Madeline Perry, the nine times Irish
Atkinson took the
first game and led in the second - but Perry fought back to
nine-all, poised to level the match. However Atkinson clinched
the game and went on to take the match 9-2, 10-9, 9-3 to ensure
the team's place in the final.
England were in
commanding form in the other semi, as Laura Lengthorn-Massaro
and Vicky Botwright secured straight games wins over
their French opponents and Alison Waters recovered from a
game down against Camille Serme to beat the record
three-time European Junior champion 7-9, 9-0, 9-2, 9-4.
Rosner leads German breakthrough
Junior champion Simon Rosner led Germany through
to the semi-finals of the European Team Squash Championships
for the first time in 12 years after the fifth seeds
forced a draw with fourth seeds Wales in the
final men's qualifying round at Frans Otten Stadion in
The teams faced the
clash having both beaten Italy and Finland in the
first day of qualifying in Pool D - but Germany boasted a
superior 'matches won' rating and therefore only required a draw
against their higher-seeded opponents.
While Rosner, ranked
63 in the world, was battling with Gough - ranked more than 40
places higher - his team-mate Stefan Leifels put the
country ahead with a 7-9, 9-4, 9-1, 9-7 win over Welshman
Rosner, just 20, built
up a 2/0 lead over Gough on the three-sided-glass showcourt at
the impressive 21-court centre. But, belying his 37 years,
former world No5 Gough fought back to force the match into a
fifth game decider.
Rosner dug deep and,
after 97 minutes, celebrated a magnificent 9-5, 10-8, 6-9, 2-9,
9-2 victory - which not only avenged his straight games loss to
Gough in the same championships 12 months ago, but also brought
cheers of jubilation from his team-mates!
"That's a big win for
me," said Rosner. "I've played Alex twice before and only taken
one game off him, so to beat a player of his stature and
experience in this event is just great.
"In the third he was
just better than me - I made a couple of mistakes in the middle
of the game and that gave him the impetus to win it. When he
went 6-1 up in the fourth, I let it go to concentrate on the
"I'm happy to win for
myself, but more for the team - to give us a chance to make the
semi-finals for the first time in a long time."
Gough, a veteran of
numerous European Championships, was hugely disappointed with
the outcome: "I was half asleep in the first two games and was
really negative. But I thought I'd got him after the fourth - he
seemed really tired.
"But all credit to him
for coming back in the fifth."
- seeded two in both the men's and women's championships -
continued their winning ways after a sound start on day one. The
Dutch men crushed seventh seeds Sweden 4/0 - though third
and fourth strings Dylan Bennett and Rene Mijs
both had to come back from behind to beat experienced Swedes
Christian Drakenberg and Anders Thoren, respectively,
in five games to ensure their country's third successive 4/0 win
in Pool B.
The day marked a
notable milestone for Dutch National Coach Sjef van der
Heijden who celebrated his 400th
appearance for the hosts since taking up his role in September
"The whole team wanted
to make sure it was another 4/0 win today - especially for Sjef,"
said team manager Peter Berden. "It was another great
performance from the team and we're now looking forward to
led the Dutch women's team through to the semi-finals for the
sixth year in a row. The former world champion beat Line
Hansen 9-6, 9-6, 9-4 to ensure a 3/0 win over Denmark,
the third seeds.
the favourites and defending champions in both events, also
comfortably reached the semi-finals. The men's squad beat
British rivals Scotland 4/0 and will now go on to face
Germany in the semi-finals, while England's women defeated
Germany 3/0 to set up a surprise semi against France.
After finishing in
seventh place last year, France confirmed their place in the
last four after beating sixth seeds Switzerland 3/0.
also upset the form book by clinching an unexpected place in the
women's semi-finals. Led by world number 15 Madeline Perry,
fifth seeds Ireland despatched Spain 3/0 and will now
meet last year's runners-up Netherlands for a place in the
enjoyed a highly successful opening day today in the European
Team Squash Championships at Frans Otten Stadion in
After Dutch Squash
Bond President Frits de Leeuw declared the
championships open after striking the first ball on the 21-court
centre's spectacular three-sided-glass showcourt with the
Netherlands number one Laurens Jan Anjema, world number
No19 Anjema led the hosts' men's team to a convincing 4/0
victory over tenth seeds Switzerland.
the squad's No4 who announced his decision to retire from
international squash on the eve of his record 20th
successive appearance in the championships, scored an impressive
9-6, 9-1, 9-5 win over Swiss opponent Marcel Straub.
Later, second seeds
Netherlands beat Hungary, the 15th
seeds - again 4/0 and again winning all matches in straight
games - to finish the day at the top of Pool B.
"It was a terrific
start, especially winning both our ties 4/0 - so we're on our
way!" said men's team manager Peter Berden. "And, as we
speak, Switzerland and Sweden are killing each other on nearby
courts - which is good!"
Indeed, the final tie
of the day in Pool B produced a 2/2 draw - leaving the hosts
needing to beat seventh seeds Sweden in Thursday's final
champions England, the top seeds, also scored two
resounding 4/0 wins - against Denmark and Belgium
to head the Pool A standings. Joey Barrington, son of
the former British legend Jonah Barrington, made a
successful international debut with straight games wins in both
The first upset in the
men's event took place in Pool C where 11th
seeds Spain beat Ireland, the sixth seeds, 3/1.
Irish number one Liam Kenny - who earlier surprisingly
lost to top Austrian Aqeel Rehman - was beaten in
straight games by Spanish number one Borja Golan. Later
in the tie, Irish veteran Derek Ryan, who made his
European Championships' debut in 1988, was unable to hold onto a
two-game advantage, going down
5-9, 3-9, 9-4, 9-1, 9-2 to Spaniard Alejandro Garbi Caro.
Perhaps the most
surprising men's result of the day came from veteran Italian
Jose Facchini in his opening match against Alex Gough,
the number one of fourth seeds Wales. Gough, currently
ranked 22 in the world - but a former world No5 - took the
opening game against Facchini. But, despite being ranked more
than 340 places lower, the 36-year-old Italian romped to a 1-9,
9-3, 9-6, 9-3 upset. Gough's team-mates went on to reverse the
trend - ultimately forging a 3/1 win for Wales.
There were some
notable upsets in the women's event - with both of the top two
seeded teams suffering surprising losses.
Netherlands - runners-up for the past six years - first beat
Switzerland 3/0. But in the later tie against seventh
seeds France, team No1 Vanessa Atkinson went down
3-9 10-9 1-9 9-0 9-3 to French No1
also dropped a rare match in the tournament in their opening tie
against Ireland, the fifth seeds. Vicky Botwright, the
world no8, twice led Madeline Perry. But the Irish star
fought back to win 2-9 9-3 3-9 9-2 9-5 .
"The old Madeline's
back!" exclaimed Perry, who has been fighting back to full
fitness after sustaining a serious head injury last year. "I've
had a few 3/2s with Vicky over the years so it's great to come
out on top in that one.
"I've got a lot
sharper and I'm volleying more, it's getting better each
tournament I play. My squash is back to where it was, I just
need to work on my concentration now, that's still a bit up and
down like it was today - hopefully I'll get lots of practice
with all the matches this week!"