Thursday, September 28, 2023

Brits Tesni Evans and Mohamed ElShorbagy out to spoil the party for home heroes Joelle King and Paul Coll in NZ Open finals

By DAVE WORSLEY (Squash Mad Correspondent in Tauranga)

Welsh World No.14 Tesni Evans has reached her first PSA final in over three years after she upset No.3 seed Nele Gilis earlier today at the Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga to set up a mouthwatering final clash with top seed Joelle King at the New Zealand Open.

Gilis, who is ranked a place above Evans in the PSA World Rankings, was in red-hot form in the opening game as she displayed a clinical edge in finishing rallies.

However, the remaining three games were a masterclass from Evans as the 30-year-old controlled the match and made very few errors en route to an 8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 victory in 52 minutes.

Evans will now compete in her first final since the Manchester Open in May 2019, where she also played King in the final, losing in straight games. A win for Evans would see her lift her second PSA title and her first since 2015.

After reaching the eighth PSA final of her career, Evans said: “I’m a slow burner, I get better as I play more matches and last year I didn’t play that many so I got worse! So It’s really nice to get to play one more match; it’s very special.

“Joelle is literally my best friend and it’s always special to be in New Zealand.  I’ll try to win this but, win or lose tomorrow, that’s OK with me.

“I was thinking this morning when I was coming down to practice, the last time I was in a final was in Manchester, which is sort of home for me and how cool it would be to replicate that and play in her (Joelle King’s) home now.

“She absolutely thrashed me that day. I’m hoping for something a bit better tomorrow, but I know it’ll be a great final and honestly it’s an honour to share a final with her in New Zealand. I think it’ll be pretty special.”

Joelle King consoles Tinne Gilis after the semi-final in Tauranga

Meanwhile, King will appear in the title decider in front of her home fans after she overcame Gilis’s younger sister, Tinne, 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 in 36 minutes.

King booked her place in the final with an emphatic win over the Belgian fifth seed from Belgium to continue her unbeaten run on the glass court in Tauranga.

The fired-up Waikato player started in positive mood and didn’t let up, taking the first game 11-5.

The second game produced the same scoreline in King’s favour, with the world No.5 showing superior spatial awareness.

Both players strove for more consistent length in the third and this caused traffic issues at times, producing a dramatic collision mid-game. Towards the end of the third game, King was rewarded for her patient play by forcing loose shots from which she was able to create winners or force Gilis into errors.

King was delighted to take the match in straight games, great preparation for her final against good friend Evans.

King said: “It’s a small tour; at these sized events, we tend to play all the same people. I’m a student of the game, I watch all the matches, even if I’m not at the event, to see who’s improving, who’s doing what.

“Tesni has been playing phenomenally in the last couple of months so it’s going to be a tough match for sure. The final is a new day, a new tournament really, so they’ll be bringing their best and I’ll be bringing my best.”

King will feature in her 28th PSA final, her first on home soil in a decade, and will look to claim her 15th PSA title when she takes on Evans, an opponent she has beaten in four of the seven matches the pair have played.

King added: “Who knows how many more times I’ll get to play at home? I just want to make the most of it and be here at the end of the week. This is where I grew up.

“Everyone loves a party here, they love and appreciate good sport, but they come to have a good time and that’s always how I’ve kind of approached squash.”

Paul Coll in action during the semi-final

The men’s final will see another Kiwi favourite, No.1 seed Paul Coll, lock horns with No.2 seed Mohamed ElShorbagy in a repeat of last week’s Carrus Nations Cup final, which ElShorbagy won 4-0 to bring home the title for England.

Greymouth-born Coll, the World No.2, overcame Qatar’s No.7 seed Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi by an 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 scoreline. That win sees Coll avenge his shock defeat to the World No.28 in the second round of September’s QTerminals Qatar Classic and he will now appear in his 35th PSA final, and his first in New Zealand for six years.

Coll said: “I have a game plan for every opponent but there’s always something that can disrupt your play, so I had to reset every rally.

“There was no flow in the match, he’s got some outrageous feel, so if you go wandering [mentally] you can lose some very quick points. I was very happy with that today.  I felt good, felt sharp, the best I’ve felt in a while,” said 30-year-old Coll.

“His deception is what makes him so hard. He kept peppering me with the bloody boast then a volley drop and I was wondering what the hell was going on here.

“Luckily I warmed up well, but it’s more mentally you’ve got to be sharp for that.  It was a tough one and I thought I was very good today.”

Coll again expressed his delight at going to work on home soil and bathing in the warm glow of the lights above the court that matched the mood in the arena.

He added: “There are so many people (in the crowd) that have helped my career from a junior, when I was pretty average, until now.

“Coaches, friends, competitors, family, definitely everyone in the crowd (that’s been involved) at a stage in my career are here this week. It is a bit of a celebration with them for me, we’ve achieved a lot in the last 12 months.

“To be home and to be able to celebrate with them, it’s pretty special. I’m enjoying the week just for that reason.”

Victory roar from Mohamed ElShorbagy

World No.4 Mohamed ElShorbagy has reached his 75th PSA final after defeating Frenchman Victor Crouin 11-9, 11-8, 11-4. That means ElShorbagy will go joint-fifth with England’s Nick Matthew on the list of all-time men’s PSA final appearances.

ElShorbagy, who is aiming to capture his 47th PSA title, will be the youngest man to reach 500 wins on the PSA Tour if he gets the better of Coll in the final.

It will be their 17th meeting on the PSA Tour, with ElShorbagy winning 11 of them so far, including their most recent match in the U.S. Open quarter-finals last month.

“He [Coll] has done amazingly playing us in our home countries all these years,” said ElShorbagy.

“Tomorrow, for me, it’s just going to be another Silver final. He definitely has more than me to lose tomorrow, but I do think that we are the final that everyone wanted to see, and I hope that we give a good final for everyone tomorrow.”

The finals of the New Zealand Open take place tomorrow (November 13). Play begins at 14:00 local time (GMT+13) and all of the action will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV.

New Zealand Open, Trustpower Baypark Arena, Tauranga, New Zealand.

2022 Robertson Lodges Men’s New Zealand Open Semi-Finals:
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [7] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (37m)
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt [3] Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (40m)

[1] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)

2022 Barfoot & Thompson Women’s New Zealand Open Semi-Finals:
[1] Joelle King (NZL) bt [5] Tinne Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-4 (36m)
[6] Tesni Evans (WAL) bt [4] Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-1: 8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (52m)

[1] Joelle King (NZL) v [6] Tesni Evans (WAL)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour


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