By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
England’s women’s and men’s teams put in excellent performances against Wales and France to deservedly take both titles at the European Team Championships.
In the women’s final, England came from behind to recapture the title after wins for Georgina Kennedy and Lucy Turmel overturned an opening match defeat for Sarah-Jane Perry.
In a mammoth first game, first strings Perry and Tesni Evans traded the lead, with neither player able to decisively pull clear.
There were chances for Perry to take a one-game lead when she had game balls at 10-9 and 11-10. Evans, however, was able to save both, eventually taking the first game 14-12 before winning both the second and third games 11-6 to give Wales a crucial lead.
After Perry’s defeat, Kennedy provided the perfect response for England against Emily Whitlock as the World No.9 flew out of the blocks to check Wales’ momentum with an 11-2 first game win.
Kennedy continued to impress in the following games, dominating the court on the way to an 11-6 win in the second and then bringing England level with an 11-8 win in the third.
With the scores level, Turmel’s match against 37-year-old former World No.188 Stacey Gooding was a winner-takes-all clash.
Despite her inexperience on the international stage, the 22-year-old World No.20 showed no signs of nerves, putting in a flawless performance to deliver the title for England with a brutal 11-4, 11-1, 11-2 win.
There were similar theatrics in the men’s final, where entertaining wins for Adrian Waller, Nathan Lake and James Willstrop meant England retained the title they won in Birmingham in 2019.
Waller got England’s title defence off to a rousing start by recovering from two games down to shock Gregoire Marche in the opening match.
The 32-year-old faced an enormous task after dropping the first two games 11-7 and 11-8, with Marche consistently frustrating his attacks.
Despite being on the ropes, Waller levelled with a thrilling rearguard action, taking the third game 11-7 before saving two match balls to take the fourth game 12-10.
The energy-sapping fourth game appeared to take more from Marche than Waller, and the World No.25 from London gave England a vital victory with a relatively straightforward 11-6 win in the fifth.
England’s position was then strengthened by a near-perfect performance from second string Lake, who thoroughly enjoyed his international call-up after some impressive recent performances. The World No.35 picked up where Waller had left off, beating Sebastien Bonmalais 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 in 39 minutes.
In a keenly anticipated third match, England’s former World No.1 Willstrop went toe-to-toe with France’s former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier.
After ‘the Marksman’ took the first two games 11-8, 11-9, ‘the French General’ struck back with an 11-7 win in the third to give France a lifeline.
The experienced Willstrop, though, quickly reacted to ensure there would be no repeat of Waller’s earlier heroics, fighting back to take the fourth game 11-7 to guarantee that England would finish the day as men’s and women’s European champions.
Afterwards, Willstrop paid tribute to his England team-mates: “I just want to say a little word about our team. I’ve played in a lot of Teams over the years and I’m not going to get too sentimental, but you’ve been a right laugh! The bench has been a sheer pleasure to be part of and there was awesome support at the end there.”
Perry said: “On a personal note, although I’m actually a mother myself now, these guys are kind of my kids as well, in size and age! They’ve literally been amazing this week, all three debutants to this event.
“I’ve been trying to show them the ropes and everything but I’d said that until today, you don’t really see the true European Team Championships. I think it’s fair to say you’ve all had a fantastic day and they’re definitely looking forward to the party later!”
2022 European Team Championships, SquashTime, Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Women’s Final: (1) England beat (3) Wales 2-1
Sarah-Jane Perry lost to Tesni Evans 12-14, 6-11, 6-11 (33m)
Georgina Kennedy bt Emily Whitlock 3-0: 11-2, 11-6, 11-8 (30m)
Lucy Turmel bt Stacey Gooding 3-0: 11-4, 11-1, 11-2 (17m)
Third place play-off:
(6) Netherlands beat (4) France 2-0
Milou van der Heijden bt Coline Aumard 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (23m)
Tessa ter Sluis bt Énora Villard 11-6, 10-12, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9 (46m)
Fleur Maas v Marie Stéphan (match withdrawn)
Full women’s results on Squash Info
Men’s Final: (1) England beat (4) France 3-0
Adrian Waller bt Gregoire Marche 3-2: 7-11, 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 (72m)
Nathan Lake bt Sebastien Bonmalais 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (39m)
James Willstrop bt Gregory Gaultier 3-1: 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7 (45m)
Patrick Rooney v Baptiste Masotti (match withdrawn)
Third place play-off:
(3) Scotland beat (6) Germany 3-1
Greg Lobban bt Raphael Kandra 7-11, 13-15, 12-10, 11-7, 13-11 (76m)
Alasdair Prott bt Valentin Rapp 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9 (50m)
Rory Stewart bt Yannik Omlor 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-4 (47m)
Alan Clyne lost to Simon Rösner 8-11, 11-9, 9-11, 6-11 (44m)
Full men’s results on Squash Info
Pictures courtesy of England Squash