'To say you are European junior champion means so much'

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'To say you are European junior champion means so much'

Triple European junior champion Camille Serme says the upcoming European Individual Under-19 Championships gives the continent's best young players an "important target" to kickstart their careers.

Serme is the only player in history - in either girls' or boys' categories - to win the European U19 title three times. Her triumphs in Langnau, Switzerland in 2006, Herentals, Belgium in 2007 and Stavanger, Norway in 2008 (pictured below) were early signs of the immense potential that eventually saw her reach world No.2, win the British Open and Tournament of Champions, and collect a record 12 French national titles.

Serme with coach Philippe Signoret after winning her third ESF U19 title (Pic: Squashsite)


Many of the players in the draws for the 2024 European U19 Individuals in Bucharest, starting on 23 March, will also be hoping that the event marks an important early milestone in glittering future careers.

"I'm still very proud of being the only one to win three European titles," said Serme. "The event was one of my biggest targets when I was young. It was definitely the most important competition of the year. 

"In France, having this title is very important. To say you are European champion means a lot for the governing body and brings you a lot of attention.

"My main memories about it are first of all, that it was fun. As a kid, it wasn't only about squash - it was the moment you meet all your friends again. We all looked forward to it, but it was competitive too, of course!"

Serme (pictured above after her third European 19 Indidivual title in 2008) also has fond memories of competing in events all over Europe on the ESF junior circuit. As she began to dominate the scene, her coach, Philippe Signoret, started entering her into higher age categories to give her tougher tests.

"It was a great way to improve and play more experienced players at 15 or 16," she remembers. "It gave me crucial experience of longer rallies. When you're a kid the rallies are short, but at Under-19 you need to be more patient and be able to come through those longer tests."

Last year's European Individual U19 champions Asia Harris and Jonah Bryant

Serme, now 34, was pleased to hear that the ESF have pledged to start bringing gender parity to the European Mixed Team Junior Championships from next year. Currently, each team is made up of two boys and one girl, but that will start to change to two boys and two girls from 2025.

"To be honest, I didn't think about it as being an unequal mix when I was that age," says Serme. "I remember I got along fine with the boys, they were my friends and I enjoyed being on a team with them. However, I think it's great they are evening it up now. In life in general we speak about equal rights for women, so having equal gendered teams is amazing."

The 2024 European U19 Mixed Team Championship begins on 28 March, straight after the conclusion of the Individuals in Bucharest.

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