The match represented the pairs 42nd meeting since first contesting the British Junior Open Boys U16 semi-final in 1998 & James Willstrop's first appearance in the tournament since losing to Gaultier in the 2004 semi-finals.
Gaultier, the current World No.1 who was looking for his tenth European title, held an advantage throughout the opening exchanges to take the first game 11-7, but James Willstrop battled back to overturn an early deficit in the second to level the match by taking the game 11-8. The third game was a brutal 25-minute affair with the Frenchman coming close to boiling over as James Willstrop again held firm through to the end to win the game 11-8 & take the lead.
The Frenchman fought hard to wrestle back the initiative to win the fourth game 11-2, but it was James Willstrop who opened up a lead in the decider, leading 7-5, 8-6 & 9-7 before closing out the match by taking the final game 11-8.
It was the first time in his illustrious career that James Willstrop had won the prestigious European Championship & the win was belated revenge for his defeat by Gaultier in the 2004 semi-finals when the Frenchman won his first title.
“That was a brutal match at times, it’s hard to believe we’ve been playing each other like that for so long!” said James Willstrop, the No.2 seed. “it was a little like the second game against Borja in the semi-finals, the third was crucial. Greg came back, but he still has some demons in there & I’m glad I was able to come out on top in the fifth.
“Greg is a great champion & I’m proud to beat him.
“It’s been a great event. Thanks to all the sponsors, AJ Bell in particular, the University of Nottingham for putting on the event at such a great venue, & a special thanks to my father & coach Malcolm for all he’s done for me over the years. This one's for you!”
AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Squash Championship
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt.  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 2-11, 11-8 (68m)
AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Squash Championships
French duo Gregory Gaultier & Camille Serme will head a stellar line-up at this year’s AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Championships which will see Europe’s leading players converge on the David Ross Sports Village at the University of Nottingham from the 24th to 27th August with aspirations of winning Europe’s most prestigious individual titles.
Gaultier will be keen to avenge his shock defeat to Spain’s Borja Golan in last year’s final & will no doubt be wary of the challenge from the defending champion as well as that of former World No.1 James Willstrop who will lead the charge of home-based players in the men’s draw.
Englishmen Declan James, Josh Masters, Patrick Rooney & Charlie Lee will all be keen to impress in a high-class field which will feature several leading players from around Europe including Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller, German No.2 Raphael Kandra, Austrian No.1 Aqeel Rehman & Portugal No.1 Rui Soares.
“The AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Squash Championships will be my first event of the new season," said nine-time champion Gaultier.
“Everyone will be fresh & ready to play after the summer break & I’m really looking forward to playing & representing my country. It will be the first time that I will have played at the University of Nottingham since the 2016 British Open & I’m really looking forward to experiencing the university’s wonderful new facilities,” added the World No.1.
Compatriot Camille Serme will head the women’s draw & can be relied upon to mount a tough-minded defence in pursuit of a record sixth title.
Since winning her fifth European individual title last September, the 28-year-old French favourite has enjoyed a sensational run of form on the PSA World Tour, winning the 2016 US Open, Cleveland Classic & prestigious Tournament of Champions title earlier this year as well as recently being crowned World Games Gold Medallist.
The World No.3 will be joined in Nottingham by compatriot Coline Aumard with Emily Whitlock & Millie Tomlinson of England & Belgium sisters Nele & Tinne Gilis her likely main contenders.
Hosted on behalf of the European Squash Federation in partnership with England Squash & University of Nottingham Sport, this year’s AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Squash Championships will mark the first occasion that the event has been staged in the British Isles.
Tickets for the AJ Bell ESF European Individual Closed Squash Championships can be booked online at www.unsquashable.com or by telephone on 0844 8797 949.