• European Team Championships 2010 • 27-Apr 01-May • Aix en Provence • 





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Minnows Diary #3 ... Irish Eyes #2

TODAY at the EuroTeams:
Fri 30th, Day FOUR
While the playoff stages began at Set Club, the semi-finals moved to Val de L'Arc, a 20-minute trip across to the other side of Aix.

Could England maintain their double winning run? No.
Could France make both finals? Yes.

Women's Semis:

England 1-2 Netherlands     France 2-1 Ireland

Men's Semis:

England 4-0 Wales       France 4-0 Netherlands

France 4-0 Netherlands                 hosts safely through

Thierry Lincou 3-0 Dylan Bennett                     12/10, 11/6, 11/4 (32m)
Gregory Gaultier 3-0 Laurens Jan Anjema          11/6, 11/4, 11/8 (56m)
Renan Lavigne 2-0 Piedro Schweertman                     11/4, 11/7 (17m)
Mathieu Castagnet 2-0 Sebastiaan Weenink               11/3, 11/6 (18m)

Lincou & Gaultier put France safe,
it's a tenth final v England in eleven years ...

When the Dutch beat France in the 2007 semi-finals in Riccione the French were missing their top two of Gregory Gaultier and Thierry Lincou (they still managed to finish third).

No such luxury for the Dutch today though as France fielded its strongest team, and Thierry Lincou got them off to the perfect start.

It could have been different, though, had Dylan Bennett managed to capitalise on a 10-8 lead in the first, but Lincou, traditionally a slow starter, found the extra to take the next four points to head the danger off at the pass.

Having done so it became easier for him, partly because his own confidence was high as evidenced by some flashy shots, most of which came off, and partly because of the help Dylan gave him with a few inopportune tins, particularly at 9-6 in the second to gift Lincou game ball.

The third was quick, 7/0 in a flash for Thierry, and not long after France were in the lead.

Almost an hour later France were virtually there, a 3-0 win for Gregory Gaultier over LJ Anjema meant they needed only one more game to be sure. It was a tough hour though, Anjema had no intention of going quietly, and the first game alone took 21 minutes for Gaultier to squeeze out the lead.

A 4-0 start in the second made that game a little easier, and come the third the French number one was beginning to open out, again going 4-1 up, then 7-2.

He was keen to finish it, probably too keen as he went for some Lincou-style flashy winners that didn't come off and the Dutchman seized the chance to get back into the game.

He thought he'd got it back to 9-8 on a stroke, but a let was called on an earlier pickup, and Gaultier's slam volley to make it 10-7 just added salt to the wound.

They both ran like hares in the last two rallies, but eventually Greg put in a shot tight enough to force a loose return, stroke and match to France. No big celebrations, partly because they weren't quite in the final yet, and mainly because tomorrow is the match they really, really want to win.

Six minutes later the match was over as a contest when Renan Lavigne took the first 11/4 against Piedro Schweertman, so the matches now became best of three.

The French captain took the next too, and Mathieu Castagnet wasted no time in finishing the match off against Sebastiaan Weenink.

England 4-0 Wales        England in 18th successive final

James Willstrop 3-0 Peter Creed                  11/4, 11/7, 11/6 (32m)
Nick Matthew 3-0 Jethro Binns                      11/2, 11/5, 11/8 (38m)
Peter Barker 2-0 Nic Birt                                       11/7, 11/7 (17m)
Daryl Selby 2-0 Lewys Hurst                                  11/2, 11/1 (16m)

Willstrop starts England off

The first men's semi-final featured a full-strength England side against Wales, who were resting their two veteran stars David Evans and Alex Gough to give first outings to Nic Birt and Lewys Hughes.

First up were the number two strings with James Willstrop triumphing in an entertaining match with Peter Creed, the diminutive (by Willstrop standards) Welshman regularly flinging himself around the court - on a couple of occasions more than once in a rally - much to the delight of the crowd (and the bemusement of the court sweepers, who seemed reluctant to sweep the areas the dives had actually taken place!).

So, a safe start for England, and no sign of another seismic upset ...

Matthew in control

Promoted to number one after winning the Welsh Nationals this year, Jethro Binns will have relished the chance to take on world number two Nick Matthew on the glass court in front of a large crowd.

The occasion seemed to get to him in the first as he subsided quickly, but the longer the match went on the more comfortable he seemed. Matthew pulled away from 5-4 in the second, but was held to 8-all in the third before he managed to pull clear to put England two up.

Essex boys round it off

In a pair of foreshortened best-of-three games, Essex team-mates Peter Barker and Daryl Selby wrapped up the semi-final for England.

France 2-1 Ireland                  a first-ever final for France

Maud Duplomb 3-1 Laura Mylotte                   11/8, 5/11, 11/4, 11/5 (35m)
Camille Serme 1-3 Madeline Perry                11/8, 8/11, 9/11, 4/11 (53m)
Isabelle Stoehr 3-0 Aisling Blake                           11/7, 11/9, 11/4 (38m)

Maud gets France started ...

Having just watched England lose, the crowd were already worked up, and Maud Duplomb gave them more reason to get excited as she put the home team ahead.

Laura Mylotte gave as good as she got for two games, losing the first from 8-all and taking the second comfortably, but from 4-all in the third Maud started finding her range, putting in her shots and effectively outpowering the Irishwoman.

Seven points in a row to take the third, and a 6-1 lead in the fourth was evidence of that. Although Laura pulled a few points back towards the end it was never likely to be enough, and when Laura served down on match point it was all over.

"I was a bit nervous at the start, yes," admitted the winner, "but the crowd helped a lot, they were very good.  Once I got my confidence I was able to go for my shots in the last two games, which you need to do on a glass court."

Perry sets up the decider

She may have just broken into the world's top ten - in the new May rankings - but France's Camille Serme found she still has a little way to go to be able to consistently beat those who have been fixtures there for several years.

Madeline Perry, after almost two years out after a career-threatening attack, is pretty much back to where she was, and she followed up yesterday's win over Jenny Duncalf with an assured performance to put Ireland on level terms with the hosts.

Serme took the first, closing it out from 8-all to the delight of the almost-full auditorium, but Perry was largely in control for the next three games, opening up early leads of 6-0, 4-0 and 4-0, and however hard Camille fought there was no way Madeline was going to let those leads slip, and as Camille slid into the front corner vainly trying to retrieve the final dropshot Madeline turned to the outnumbered Irish fans.

Isa seals the deal for France

"Isa, Isa, Isa ..." the crowd were chanting as Isabelle Stoehr came out for the third game of her deciding match with Aisling Blake.

Two games up, but it had been far from easy, the Irishwoman battling hard, but just losing out from 7-9 in the first and 9-all in the second.

The third was a different story though, Isa was confident, the shots were going in, and each winner wound up the crowd more, which pumped Isa up more ... as if either needed it.

"I was really enjoying that at the end! You never have those sort of moments when you're playing for yourself, and when the crowd were chanting my name it gave me goosebumps, but I knew I needed to calm down and concentrate.

"I'd lost to Aisling last time we played so I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but you can't help get a lift from an atmosphere, an occasion like this and having such a great crowd behind you.

"So, we're in the final for the first time, in France, it's all there for us but we can't expect it to be easy, the Dutch will have taken great confidence from beating England, so we have to be at our best again tomorrow ..."


England 1-2 Netherlands  a first-ever loss for England

Tania Bailey 3-0 Orla Noom                         11/6, 11/3, 11/9 (29m)
Jenny Duncalf 1-3 Vanessa Atkinson  9/11, 10/12, 11/8, 5/11 (40m)
Sarah Kippax 1-3 Annelize Naudé       8/11, 5/11, 11/7, 9/11 (45m)

Orla leaves it too late

Orla Noom made a good start for the Netherlands as the second stage of the competition got under way at Val de L'Arc, quickly going 4-0 up against the experienced Tania Bailey.

The Englishwoman soon found her range though, levelled at 4-all and was in control of the game, seemingly of the match, from thereafter.Tania is much more experienced on the glass court of course, and as she became more settled she started top dominate.

At 8-2 in the third it looked all over, but Orla staged a fine recovery, found some lovely winners, and made her way back to 8-all.

Tania stopped the rot with a volley kill, Orla fluffed the next rally trying to push the ball straight from a deep, tight shot, then Tania found the winning dropshot to put England into the lead.

"It took me a few rallies to be able to see the ball, and she whipped in a few crosscourts, it's always harder to counter those from a leftie.

"After I got into it I felt comfortable and in control, I almost saw us shaking hands, which is the worst thing you can do, she's never going to give up.

"It's always a bit nerve-wracking when you're first on and expected to win, I'm just glad to get the team off to a winning start."

Vanessa gives Dutch a great chance

"We're probably never going to get a better chance of beating England than this," said a delighted Vanessa Atkinson after she had beaten world number two Jenny Duncalf to level the match.

Atkinson had got the better of two close first games, there was never much in it but it was the Dutch number one who found the winning shots at the business end of both.

Duncalf came out looking more determined in the third, powering to an 8/2 lead, but a few errors started to let Atkinson back in, and the Dutch confidence started to come back. At 8/7 the Englishwoman was relieved to see her opponent's dropshot clip the tin, and she moved on to reduce the deficit.

It was all Atkinson in the fourth though, putting the ball away crisply and forcing any errors that came her way. 3-0, 6-2, 9-2 ... it was probably all over, but then Jenny had recovered from 3-9 down in the fourth yesterday.

Not this time though, a couple of edgy moments for the Dutch supporters, but they were soon enough cheering their girl to the rafters ...

"I went on thinking there was no pressure on me, just give it a good go. But once you start to sense a chance of winning you naturally get nervous, especially in that last game.

"Jenny can put shots away so quickly, I never felt comfortable however far ahead I was. It was nice to be able to put shots away on this court though, as opposed to the club courts which are so hot and bouncy ... especially that last one!"

"It was disappointing to lose to France yesterday, but how weird would it be to go on to beat England today and then maybe play France again in the final!"


Annelize axes English history

This competition started in 1978 and England have won every time ... except this year.

Annelize Naudé concluded a sensational victory over the defending champions and hot favourites with victory over Euro Teams debutante Sarah Kippax in a prerruse-cooker atmosphere in the Val de L'Arc sports centre.

Starting condifently the Dutchwoman took the first two games, pulling clear at the end of the first and dominating the second, before Kippax fought back, holding a lead throughout the third and taking a 4-1 lead in the fourth.

The play was often nervous, as you would expect, with both players making unforced errors as well as some sparkling winners. At 8-7 Naudé fired a volley into the floor, then hit a service return out to make it 9-7 and possible salvation for the English.

Annelize glued a drive deep to pull one back, forced a stroke from a loose dropshot to level, hit a stunning volley drop from midcourt to set up matchball, and ended up on the floor as the referee called "match to Netherlands", Sarah stretching vainly towards a deep drive and taking her opponent out in the process.

So, the record is over, and while the Dutch will probably feel grateful to France for beating them yesterday, don't expect that feeling to continue should they meet the hosts again in tomorrow's final ...

"I was very nervous, obviously, but I just had to try to put the result out of my mind and play each point as it came. I was ok for the first two games but it started getting to me after that.

"Things were going my way in those two games, I was able to play winners, but she put me under pressure later in the match, I had to be more consistent and rally it out.

"It's a great feeling to win, to beat England at last, but we can't afford to celebrate too much, there's another match to go ..."


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