Victorious Victor thrills the home crowd, while Nele wins the Battle of the Belgian Sisters
By Matt Coles – PSA World Tour
France’s Victor Crouin and Belgium’s Nele Gilis both secured the biggest victories of their careers, as they won the Open de France de Squash titles at Hangar 24 in Nantes on Saturday night, as they got the better of Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy and Belgium’s Tinne Gilis, respectively.
Crouin came into the tournament as the brand-new French No.1, having overtaken Gregoire Marche in the World Rankings following his exploits in the QTerminals Qatar Classic last week, and he lived up to that moniker throughout the week’s play in Nantes.
In his third final in as many tournaments, Crouin came up against Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy, the World No.9. In a mirror image of the first game of the women’s final, ElShorbagy had looked the more assured player as he took a 6-2 lead in the opener thanks to tidy racket work.
Crouin, however, then put together a barnstorming run as he moved up the court and reeled off winner after winner. To the delight of the raucous and partisan home crowd, Crouin won nine consecutive points to incredibly take the first game 11-6.
The Frenchman looked confident at the beginning of the second game before his accuracy faltered and a resurgent ElShorbagy pulled level with an 11-9 win. ‘The Jackal’ then showed the form that saw him reach World No.3 in the third game, as he moved into his first lead of the contest, but back came the Frenchman.
Crouin rediscovered his blistering form from the opening game as he wrestled back the momentum to blast his way level with an 11-8 win to force a fifth game. With the scores at 9-9, the title was there for the taking for either man. Crouin was the first to make a move and had Championship Ball at 10-9, but was unable to convert. He then had another chance at 11-10, earned with a spectacular volley, and this time made no mistake, with the 23-year-old winning his biggest title to date with a 12-10 win.
“I want to thank all the people watching on SQUASHTV and all of the SQUASHTV crew who are doing an amazing job through the whole week, from morning until the end of the matches! Thank you for trying to improve the game and making sure that everyone can watch our sport from anywhere in the world,” Crouin said.
“I want to thank the organisation, everyone behind this event, the volunteers, the sponsors, the directors, it was my first time playing in the main venue as I’ve always played at the squash club, which is great, but I’m happy to play in this kind of venue and with you all supporting me on court.
“It’s been an incredible atmosphere during the whole week, from the very first matches. Thank you for your work through the whole week, you’re really helping to make this event even better, improving every year. The English is improving during the event, which is great!
“Thanks to Marwan, hats off to him because it’s definitely tough to play in front of a French crowd. You guys have been tough, although I heard some ‘Come on Marwan’ which I didn’t really like, it pissed me off and helped me to keep going!”
“He’s been World No.3 and has been trying to get back to the top of the rankings and is always trying to find ways to improve. He loves this game and that’s why he keeps going. We’re going to play in the future again, next week [at the Egyptian Open] possibly. I’m going to celebrate this win and then get ready for the next one.
“Thanks Dad for everything you do for me. He’s been watching matches whether it’s 8am or 2am, he’s always there behind the screen watching me and preparing me for matches the whole day. He’s very tough during my training blocks and we often argue, but that’s a dad-son relationship, I guess! This season is off to a great start and I hope we can keep this relationship going and he can move me to the World No.1 spot one day!”
In the women’s final, Nele Gilis was in brilliant form to put younger sister Tinne to the sword and claim her first PSA World Tour Bronze title. Despite being the top seed, Nele went into the final with Tinne ranked one place below her at World No.13, and with Tinne winning their last meeting on Tour – which came in the final of the Challenger Tour’s Annecy Rose Open in April this year.
It was the younger of the sisters that flew out into an early lead in the opening game, but Nele was able to fight back to take a tight first 11-9. She was then able to extend that lead after winning the second. Tinne started to struggle in the third, and the World No.13 was able to cruise to the title, her first since winning the Squash on Fire Open back in 2021, and her second crown in Nantes, following her victory here in 2018.
“Nantes has always been a very special place for me. I always play so well here, in front of this crowd. I love coming here and today, playing in my biggest final ever, against my sister and in front of my mum and all these amazing people, is so special and I can’t quite find the words right now!” Gilis said.
“I honestly came here with no expectations. I just wanted to play good squash and see where it got me. Winning this tournament, I could only dream of it. To win here in Nantes, two times, is incredible. I can’t find the words.
“The energy you all gave me this week is amazing and thank you so much to everyone. I also want to thank Tinne for a really good match. She beat me last time so I really wanted to have my revenge today. She’s been playing so well and I almost didn’t believe that I could beat her. But I’m so happy and proud of her.
“Lastly, I want to thank all of the volunteers for making this event possible. It’s the best event on tour, without a doubt! I want to thank you guys so much because you do it for the love of the sport. It’s incredible, thank you so much!”
The next tournament on the PSA World Tour will be the CIB Egyptian Open, a Platinum level tournament, which will take place from September 19-25 in Cairo, Egypt. All the action from the event, which will feature squash in front of the Pyramids of Giza, will be streamed live on SQUASHTV.
Men’s Final: Open de France de Squash
 Victor Crouin (FRA) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 9-11, 6-11, 11-8, 12-10 (72m)
Women’s Final: Open de France de Squash
 Nele Gilis (BEL) bt  Tinne Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 (49m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour