|Hosts France Sail Into European Semis|
|Written by Howard Harding @ Squashinfo.com|
|Thursday, 29 April 2010 12:09|
Hosts France made sure of representation in the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after straightforward wins in the second qualifying round of both the men's and women's events in the premier European Squash Federation event in Aix-en-Provence.
Second seeds in the men's event - and expected to contest the final with title-holders England for the tenth time in the last 11 years - France cruised to a 4/0 victory over Ireland, the seventh seeds, in Pool B.
While 20-year-old Gregoire Marche beat Irishman Neil Martin in straight games in his maiden appearance in the event for France, 32-year-old team-mate Renan Lavigne battled to a 41-minute win over Steve Richardson in what he expects to be his final French appearance after making his debut in the event in 1996 and competing in all 15 championships since then.
"Playing in my last Europeans 'at home' is a perfect way to end that story," said the former world No17 from Marseille.
In the women's event, France are the No3 seeds and defeated sixth seeds Denmark without dropping a game - squad number one Camille Serme overcoming top Dane Line Hansen 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 in 30 minutes.
The team now has its toughest qualifying test when they take on Pool B rivals Netherlands, the second seeds who have competed in the final for the past seven years. The Dutch team beat seventh seeds Switzerland 3/0 - but only after top string Annelize Naude survived a tough test against Gaby Schmohl before beating the Swiss number one 8-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-2 in 53 minutes.
Defending champions England also made sure of their place in the last four of the knockout stage of the events. The top-seeded men's team beat eighth seeds Finland 4/0 - but England number one Nick Matthew was given a scare by flying Finn Olli Tuominen. The 29-year-old Yorkshireman - at two in the world, the highest-ranked player in the event - overcame a two-game deficit before beating 11-time Finnish national champion Tuominen 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 in 81 minutes.
England's European championship debutantes Dominique Lloyd-Walter and Sarah Kippax were again in action in their 3/0 win over Italy in the women's qualifying tie in Pool A. The pair scored straight games wins - as did team number one Jenny Duncalf, the world No2, who despatched top Italian Manuela Manetta 11-7, 11-5, 11-4.
News reported by Howard Harding at SquashInfo.com