There never seemed much doubt that England's women's team would win the championship, even though the Dutch were led by Vanessa Atkinson.

Vicky Botwright began with a comfortable 3-0 win over Karen Kronemeyer, having too much pace and variety of shot for her opponent.

The top string match ws second on and for a while neither player settled, but Cassie Jackman always looked to have the edge and led 2-0 and 5-0 in the third. Atkinson roused herself and had a couple of game balls in the third, before the world no 1 clinched the match and the title for England.

Linda Charman completed matters with a 2-0 win over Annalize Naude in the dead rubber.

The men set out to avenge the World Championship defeat and a happy team, combining experience of a high order  and promising younger players, they they were well placed to do so.

James Willstrop versus Jean-Michel Arcucci looked a mismatch on current world form and so it proved. A concentrated Willstrop led 9/1 9/0 before Arcucci did better in the third, but still lost it to 5.

The French might have hoped for something out of the Renan Lavigne versus Nick Matthew match, but Matthew is vastly improved and nine in the world now and has played well for England. He was excellent in the  first two, played controlled, well-shaped squash and although Lavigne battled well in the third, Matthew drew away from 5-all to win 9/5 and give England a 2-0, 6-0 lead.

Peter Nicol, back to world no 1 again, winner of the Qatar Masters and clearly refreshed by his venture in the mountains, faced Thierry Lincou and, truth to tell, the Frenchman was not at the races.

Nicol took charge to win the first 9/3 and then played dazzlingly to win 9/1, 9/3. The two thousand two hundred crowd, subdued by Willstrop and Matthew, were now stunned.

With the match dead and buried there was no danger of Vienna's shenanigans when Lee Beachill faced Gregory Gaultier. The Englishman soon lost interest and allowed the French a little compensation.

A splendid venue, Le Liberté, with the magnificent crowd, were much to the organisers' credit and though their men's team did not fulfil their expectation, the French can ve very proud of staging the championships in one of the best settings I have ever seen.

England captain Peter Nicol paid elegant tribute to the host's efforts.

Top marks, France, for such magnificent standards.

Malcolm Willstrop


Malcolm Willstrop

Willstrop's Words
 from Rennes










Neither of the England teams were in any way troubled to make the finals of the European Team Championships in Rennes.

The women played a young Belgian team on the glass court and were far too experienced. Cassie Jackman and Linda Charman both won in a canter and European Junior Champion Charlie De Rycke was well overpowered by England newcomer Jenny Duncalf.

England will play the Netherlands, who beat France in their semi-final, in the final and despite having Vanessa Atkinson at 1, the Dutch prospects look remote. Vicky Botwright, released on her England debut, will be at no 3.

The men, resting Nick Matthew, dispatched Wales 4-0. Back to no 1 in the world rankings, Peter Nicol beat Alex Gough, Lee Beachill beat David Evans in the dead rubber. After four matches no England player has dropped a game and they will play on the glass court in the final for the first time, which should suit them well.

The lineup will be, in order of play:

   Willstrop v Arcucci
   Matthew v Lavigne
   Nicol v Lincou
   Beachill v Gaultier

The odds are certainly on England to reverse the World Championship result, but with 1,500 supporters to lift them, it would be surprising if the French don't raise their game.

The venue is superb and much credit goes to the organising committee.  How well advertised the championships are all over the town is an example for every tournament organiser.

What a setting for a World or French Open!


Malcolm Willstrop reports from Rennes

As the semi-finals approach the inevitable draws closer. Everyone expects a repeat of last tear's final, when England narrowly beat France on the attritional Nottingham courts. There is another score to settle, of course, since France beat England in the World Semi-Finals in Vienna in 2003, in dubious and unpleasant circumstances.

Whereas the World Teams consists of three strings, the Europeans is four, which would appear to favour England with their improving young trio, Nick Matthew, James Willstrop and Adrian Grant.

The men's semi-finals see England v Wales and France v Holland. The useful-looking Dutch team will not go down without a fight, but France look too strong everywhere and it is hard to see Wales troubling England, whoever the champions select to play.

If form is borne out England will have to face France in front of a 1500 strong partisan crowd at a simply magnificent venue in the centre of Rennes in a splendid arena with the attractive ASB glass court setting everything off.

Hard it is to envisage defeat for the England women's team, led by World no 1 Cassie Jackman and Linda Charman, supported by the welcome younger newcomers Vicky Botwright and Jenny Duncalf who give the team a well balanced look.

With Adrian Grant the third newcomer, the England selectors are doing a good job providing for the future by introducing young players in the right environment at the right time.

England selection often, too, gives emerging players a boost, leading to higher levels of play, which will hopefully be so with the three new internationals.


England size up the venue

Girls feeling relaxed

Talking tactics


Which racket do you think, Dad ??

Here - YOU try it !!