A dramatic finals day of the 2019 European Team Squash Championships at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham saw hosts England reclaim the men’s title and France dethrone 40-times champions England to win the women’s trophy for the first time.
England were hot favourites for the women’s title, having beaten France in the last five finals and only having previously failed to emerge as champions once – in 2010 – in the event’s 41-year history.
Camille Serme put France ahead when the world No.4 beat Sarah-Jane Perry in four games. But former world No.1 Laura Massaro levelled the tie after overcoming Coline Aumard, also in four games. In the decider, Melissa Alves came flying out of the block, taking the first two games 11-1, 11-3 against England’s higher-ranked Victoria Lust, whom she had never before beaten.
Lust fought back to take the third, and again from 1-7 down in the fourth drew level at eight-all. But it was Alves who took the next two points, and on her second match ball the impossible happened – a front court winner from Alves, a no let for Lust, and to French disbelief and delight they had finally become women’s European Team Champions.
“We thought it was possible,” said a delighted French manager Philippe Signoret (pictured above, top right, with the jubilant French squad). “Melissa can play very well and she was on fire in the first two games.
“This squad has a great history. I’ve known them since they were seven, so to see them do this is fantastic for them, and for France. And in England, too!”
Serme, making her 14th appearance for France in the championships, was ecstatic: “We’ve been trying to win this for so long now, it feels great. Thanks to England for pushing us over the years, we’re delighted to finally win one.”
In the men’s final, England faced Spain, the third seeds who had upset defending champions France in the semis to reach the final for the first time in the event’s 47-year history. England had beaten Spain (pictured above at the presentations) 4/0 in the pool stages, but Spanish number one Borja Golanmissed that tie and immediately made amends by beating England No.1 Declan James in the opening match to put the underdogs ahead.
James Willstrop, a veteran England campaigner making his 16th appearance in the event, put the second seeds level with a straight games win over the previous day’s Spanish hero Iker Pajares Bernabeu. Daryl Selby twice came from behind to put England ahead with a five-game win over Bernat Jaume – which left England needing just one game from the final match and Spain requiring a 3/0 win and points countback.
But England’s Tom Richards was always ahead against Edmon Lopez, and clinched victory by taking the game 11-9 as Lopez dived in vain into the back corner.
“I’m really proud to have been able to captain this team to the title,” said 36-year-old former world No.9 Selby (pictured below, centre, bottom row, with his championship-winning squad). “It’s been a long time since the event was held at home, so to do it here with the support of the crowd makes it even more special.
“It’s been a great event, superbly organised, and we’re all grateful for that and the support of the referees, volunteers, ESF, Edgbaston Priory Club and all the England Squash support staff.”
Earlier in the day, sisters Nele Gilis and Tinne Gilis steered Belgium to victory over Scotland in the women’s third-place play-off to win Bronze for the second year in a row. Scotland, the No.8 seeds, were celebrating their first appearance in the semi-finals for 14 years.
“Very happy,” said Belgian manager Ronny Vlassaks. “Not only with the Bronze medal, but to see how we’re closing the gap to England and France. With Nele and Tinne still so young and having a few years to improve, we hope what they’re doing will help us get some more young players to strengthen the depth of the team.”
Scotland‘s men went one better by beating France in the men’s third-place play-off – recording their best finish since 2016.
In the Division 2 championships, Finland – led by 40-year-old Olli Tuominen, playing in his 22nd ETC in a row – reached the men’s final to mark their return to Division 1 after a three-year absence. Also promoted were Czech Republic who beat Finland in the final.
Finland also celebrated their return to the women’s Division 1 after reaching the Division 2 final where they lost to fellow promoted team Germany.