For the fifth year in a row, England and France contested both the men’s and women’s finals in the European Team Championships – the outcomes remaining the same, with France successfully defending the men’s title in Wroclaw, Poland, and England retaining the women’s trophy for the eighth successive year.
Poland is experiencing huge growth, with an estimated 300,000 squash players currently, and the Hasta La Vista Club which hosted the action, boasts a record 33 courts plus an all-glass showcourt. This was the showcourt used for the 2017 World Games and on which feature matches at the WSF World Masters 2020 will be played.
Seeded one and two in the men’s draw, France and England duly lined up in the final for the 11th time since 2008 – former world number ones Gregory Gaultier (France), James Willstrop and Nick Matthew (both England) celebrating their 18th, 15th and 12th appearances in the annual event, respectively.
37-year-old Matthew was unable to mark his farewell appearance in the event with a win, however, going down to career-long rival and close friend Gaultier, as France took a 2/0 lead over their perennial regional rivals. Daryl Selby reduced the deficit by beating Frenchman Lucas Serme in straight games – but when Frenchman Baptiste Masotti clinched the second game against Declan James in the fourth and final match (having needed to either take a game or win 18 points), that was enough to give France the title for the third time in four years.
With all four squad members boasting world top 20 rankings, England were firm favourites to triumph in the women’s event – but had to come from behind in the final when France’s six-time European Individual champion Camille Serme beat England number one Laura Massaro in straight games in the opening match.
Undaunted, Massaro’s team-mates Alison Waters and Victoria Lust soon restored order for the favourites, beating Coline Aumard and Melissa Alves, respectively, in straight games to keep the trophy in English hands.
Both Bronze medallists had much to celebrate: Spain achieved 3rd place in the men’s event – their highest-ever finish in 40 appearances in the championship since 1979 – while Belgium, led by sisters Nele Gilis and Tinne Gilis, outshone their previous best 4th place finish in 2004 in the women’s event.
The top two teams in the Division 2 championships earned promotion to next year’s main event. For Spain and Scotland in the women’s championship, it means a return to the elite group after a brief absence – as it does for Switzerland in the men’s event, amongst the 46 nations in European Squash membership.
But Hungary upset the form book in significant style in the men’s Division 2 Championship where, with only one world-ranked player, they finished in second place. The result not only takes the landlocked Central European nation back into the elite championship for the first time since 2010, but ensures Hungary its first top eight finish in the 45-history of the championships!