Gilis sisters to clash in women’s final as top seed Nele beats Tesni Evans in 77-minute thriller By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Victor Crouin began his semi-final tie with Auguste Dussourd after midnight but looked wide awake as he won in straight games to reach the final of the Open de France against top seed Marwan ElShorbagy.
Crouin, who was runner-up to Marwan’s brother Mohamed in the final of the Qatar Classic last week, is clearly growing in confidence after such a solid start to the season.
Starting so late can be a psychological nightmare for both players but Crouin took it in his stride to dominate the match, winning 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 in 45 minutes.
The packed crowd gave both players plenty of raucous support and Crouin said: “It’s great to play in front of this crowd. We don’t play that often in France, usually we just play local events and it’s nice to have a small community in a club to watch us and support us.
“This is one of the biggest events on tour, this is one of biggest crowds we have on tour, and it’s very enjoyable to play.
“I think it’s the seventh time we’ve played against each other. I studied a lot today because I’m very studious. We know each other very well, it’s always a tough battle, and I never feel comfortable playing on court against Auguste which shows how good he is.
“I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve made to win in three today because it’s really tough mentally to stay focussed during the entire match, especially at that time.
“I’m really proud to win in three, that’s really important. I’m fresh for tomorrow and hopefully I can go one more.”
ElShorbagy came through his semi-final against India’s Saurav Ghosal in a match that had three tiebreaks, two of those going the World No.9’s way en route to the final as he won 11-6, 12-10, 11-13, 13-11 in 69 minutes.
ElShorbagy repeated his earlier praise for the tournament when he said: “I’ve played in the PSA for ten years, I’m loving this experience and I’m really happy me and Saurav put on a great show.
“It was a great match, very tough mentally and physically; he’s a great player and I think this is the first time I’ve beaten him on the PSA World Tour. He’s a top player and a player I really admire a lot, and I wish him all the best for the rest of the season.
“Saurav is a very skilful player, very fast to the front and he’s good with the hands. He took me out of my comfort zone and I found it a little bit tough to come back mentally from that, but I’m really happy with the way I came back in the fourth game.”
The women’s final will see a battle of the Belgian sisters, Tinne and Nele Gilis, as they came through their semi-final matches in differing ways.
Top seed Nele came up against Welshwoman Tesni Evans, the No.3 seed, in a high-quality contest lasting more than 75 minutes, with the Belgian eventually coming through to take the win in the fifth game, 10-12, 11-7, 10-12, 11-3, 11-7 in 77 minutes.
It was Evans, the World No.20, who took the first game on a tiebreak, but shorter rallies in the second game helped the Belgian to fight back. However, the same pattern then followed across the next two games, with the Welshwoman securing the third and moving back into the lead once again.
Back came Gilis for a second time, though, as she claimed the fourth comfortably, 11-3, to send the match into a deciding fifth game. The pair were then level in the fifth at 5-5, but some quick points gave the Belgian the momentum, and she was able to get to the victory in the end, to move through to the biggest final of her career to date.
“So many things were going through my mind, but I really enjoyed this match from start to finish,” Gilis said on court afterwards.
“I thought it was really good squash, really clean squash, we both enjoyed it, I think the crowd enjoyed it. When I went 2-1 down, in my mind I was thinking I’m almost on the plane home! But I’m glad I found a way to win. I want to thank the crowd because the energy, as players we can really feel it on court.
“It means so much. Coming back, this is my biggest final so far and I get to play it against my sister. My mum came over from Belgium so it’s going to be extra special. I’m really happy and I’m really excited!”
She will now face younger sister Tinne, who overcame the tournament’s surprise package, 16-year-old Fayrouz Aboelkheir, in straight games in the opening match of the evening’s action at Hangar 24.
The Belgian was 2-0 up quickly, winning 11-6 and 11-3, as she looked on course to seal her place in the final against Aboelkheir, who had grabbed headlines on her route to the last four after she dumped French No.1 Melissa Alves out in the second round.
The Egyptian teenager battled back in the third game to make it more difficult for Gilis, with the scores tied at 10-10. However, Gilis was able to shrug off a valiant display from Aboelkheir to seal the win and earn a place in tomorrow’s final.
“I’m very happy. Tomorrow I’m going to play the biggest final of my career, so I’m very happy to get the win today. She’s a very young player, she’s only 16-years-old and reaching the semi-finals of a Bronze tournament is very impressive,” Gilis said.
“She’s obviously very good and has a bright future, but I was just trying to focus on my game because one bad shot and you’re under pressure so I had to make sure I stayed focused. I might have lost my focus a bit at the end, but I’m happy I found it again and a way out.
“Right now, I can’t believe I’m going to play a final tomorrow so I’m just going to let it sink in for now. I’m going to enjoy the rest of the matches, enjoy the crowd, it’s been absolutely amazing and I’m having the best week of my life.”
Open de France de Squash, Hangar 24, Nantes, France.