England and France shared the top honours on finals day of the AJ Bell European Individual Championships at the David Ross Sports Village the University of Nottingham, as James Willstrop and Camille Serme won contrasting Anglo-French finals.
JAMES WILLSTROP WINs THE TITLE
The 24-player men’s draw top eight seeds qualified for the quarter finals and were formed of two Frenchmen, three English and one each from Spain, Germany and Switzerland.
James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier met each other in an anticipated final. The English was able to reach the final by stopping French Lucas Serme in quarter-final and former European Individual champion, Spain's Borjan Golan, in semi-final. For his first appearance since 2004 Willstrop faced Gaultier who won against the English Josh Masters in quarter-final and Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller in semi-final.
The world N°1 Gregory Gaultier was appearing in his 13th consecutive EIC final and was looking for a 10th title.
Gaultier held sway throughout the first game, taking the lead 11/7, but Willstrop battled back to overturn an ealy deficit in the second to level the match 11/8. The third was a brutal, 25 minute affair, Gaultier coming close to boiling over as Willstrop again held firm at the end of the game 11/8 to take the lead.
Gaultier looked composed and confident as he eased through the fourth 11/2, but it was Willstrop who opened up a lead in the decider, leading 7-5, 8-6 and 9-7 before closing out the match 11/8.
The win was belated revenge for his defeat by Gaultier in the 2004 EIC semi-finals – when Gaultier went on to take his first title – and England’s first male success in the revamped event, following Chris Walker’s hat-trick in the early 90s.
“That was a brutal match at times,” said Willstrop, “it’s hard to believe we’ve been playing each other like that for so long! A little like the second games against Borja in the semis, the third was crucial. Greg came back, but he still has some demons in there, I’m glad I was able to come out on top in the fifth. Greg is a great champion, and I’m proud to beat him. It’s been a great event, thanks to all the sponsors, AJ Bell in particular, and Nottingham and the University foor putting on the event in such a great venue. A special thanks to Malcolm, for all he’s done for me over the years, this one is for you!”
Bronze medal went to Spain’s 2016 EIC champion Borja Golan who beat Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller in straight games. Golan reflected:
“It was always going to be difficult to win this event again, with the world #1 and #6 in the draw, so third was a big target for me. Nici plays good attacking squash and really made me work hard for that.”
CAMILLE SERME WINS HER SIXTH TITLE
In the women's draw three English, two French, two Belgian and one German were competing in the quarter finals.
Camille Serme, appearing in her seventh consecutive final, claimed the Gold medal for the sixth time in a row with a comprehensive three-game win over second seed Millie Tomlinson, who was playing her first EIC and meeting world #3 Serme for the first time. The Frenchwoman won 11/1, 11/3, 11/3 in 25 minutes.
Bronze medal went to Belgium’s Nele Gils with a 60-minute win over France's Coline Aumard.
“Long matches are what I live for. Obviously it would jave been nice to go one better than last year’s silver, but Camille is a great champion and I’ve lost to her three years in a row. Nele Gils. I lost the 3/4 match to Coline two years ago, so it’s nice to get a win over a french player, and I’m very happy to go home with Bronze.” -Nele Gils