France vs Great Britain 2018
The GB teams congregated in Paris for the inaugural match â€“ billed as Veterans â€“ against France. Such a level of fervour had been built up in advance that, according to Rod MacNaughtan, court bookings in the prior two weeks had never been higher.
A combined over-60/70 side played their match on Friday â€“ Thursday afternoon having been set aside for practise. And first on court was Willie Wilks, who got off to a shaky start, going 3 love down to Xavier de Villapion, a very talented squash player who only took up RT a year ago. Willie is wily, however, steadied the ship and took advantage of his opponentâ€™s inexperience to win 6/3 6/0. He stayed on to partner Mike Seymour to play Xavier and Remi Salmon. The first set was plain sailing with the GB pair playing flawless, elegant tennis to take it 6/1. And then things went a bit awry. A few unforced errors and improved retrieving and forcing by France and it was one set all suddenly. However, France lost their mojo in the third and Willie and Mike ran out to win 6/1 3/6 6/0.
Jonathan Fisher and Jamie Bebb then took on Francois Bernheim and Bertrand Sarlangue, father of Matthieu and multiple honours board entrant in Paris. The first set went to GB 6/0 as rustiness and unforced errors allied to impeccable width and length returning by Jonathan were overwhelming. However, France took pace off and concentrated on getting balls into play and worked their way back into the match, taking the second set 6/4. For some reason, a bit of tiredness perhaps, this steadiness deserted France in the third set and, without playing especially well, GB won it 6/1. 3 nil to GB.
Ronald Paterson and Marek Stefanowicz played impeccably against Guy Kressman and Bruno Corman â€“ both with higher handicaps â€“ and won 6/0 6/2. And so to the match of the day between Richard White and Francois Bernheim. Evenly matched in every way, Francois won the first set 6/5, Richard the second 6/4. There was nothing in it in the third with both players showing great agility, stamina and determination before Francois took the match 6/5 4/6 6/4.
The final match of the day saw Fred Satow taking on Ken Casler in what â€“ off roughly level handicaps â€“ could have been even better than its predecessor. For whatever reason, however, the real Ken Casler didnâ€™t turn up and Fred, without prior experience of the court, having arrived only a couple of hours prior to playing, hit his straps immediately and never allowed Ken to play his game, winning 6/0 6/1.
Overnight, GB therefore took a 5/1 lead in the match.
That evening, the two teams were entertained to a cocktail reception at the Travellerâ€™s Club on the Champs Elysee, a quite remarkable and elegant establishment with an open-air terrace overlooking the Champs.
Day two was over-50 day. Robert Peel and Richard Macalister were to play Jean-Phillippe Grabli and Ivan Semenoff. This match exemplified, in another sport, the boxer against the slugger. Robert â€“ elegant â€“ and Richard â€“ canny angles â€“ were subjected to an onslaught of forcing both off the floor and via the volley. This high-risk strategy paid off in the first set which France won 6/5 and nearly worked in the second which GB scraped 6/5 having been 5/4 down. But GB finally got their noses in front and took the match 5/6 6/5 6/4 in a thriller.
Two singles followed. First, Simon Barker played Olivier Michel, up from Fontainebleau for the occasion. When he took the first set to love, Simon must have thought nice thoughts. But Olivier, a notoriously slow starter, gradually found his rhythm and length to take the second set equally easily 6/2. With the wind behind him, Olivier looked clear favourite to win easily but Simon dug really deep and battled all the way to the line. To no avail however, and Olivier took the match 0/6 6/2 6/5.
Simon Shenkman took the court with Franceâ€™s number one Julien Bey, on handicap the clear favourite to win. Simon, with his typically athletic and stylish game, played some excellent points but could never quite overcome Julienâ€™s overall courtcraft and ability and France won this one 6/3 6/4.
Simon Talbot-Williams and Sue Haswell then took on Alexandre Ginod and Julien Nebenzahl in an absolute thriller. Another boxer/slugger encounter. When GB recovered from 3/5 to 6/5 in the first, we all hoped that this would level the match on the day for GB. But France kept pouring on the pressure and, despite Sueâ€™s volleying and Simonâ€™s coverage at the back of the court, they ran out the winners 5/6 6/4 6/3. 3/1 to France on the day.
Enter captain Peter Holmes to play Jean-Phillippe Grabli. Possibly the best match, from a technical perspective, of the tournament. Peter played some wonderful tennis against a tenacious opponent who never quite had the same firepower or craft. Peter won 6/3 6/3, finishing the match with two winning galleries and a grille â€“ all, of course, deliberate. Fantastic.
All matches were marked by Rod Macnaughtan who therefore had two long stints which he handled impeccably.
So France won the over-50s by 3 matches to 2 but this is an overall team event and Team GB prevailed 7/4. At the evening dinner â€“ at a local bistro commandeered by Francois Bernheim for the event - Ivan Semenoff presented the newly-created trophy to Jamie Bebb, who promptly ordered it to be filled with champagne to be shared amongst all.
The weekend would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and drive of Ivan Semenoff backed up by Rod Macnaughtan. They enthused their team in a massive way and it is greatly to be hoped that this match â€“ a biennial event due to be payed next in 2020 and hosted in the UK â€“ will form a core part of the Tennis calendar for many years to come.
- Peter Holmes (capt)
- Simon Shenkman
- Simon Barker
- Robert Peel
- Richard MacAlister
- Sue Haswell
- Simon Talbot-Williams
Over-60s/70s Combined Team:
- Jamie Bebb (capt)
- Fred Satow
- Jonathan Fisher
- Ronald Paterson
- Jill Newby
- Marek Stefanowicz
- Willie Wilks
- Paul Danby
- Richard White
Over 60/70 Results
- Willie Wilks beat Xavier de Villapion 6/3 6/0
- Willie Wilks & Mike Seymour beat Xavier de Villapion & Remi Salmon 6/1 3/6 6/0
- Jamie Bebb & Jonathan Fisher beat Francois Bernheim & Bertrand Sarlangue 6/0 4/6 6/1
- Ronald Paterson & Marek Stefanowicz beat Guy Kressman & Bruno Corman 6/0 6/2
- Richard White lost to Francois Bernheim beat 5/6 6/4 4/6
- Fred Satow beat Ken Casler 6/0 6/1
GB 5 France 1
Over 50 Results
- Richard MacAlister & Robert Peel beat Jean-Phillippe Grabli & Ivan Semenoff 5/6 6/5 6/4
- Simon Barker lost to Olivier Michel 6/0 2/6 5/6
- Simon Shenkman lost to Julien Bey 3/6 4/6
- Simon Talbot-Williams & Sue Haswell lost to Alexandre Ginod & Julien Nebenzahl 6/5 4/6 3/6
- Peter Holmes beat Jean-Phillippe Grabli 6/3 6/3
GB 2 France 3
OVERALL RESULT GB 7 France 4