Tinne Gilis takes out top seed Emily Whitlock to win women’s title
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Scottish squash is enjoying something of a renaissance. It’s a long way from the heights achieved by Peter Nicol, Martin Heath and the globetrotting John White, but seeing Greg Lobban and Alan Clyne reach the final of the $30k Cannon Kirk Irish Open was a major achievement for a nation that always like to punch above its weight.
Lobban and Clyne are both coming into form with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon and both performed well at the recent World Doubles in Glasgow.
Lobban won a silver medal with Rory Stewart in the men’s doubles and a bronze with Lisa Aitken in the mixed event, while Clyne claimed a bronze with Dougie Kempsell in the men’s.
In Dublin, Lobban and Clyne overcame English opponents Declan James and Patrick Rooney in the quarter-finals and then beat George Parker and Auguste Dussourd (France) in the semis. When it came to the final, Lobban triumphed in straight games but it was a close contest lasting 52 minutes.
Lobban and Belgium’s Tinne Gilis both secured their second career Challenger 30 level titles after winning the finals at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin.
The men’s final saw Lobban and Clyne go face-to-face in the first all-Scottish final in a non-restricted PSA tournament in eight years, dating back to the Geneva Open in 2014. The pair had met five times previously on Tour with Clyne winning four of those, but this was their first meeting since March 2018.
Lobban continued his superb form this week in the first game, one that set an attritional tone for the contest. The first lasted more than a quarter of an hour, despite Lobban dropping only two points. He then won the second 11-5, maintaining his position in front of his compatriot on the T.
The third game was much closer, and even longer than either of the first two as Clyne attempted to fight his way back into the contest. However, Lobban would not be denied, and he won the third 11-7 to close out the match in straight games, winning his second Challenger 30 level title, following a victory at the HKFC PSA International Squash Open three years ago.
“I am over the moon to be honest! It’s been a great week in general, but to top it off, playing Clyney in the final. Yesterday, we were so happy that both of us got to the final, but half an hour before the final kicked in, we were both thinking it was a shame that one of us had to lose,” Lobban admitted.
“It was a great final, and I really had to push hard. I know the scoreline looked comfortable, but at no point was it! I am just really happy that I came away with the victory. I came in with a clear tactic today and I don’t think I could have executed it any better than I did!
“He obviously had the top seed to get past in the quarter finals and in an earlier match he went to 11-9 in the fifth so he has had a few tough ones this week. We knew that both of us were going to push hard, and not go down without a fight. He has done really well to get to the final, and for Scottish Squash, it’s great!
“To be honest, the last year and a half I have struggled. Last year, I didn’t really want to step on court, and when I did, I really wished I could just walk straight back off it. I had to switch things up to try and find the love of the game back and to enjoy life on Tour again. The fact that we have tournament after tournament now has helped me, I love the competition! I am really enjoying that side of it now!”
In the women‘s event, Belgian No.2 seed Tinne Gilis came into the tournament off the back of having claimed her first Challenger 30 level crown in her last outing on Tour, at the Annecy Rose Open in France.
After dispatching the adopted home favourite, Alexandra Fuller, in the semi-finals, she took on Wales’ top seed Emily Whitlock in Saturday’s final.
The pair were meeting for the second time on Tour, following a 3-0 victory for Gilis at the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open in March 2021. This contest was a much closer battle, with the first game going to a tie-break, as the contrasting styles of both players went toe-to-toe. It was the Belgian who took it 12-10, only for Whitlock to fight back to take the second and tie the match at one game apiece.
The World No.24 regrouped, and she came out firing in the third game, winning it 11-6, before then running out into a big lead in the fourth game. She looked all set for victory, but the Welshwoman was able to save four match balls. As it looked like the chance might slip away from Gilis, she kept her cool to win the fourth 12-10, and claim a second Challenger 30 level title of the season.
“I am very, very happy! It’s been very unexpected, especially the one in Annecy, that was a more relaxed tournament and winning that title, it took a lot of pressure off my shoulders,” Gilis said.
“This tournament, I came in feeling more relaxed and just wanting to play good squash. I had some tough matches from day one to the end. I feel exhausted, I’m so tired and I need a few days off for sure, but I am really, really happy with my two Challenger 30 titles, and hopefully they’re not the last ones!
“It was very physical in my match against Alex yesterday, and there was not much time to recover because we finished around 8pm. I couldn’t sleep at all, so I felt very tired this morning.
“Emily [Whitlock] is a good short player. Her highest ranking is World No.12, so I knew it would be a tough match. She absolutely went for it, she was playing good squash and she put me under a lot of pressure. I had to fight for every single point. Even though my legs are so dead, I am very happy that I pushed through and got the win!
“It is nice knowing that my sister won this title last time, and with her not playing, I thought it would be nice to keep it in the family. I am very happy that I managed to do that, and hopefully, we keep it running! Next year, at least one of us has to play, and maybe both of us! It is great to keep it in the family, that’s for sure!”
The next event on SQUASHTV will be the European Team Championships, which will take place in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, from April 27-30.
The next PSA World Tour tournament to be streamed on SQUASHTV will be the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, which will be held from May 1-7 at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Cannon Kirk Irish Squash Open, Fitzwilliam Club, Dublin, Ireland.
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt  Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 11-7 (52m)
 Alan Clyne (SCO) bt  Auguste Dussourd (FRA) 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 (40m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt  George Parker (ENG) 11-7, 11-1, 11-2 (33m)
 Alan Clyne (SCO) bt  Patrick Rooney (ENG) 11-3, 6-11, 11-9, 11-13, 11-5 (55m)
 Auguste Dussourd (FRA) bt  Lucas Serme (FRA) 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (47m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt  Declan James (ENG) 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7 (78m)
 George Parker (ENG) bt [9/16] Rory Stewart (SCO) 11-5, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9 (67m)
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt  Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-1: 12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10 (54m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt [9/16] Grace Gear (ENG) 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (31m)
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt  Alexandra Fuller (RSA) 13-11, 11-0, 10-12, 13-11 (55m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt  Julianne Courtice (ENG) 11-5, 16-14, 11-9 (43m)
[9/16] Grace Gear (ENG) bt  Rachel Arnold (MAS) 12-10, 13-11, 8-11, 11-9 (38m)
 Alexandra Fuller (RSA) bt  Lucy Turmel (ENG) 11-4, 18-16, 12-10 (44m)
 Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt [9/16] Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 (24m)
For full results see www.squashinfo.com
Pictures courtesy of Irish Squash