Friday, July 12, 2024

El Gouna 2023: Belgium’s in-form Nele Gilis reaches first semi-final

Nele Gilis reached a Platinum-level semi-final for the first time in her career after defeating Salma Hany to progress to the last four of the El Gouna International 2023 at the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center.

Gilis, who’s been enjoying a rich vein of form, ended a run of six successive defeats to Hany as she beat the Egyptian 3-1 to tee up a semi-final showdown with World No.1 Nour El Sherbini.

The Belgian drew first blood, edging the 19-minute first game 11-9, before the expected Hany response came in the second, with the World No.12 firing in winners as she struck back with an 11-3 win.

Gilis stormed back into the lead with a dominant 11-3 victory of her own, but in a nail-biting fourth, Hany had a great opportunity to force a fifth game, but could not press home her advantage as Gilis dragged her back to 9-9.

Hany regrouped and had game ball at 10-9, but could not convert as Gilis – after a lengthy video review on a ‘yes let’ decision that was overturned – took the game to a tie break.

Gilis struck first to earn match ball at 11-10. In a brutal final rally in which both players gained and lost the upper hand, the Belgian finally broke Hany’s resistance to earn a shot at the World No.1 for a place in the final.

“I’m a bit speechless and a bit emotional. It’s my first time reaching a semi-final [of a Platinum event] and I’ve looked up to Salma [Hany], we’ve played all through juniors together; we’ve played seven times on the PSA World Tour but it must be about 50 in juniors and she chopped me every time!” Gilis said.

“So to finally get a win over her on a stage like this and in a venue like this feels a bit surreal right now!”

World No.1 El Sherbini, Gilis’ opponent, cruised past Tinne Gilis to reach her third consecutive El Gouna International semi-final.

The 2021 champion made a dream start against the Belgian No.2, taking the first six points as she eased into the lead with an 11-4 win in game one, before doubling her advantage after coming from 7-6 down to take the second 11-7.

El Sherbini raced away to a 10-3 lead in the third, only for Gilis to throw caution to the wind and save six match balls, before the Egyptian eventually ended things with an 11-9 win.

“Maybe I lost a bit of concentration and wasn’t focusing on what I was supposed to do,” El Sherbini said.

“She was just focusing on what she needed to do and was fighting until the last point. I’m a bit frustrated with what happened in the last game, but thankfully it didn’t go any further than this and I won it in the end. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d lost it.”

Defending champion Mostafa Asal overcame his Egyptian compatriot Mazen Hesham in straight games to progress to the last four.

In a fast paced and entertaining first game, Asal was able to keep his nose ahead of Hesham throughout, chasing down enough of the Falcon’s winners to take the opener 11-7.

After a strong start to the second, Hesham pegged Asal back after forcing some errors from the top seed’s racket, but the World No.2 regained his focus and moved two ahead with an 11-8 win.

The third game was a more fractured contest, but it was former World No.1 Asal who was better able to reset after each interruption, keeping calm to edge ahead and take the game 11-7.

“Mazen [Hesham] is one of the toughest players on tour and he’s in form now. It’s tough to play players in form at the end of the season, so I’m happy with my performance today. It was much calmer inside the court, having my fans all over the place is amazing for me. I hope my loyal fans are coming for the semis and the final!” Asal said post-match.

“I’m playing in one of the best clubs in Africa and I’m sure they’ll come and support! I’m really proud of myself today.”

Mohamed ElShorbagy awaits Asal in the semi-finals, who produced a vintage performance to battle back from a game down to see off last year’s finalist Paul Coll.

Coll clinched the first game when he converted game ball at the first time of asking, however ElShorbagy dominated the second to restore parity with his attacking prowess coming to the fore.

Two-time champion ElShorbagy’s firepower was proving to be too much for Coll to handle in the third as the Englishman nudged 2-1 ahead.

Despite a positive start to the fourth from Coll, errors proved to be costly as ElShorbagy took full advantage to secure a semi-final berth.

“Every time I play Paul [Coll], I know it’s going to be brutal. And when you play him in hot conditions, it’s even more brutal!” ElShorbagy said.

“I’m an honest player and I know he’s not at his best this season, and he would have known that I was not at my best last season, so we haven’t really played each other at the same [level] for a while. I think the last time was the US Open last year when we both played well at the same time.”

Semi-final action of the El Gouna International 2023 takes place tomorrow (Thursday 1 June). Play starts at 19:00 (GMT+3), with all four matches from the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center available to watch live on SQUASHTV and selected broadcasters around the world.

Men’s Quarter-Final Results – Bottom Half: El Gouna International 2023

[3] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 (59m)

[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9 (61m)

Women’s Quarter-Final Results – Bottom Half: El Gouna International 2023

Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Salma Hany (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 3-11, 11-3, 12-10 (75m)

[2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Tinne Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (39m)

Men’s Semi-Final Draw: (To be played 1 June) 

[1] Diego Elias (PER) v [4] Ali Farag (EGY)

[3] Mostafa Asal (EGY) v [2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)

Women’s Semi-Final Draw: (To be played 1 June) 

[1] Nouran Gohar (EGY) v [3] Hania El Hammamy (EGY)

Nele Gilis (BEL) v [2] Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

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