EIC 2017 – SEMI-FINALS
 Camille Serme (Fra) 3-0 [3/4] Nele Gilis (Bel) 11/5, 11/7, 11/6 (31m)
 Millie Tomlinson (Eng) 3-1 [3/4] Coline Aumard (Fra) 8/11, 12/10, 11/8, 11/5 (46m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0 [3/4] Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 11/6, 11/6, 11/4 (28m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 [3/4] Borja Golan (Esp) 11/8, 14/12, 11/4 (46m
Top seeds through to Anglo-French Finals
as Willstrop dethrones Golan
The first pair of the AJ Bell European Individual Championships at the David Ross Sports Village at the University of Nottingham featured the French top seeds aiming to stay in contention to increase their already impressive title tallies.
World #3 Camille Serme made it through to a sixth consecutive final – she’s won the previous five – with a straight games win over Belgium’s Nele Gilis in a match that was a repeat of last year’s final and the previous year’s semi.
It didn’t start well for Gilis as Serme’s opening serve rolled out of the nick at the back of the court. The defending champion extended that lead to 5-0 before Gilis got into the match, and although the 21-year-old competed well for large portions of the match, Serme always seemed to have the upper hand as she closed out the win 11/5, 11/7, 11/6 in 31 minutes.
“It’s great to be able to play the top players like Camille, who is a great champion,” said Gilis. “I’ll concentrate on the PSA season now, my immediate aim is to reach the top 30 and hopefully move on from there.”
Serme reflected: “Nele played well, there were some really tough periods in the match. I think she needs to attack more, I was able to keep myself in rallies, but when I got a chance I always went for the nick!
“I always enjoy playing this event, it starts the season well. I’m hoping to do well in the coming season, but I’m not thinking about titles, I have to perform well here first.”
The Swiss caused Gaultier some trouble with his fast paced hitting, but the 9-time champion pulled away from the middle of both first two games, then finished off after taking an 8-0 lead in the third, winning 11/6, 11/6, 11/4 in 28 minutes.
“Nici made me work hard,” admitted Gaultier. “I pushed my summer training back and haven’t done much court work yet, he made me move to the front much more which is what I needed, the automism isn’t there yet.”
“I always play this event, it’s a honour for me to represent my country, I haven’t missed one yet and I always try to do my best.”
The semis in the bottom half of the draws both featured English second seeds aiming to maintain home interest.
The first two games were shared with the lead changing hand several times in each, but Tomlinson took 5-0 leads in the third and fourth games and Aumard, now studying at Nottingham University, was unable to close those gaps as Tomlinson reached the final with a ) 8/11, 12/10, 11/8, 11/5 scoreline after 46 minutes of play.
“That was tough!” admitted Millie. “The first game was brutal, I’m so glad I managed to sneak the second. That’s the first time I’ve beaten Coline so I’m really pleased with that, and to reach the final. It will be tough against Camille tomorrow but no pressure, I’ll just go out and do my best.”
The final match saw James Willstrop, making his first EIC appearance since 2004, reach his first final as he beat defending champion Borja Golan in straight games.
The first two were tough, the Spaniard as determined as ever, but Willstrop maintained a lead in the first, then after seeing a 10-7 lead disappear in the second, save a game ball before taking it 14/12.
The end came quickly as Golan’s challenge – and title – dissipated with a run of quick points to finish the match 11/8, 14/12, 11/4 in 46 minutes.
“You have to play a perfect match to beat James,” admitted Golan, “and I wasn’t quite perfect today, he puts you under so much pressure and you just can’t make any mistakes.”
Willstrop conceded that the second game was crucial: “That was as tough as I expected. It’s a bit of a cliche to say that two-nil is better than one-all, but saving games ball in that second was probably the crucial part of the match. Borja is such a competitor and if he’d drawn level it would have been very difficult.
“I’ll need to find an extra gear tomorrow – everyone does against Greg – but I’m looking forward to it, it’s nice to be part of an event like this.”
Tomorrow’s schedule features the 3/4 playoff from 13.00 and the finals from 16.00.
Semi-Final Quick Previews
The top half of the draws see French multiple champions aiming to add to their title tallys.
Starting proceedings once again is champion Camille Serme, the French world #3 facing Belgium’s Nele Gilis in a repeat of last year’s final in Prague (also of 2015’s semi in Bratislava). Earlier in the tournament Serme declared her season’s intent was to become world #1 and world champion, and a sixth consecutive EIC title would be the ideal starting point.
Gilis, ranked 35, is obviously looking to improve on her silver medal of last year, but a win here would be an upset of massive proportions.
A similarly daunting taks faced Swiss star Nicolas Mueller. The world #32, playing in his sixth EIC, will be appearing in the semi-finals for the second time, but standing in the way of a first Swiss finalist is nine-time champion and world #1 Gregory Gaultier.
This is Gaultier’s 13th EIC, and should Meuller prevent the Frenchman from reaching his 13th final it would be … an upset of massive proportions.
The bottom half of the draws feature two English second seeds bidding to add home interest to the finals.
Tomlinson is ranked #23 compared to Aumard’s #30, and while the Frenchwoman is an EIC regular with two previous semi-final appearances under her belt, Tomlinson is making her EIC debut and has never beaten today’s opponent before.
In fact Spain’s Borja Golan is the defending champion having beaten Gaultier last year, and will be aiming to reach the final for the fourth time. The pair have plenty of history – 20 previous matches, most recently a brutal five-game quarter-final in Bellevue, so another close match is in prospect.