Sunday, March 3, 2024

Sydney success as Miguel Rodriguez and Nele Gilis add their names to the Australian Open list of legends


The Australian Open is one of the most historic tournaments in squash history and Miguel Rodriguez and Nele Gilis have added their names to an illustrious list of champions after beating Greg Lobban and Sabrina Sobhy in today’s finals.

Belgian top seed Gilis beat Sobhy (USA) in straight games to etch her name on the Spalding–Heather McKay Perpetual Trophy, while Colombian Rodriguez defeated Scottish No.1 Lobban 3-1 in the men’s final to become the first South American player to claim the Australian Open title.

In the women’s final, Gilis produced an outstanding performance to power past No.2 seed Sobhy 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 without ever trailing in the match.

The Belgian world No. 13 was first off the blocks at the Sydney University Sport and Fitness Centre, building a five-point advantage in the middle of the first game to lead 8-3.

With the game slipping away, Sobhy’s reaction was fierce, but the American could only deny three game balls before eventually dropping the game, the first she had conceded in the tournament.

Nele Gilis sets up a backhand in the final against Sabrina Sobhy

The second game followed a similar script, with Gilis taking four of the first five rallies. Sobhy was always determined to bridge the gap, but was never able to turn the momentum around. Up 2-0 and in control of the match, Gilis dominated the third game to take the PSA Challenger 30 title.

“I’ve known Sabrina for a long time so I knew it was going to be a clean, but tough contest,” said Gilis after the match.

“I tried to focus on one point at the time and reset after every rally. I knew that if I was going to think ahead I might be getting edgy and nervous, so I just tried to focus on every ball and give it my all. It worked and I am so happy!”

Australian Open finalists Greg Lobban, Miguel Rodriguez, Nele Gilis and Sabrina Sobhy

The men’s final lived up to expectations with the evergreen Colombian Rodriguez having to dig deep to overturn a first game loss before beating Lobban in four games.

The match proved a tight contest right from the beginning, with Lobban getting the upper hand in a hard-fought first game.

They continued trading blows in the second game, going point for point until Rodriguez won a huge rally to set up two game balls before levelling the match at one game all.

In the third, Rodriguez continued to producing some masterful drop shots that earned him an early 5-0 lead and the applause of the crowd. The No.1 seed went on another impressive six-point run to wrap up the third game 11-1 in just over five minutes.

A semblance of balance was restored in the fourth game with neither player giving ground. With the game tied at 7-7, Rodriguez eventually pulled away and finally overcame Lobban’s resistance to take the match and the Australian Open crown for the 30th PSA title of his career.

Miguel Rodriguez in action against Greg Lobban in the men’s final

Rodriguez said: “He played the first and second game very well. He was crossing from backhand to forehand and I wanted to play on his backhand, so there was a lot of cross-court game.

“I got confident after winning that second game and I started changing that pattern and played some different shots, using a much softer touch. That worked and was something I should have done right from the beginning.

“Physically, I think I was feeling much better. The conditions of the court were more favourable to me and the crowd was very supportive.

“That’s what I was thinking in the back of my mind all the time – this is my court, this is my atmosphere. But I had to wait until the very end!

“I am so glad to get this title, it was one of my goals for this season and it is very special to win here in Australia.”

2022 City Tattersalls Club Australian Open, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (PSA Challenger Tour $30k events for men and women).

Women’s Final:
[1] Nele Gilis (BEL) bt [2] Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 (44m)

Men’s Final:
[1] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [3] Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 8-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-9 (67m)

Pictures by Gregg Porteous courtesy of Squash Australia



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