Ian McKenzie reports from Vienna
French threaten England's title
England men won the European Team Championships in Vienna
coming back from 2-1 down in the final to beat the second
seeded French. An England win was predictable but the
quality of the French challenge was a surprise. There was no
margin for error when Lee Beachill, playing at third string,
went on against Renan Lavigne and had to come out with a win
in the last match on. The game score was 6-6. Victory for
the French would have been a tumultuous achievement and they
would have had the enthusiastic support of their continental
neighbours against the long dominant English. Defeat for the
English would have been a humiliation.
Peter Barker, the team no.5, came in at fourth string as
Nick Matthew was stood down with an aggravated gluteus
muscle injury. Barker did the job asked of him superbly
dispatching Laurent Elriani for half a dozen points and
putting 3 games on the board for England. From then on it
was always going to be hard for the French.
"Peter is maturing into a good professional player. It's a
coming of age for him. It was a very professional
performance," said England Squash Performance Director Peter
England wins at 3 and 4 were really a foregone conclusion
but at 1 and 2 there was a challenge on. The ESF (European
Squash Federation) in their wisdom had changed the playing
order of the finals putting the no.1 on second so they would
not play a dead rubber if on last. James Willstrop at no.1
for England didn't get the start he wanted against Thierry
Lincou going down 9-5 but the Frenchman ventured short too
incessantly in the second to be punished by Willstrop shots.
The third was pivotal with Lincou finding his length and
clinging to it as if his life depended on it. Willstrop was
now dragged out of the middle and he had work to do, hard
work and he had mistakes to make. Willstrop performed
spectacular recoveries but you could feel the pain and when
he was pinned back Lincou came in with a whole variety of
volleys that meant more pain. Lincou took the third 9-4 and
playing with aggression and passion played superbly to
torture Willstrop all around the court. He held the ball,
played deceptively and with fine variation he had Willstrop
spinning like a top at times but the Englishman hung on, by
his finger nails at times, got back to 4-all in the fourth
and although his retrieving was brilliant Lincou gave him no
relief or the time to conjure a fuller recovery.
"Against James you can't afford to step back. You must be
aggressive and make him move. The key is to get tight length
and take each opportunity to attack. If you play too slow he
will kill you. I tried to keep the pressure on so he can't
completely return to the T and have time on the ball," said
"I enjoyed the game. It was a great performance, a great
Lincou won 9-5, 2-9, 9-4, 9-6 and they finished to a
standing ovation, well deserved.
Nicol could put the English back on course but young
Gaultier is becoming a handful. He beat Nicol in the TOC in
February but lost to him in Bermuda. This was a great
battle. Gaultier was to say latter that he was not happy
with his hitting until half way through the match but there
was not much evidence of that to the observer. In the end it
must be said that he outplayed Nicol. His tactics must have
been a nightmare for Nicol. He played him exactly how
opponents should play him varied the pace so as not to get
drawn into challenging Nicol at a race, attacked in fast
bursts reverting to the slow game whenever he needed and hit
high and wide to get past Nicol's snapping volley that
invariably frustrated opponent's trying to play the
left-hander on his backhand. At the end Nicol was tired but
he kept going kept looking for a way back but Gaultier was
impressive in holding his game together to see off the
Commonwealth Gold medalist 6-9, 9-4, 6-9, 9-1, 9-3.
"I tried to keep my head. You can get frustrated because he
gets so many balls back. It was painful but I did it, said
Gautier with some satisfaction afterwards.
"At the TOC I won, but lost in Bermuda and I wanted to play
him one more time before he retires."
The French had a 2-1 lead in matches and with 6 games apiece
it was all on Beachill. Renan Lavigne ran his heart out but
Beachill was superb in controlling the game and gave his
opponent little chance although he tried as hard as he
could. Beachill won 9-2, 9-4, 9-4 to secure the title for
England. Lincou and Gaultier were superb, Gaultier giving a
glimpse of what he is capable of but the honours went to
Ian McKenzie reports from Vienna
Atkinson forced to retire injured
Dutch hopes of knocking England women off the top spot in Europe
took a tumble in the opening match of the final at the European Team
Championships in Vienna when world no.1 Vanessa Atkinson crashed on
court and had to retire. It was in the first rally of the fourth
game that Atkinson
chased a forehand drop from England no.1 Vicky Botwright into the
front right court, slipped and caught her foot in the nick. With her
foot jammed Atkinson fell, her body weight twisting her ankle. There
was a stunned silence for 10 seconds and then as the pain hit her
with sharp intact of breath.
"It's gone, I think I've broken it," said Atkinson.
That was her initial reaction as assistance rushed to her side.
Eventually she was assisted to hop off court and received
physiotherapy for a badly sprained ankle. The referee announced that
the Netherlands had conceded the match.
It was a pity. There was a real match on. Botwright had never played
better. She was 7-1 up in the first but faltered into error and lost
it but in the second and third she was superb. She speed to the
ball, frequently catching Atkinson out with her early striking and
did not give up
on anything. In contrast Atkinson was caught flatfooted by
Botwright's long drops varied with occasional change of direction
and disguise. Sudden volley drops from the English girl kept
catching her opponent out.
Atkinson, lost concentration after a bad decision early in the
second and her behaviour was petulant and distracted. She fluctuated
between trying to get back into the rallies and venturing short in
an attempt to catch up as her opponent accumulated points. In the
showed considerable enterprise in picking the opportunities to
attack and when her opponent went short she was quick to counter
short or smash the ball away.
It was up to the world no.1 to come up with something better than a
bad case of head shaking in the fourth but then she crashed and
dutch hopes went with it.
Ian McKenzie reports from Vienna
puts England in Final and bids farewell
Top seeds England moved a step slower to double European
titles with convincing semi-finals wins in both the men's
and women's event to back up their pool topping
performances from earlier in the week.
In the men's semi-final the Netherlands team, who had
pipped the Germans for second place in Pool B, were never
going to have the players or the strength in depth to take
out the World Team Champions. Dylan Bennet (3) first up
put up little resistance against Lee Beachill. Laurens Jan
Anjema however threatened an out of sorts Peter Nicol (2)
with crisp hitting and pacy movement to snatch the first
game and them go 4-2 up in the second but increasingly his
shots left him out of position or found the tin and the
match slipped away from him with Nicol never forced to
play his best. His performance will leave a little
question mark in the minds of England's coaches. He will
be selected though. Peter Barker is the no.5 player and he
is not ready for a final. Nicol should face Gregory
Gaultier in the final, a player he lost to in the TOC in
New York but whom he put away in Bermuda earlier this
Barker put down the spirited resistance of the fair-headed
Tom Hoevenaars and Matthews did the same with the durable
Lucas Buit to set up the clash with the French.
Wales did not put Alex Gough out against France bowing to
the inevitable, in what has now become a familiar Welsh
tactic, preferring to keep the powder of their big guns
dry for the battle for third place ' a battle they could
The French men won 4/0 with Binns Jethro going down to
Renan Lavigne 3/0 in 39 minutes; Gavin Jones scoring with
a few tricky angles and some enterprise against Thierry
Lincou for eight points in half-an-hour with Robert
Sutherland and Julien Balbo squaring up for a massive
10-9, 6-9, 3-9, 9-1, 9-3 battle over 82 minutes which the
Frenchman won. It all seemed out of context but that was
because they would not be playing on the Saturday.
Gaultier, won the best of three dead rubber against David
Evans for two points.
So it is the French and English battling out the final
again. England have overwhelming strength at 3 and 4 with
Nick Matthew and Lee Beachill (against probably Lavigne
and Laurent Elriani) and it will take not one but two
disasters for the English to be threatened _ and that is
so unlikely as to be squash fantasy. The French though
will have their blood up and make it a drama. Lincou is in
fair form and Gaultier improving all the time.
In the women's event England were impressive again their
semi-final opponent's Germany. Linda Elriani, serving with
precision established her length at the beginning of each
rally which lengthened the court for her fine shots and
conceded only six points in dispatching Kathrir Rohrueller;
Vicky Botwright did the same to Daniela Schumann and Tania
Bailey at second string just one point in the dead rubber
against Katharina Witt.
Bailey strengthens the England line-up considerably. Last
year against the Netherlands world no.1 Atkinson put out
Linda Elriani as would be expected and Botwright had a
real battle on her hands before seeing off Annelize Naude.
Admittedly Botwright tactics fell into South African hands
as she set up volley opportunity after volley opportunity
before her hitting hard and running tactics saw her home
to much relief in the England camp. There should be one
such anxiety attack this time with Botwright, Bailey and
Jenny Duncalf the England line-up. Elriani's semi-final
contribution was evidently her last England outing,
strange she was not called upon for a grand title finale
in a battle she would surely have won.
& Germany Reach Women's Semi-Finals In Austria
four top-seeded nations eased into men's semi-finals of
the 34thEuropean Team Squash Championships
in Austria, the final qualifying rounds at the
Wellness Park Oberlaa in Vienna saw France
and Germany claim unexpected place in the last
four of the women's event.
the fifth seeds, battled to 3/0 wins over Scotland
and Spain in Pool A to set up a semi-final clash
with second seeds Netherlands, whose world number
one Vanessa Atkinson-led squad took top place in
Pool B without dropping a game.
seeds Germany clinched second place in Pool B after a 2/1
upset over third seeds Ireland,
followed by a 2/1 win over seventh seeds Denmark
in a closely-fought tie in which all three games lasted
over 50 minutes.
women's champions England, the top seeds making a bid to
win the European title for a 29th successive
time, crushed Scotland in just 51 minutes of
playing time – with their north-of-the-border rivals
securing just four points in three matches! England take
on Germany in the other semi-final.
men's event, title-holders England
course to meet second seeds France
final for a record seventh consecutive time. Favourites
England maintained their clean sheet throughout the
qualifying rounds with 4/0 wins over Spain
at the top of Pool A, while France dropped one match
en-route to winning Pool B, beating Germany
ENGLAND v  NETHERLANDS;  FRANCE v  WALES
ENGLAND v  GERMANY;  NETHERLANDS v  FRANCE
Top Seeds Overcome Early Obstacles InEuropean Championships
seeds safely came through their first tests on the opening
day of qualifying action in the 34thEuropean
Team Squash Championships at the Wellness Park
Oberlaa in Vienna, Austria.
English and Welsh men's number ones were fully stretched in
marathon encounters against lower-ranked opponents.
James Willstrop, who led defending champions and top
seeds England, was taken to five games by John
White before beating the Scot 5-9, 9-4, 5-9, 10-8, 9-5
in 79 minutes as the favourites triumphed 4/0 over the fifth
seeds in Pool A.
In the other
tie in Pool A, Welshman Alex Gough had to battle for
95 minutes against Borja Golan before defeating the
Spaniard 9-1, 0-9, 9-6, 9-0 in fourth seeds Wales'
3/1 victory over Spain, the eighth seeds.
France, runners-up to England for the past six years,
beat sixth seeds Sweden 4/0 with second
string Renan Lavigne the only player to be taken to
more than three games before winning 6-9, 9-2, 4-9, 9-1, 9-0
against Christian Drakenberg.
There was an
early surprise in the women's event when third seeds
Ireland went down 2/1 to Denmark, the seventh
seeds, in Pool B. Laura Mylotte, the new number one
in the absence of the injured world No6 Madeline Perry,
was Ireland's only winner, beating the Danish top string
Line Hansen 9-1, 9-4, 4-9, 9-6.
Also in Pool
B, last year's runners-up Netherlands comfortably
beatsixth seeds Germany 3/0 while favourites
England, seeking their 29th successive
title in the event, coasted to a 3/0 win over fifth seeds
France in Pool A.
England In Bid
For European Double In Austria
England are seeded to
retain both the men's and women's titles in the 34th
European Team Squash Championships which get underway in the
Austrian capital Vienna
Debutants Turkey will join a total of
25 nations competing in the four-day event being staged in the
Wellness Park Oberlaa, which was the venue for the Men’s
World Team Championships in 2003 and the European Team
Championships in 2000 and 1987.
holders of the European title since 1993 and now also reigning World
Team Champions, take on old foes Scotland,
the fifth seeds, in the opening tie in Pool A.
France, the No2 seeds who clashed with England in the past six
European finals, meet sixth seeds Sweden in their opening
England and Netherlands are seeded to
meet in the women's final for the fourth successive year.
Favourites England, winners of the title every year since the
inaugural women's event in 1978, face fifth seeds France in
today's opening tie in Pool A, while second seeds Netherlands – led
by world number one Vanessa Atkinson – meet Germany, the
sixth seeds, in the Pool B opener.
matches will be played in the Wellness Park Oberlaa, which was the
venue for the Men’s World Team Championships in 2003 and the European
Team Championships in 2000 and 1987.
Nine glass back courts, three of which have seating for than 100
spectators each, will be used. Additionally a glass-court with seating
for more than 400 spectators will be erected in the badminton hall.
England's men's and
women's teams Victorious in Vienna
Vanessa Atkinson forced
to retire against Vicky Botwright in the final with a badly sprained
eventually goes down 3-1 to Peter Nicol as England beat Netherlands 4-0.
Laurens Anjema (right)
takes Thierry Lincou (Fra) to 5 games - Netherlands eventually go down
3-1 to France
Englishman James Willstrop narrowly
beats Scotland's John White 3-2
Howard Harding Reports England Maintain
European Supremacy In Austria
defending champions England survived two tough finals in the 34thEuropean Team Championships in Austria to maintain their
squash supremacy on the continent. The English men prevailed in their
seventh successive final against France, drawing 2/2 in the
best-of-four-match tie, but claiming the title 9-6 on games countback.
The victory was England's 14th in a row since 1993 and the
31st since the competition began 20 years earlier.
England extended their
unbeaten record in the women's event since the inaugural event in 1978
with a 3/0 victory over Netherlands. The triumph marked the
fourth successive final win over the second-seeded Dutch team – and
the 29th title in a row.
Team newcomer Peter
Barker put England's men into the lead on the all-glass court at
the Wellness Park Oberlaa in Vienna with a9-3,
9-3, 9-0 win over France's Laurent Elriani. Barker, the
22-year-old from Essex who was making his England debut in the
championships, appeared in the final at the last-minute after
replacing the injured squad No3 Nick Matthew.
The momentum then
swung France's way after former world number one Thierry Lincou
beat the England number one James Willstrop 9-5, 2-9, 9-4, 9-6
in 50 minutes – and fast-improving French No2 Gregory Gaultier
twice fought back from behind to overcome England stalwart Peter
Nicol, recent winner of two Commonwealth Games gold medals, 6-9,
9-4, 6-9, 9-1, 9-3 in a dramatic 83-minute marathon.
Victory in the fourth
rubber was vital for both teams, but experienced Lee Beachill
delighted the England camp by grinding out a 9-2, 9-4, 9-4 win over
Frenchman Renan Lavigne in 84 minutes to keep the title
in English hands.
The opening match in
the women's final was both players' biggest test in the four days of
the competition. England No1 Vicky Botwright, the world No5,
faced Vanessa Atkinson, the world No1 whom she not beaten in
five meetings since 2003. Atkinson took the opening game, but
Botwright fought back to move 2/1 up when the Dutch star fell
awkwardly on the court, badly straining her ankle.
had to concede the match with the score at 8-10, 9-4, 9-3 – then
British champion Tania Bailey wrapped up the victory for
England with a 9-0, 9-4, 9-4 in 29 minutes over Dutch opponent
Annelize Naude. England No3 Jenny Duncalf earned maximum
points for the defending champions with a 9-2, 7-9, 9-5 win over
Orla Noom in the best-of-three dead rubber.
In the play-offs for
third place Wales beat Netherlands 2/1 in the men's
event to secure third place for the fourth time in five years, and
Germany beat France 2/1 in the women's competition to claim
their best finish for four years.