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Friday, December 9, 2022

Nele Gilis: Life on tour is tough, especially going on court straight after watching your top-seed boyfriend lose

Alan Thatcher
Alan Thatcherhttps://squashmad.com
Founder of World Squash Day, Squash Mad, the Kent Open and co-promoter of the Canary Wharf Classic. Launched the Squash 200 Partnership to build clubs of the future. Talks a bit.

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‘I hate playing after Paul,’ says Belgian star after fighting back to beat Olivia Fiechter
INTERVIEW by ROD GILMOUR (Squash Mad Correspondent in Singapore)

Belgian star Nele Gilis is currently on a months-long tour away from her European base. The 26-year-old left the Netherlands in mid-October and won’t be back home until early January with her partner Paul Coll. Plain sailing? It has already been a rollercoaster squash journey.

Earlier today at the Marigold Singapore Squash Open, the pair experienced more ups and downs of tour life. First, top seed Coll was ousted in a surprise defeat to in-form Malaysian Eain Yow Ng before Gilis came from a game down to beat Olivia Fiechter, the higher-seeded American, as she received welcome support from the Belgium Embassy.

“I completely missed my targets and knew I had to change something after the first,” said Gilis after her 6-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 victory. “Her strengths are around the middle of the court where she is absolutely lethal.

“I concentrated on taking those weapons away from her after the first, slowing it down a little bit and making it more physical, as those are my strengths. I am pretty proud of the way I turned it round.”

Gilis entered the OCBC Arena glass court immediately following Coll’s 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 defeat to Yow.

“I hate playing after Paul – I would rather play before so I can relax and watch,” added Gilis. “It’s tough emotionally as I know he’s probably upset after that. I tried to get it off me and focus on my own game. Perhaps it (Coll’s defeat) pushed me to win for the both of us, I don’t know!”

Gilis left Europe to go to Australia on Oct 21. She played and won the Australian Open before heading to play the Nations Cup and the New Zealand Open. Arriving late on Monday, Gilis was straight into action on Tuesday in Singapore, while Coll looked to still be feeling the effects of playing on Sunday in his homeland.

Nele Gilis took to the court straight after watching partner Paul Coll lose to Malaysia’s Eain Yow

The travel continues next week for Gilis, who plays the Asian swing with more events in Malaysia and Hong Kong before spending Christmas and New Year in New Zealand with Coll and returning in January.

All in, it is a near three-month tour away from their Dutch base. Further, they have a week at home before then going Stateside for the Tournament of Champions later in January.

For now, Gilis’s good form continues after a title win and a semi-final showing. After her 52-minute win, Gilis was introduced to Belgium’s deputy head of missions in Singapore.

“I was told he was coming before the match,” said Gilis. “It was an honour to play in front of him and told me that he had never watched squash before and it gave me an extra push to play well.”

Tournament organisers here have sent an invitation out to all the competing nations’ ambassadors to watch this week’s Singapore showpiece event.

“The response has been great. It just widens the reach of what we are doing,” said Patrick Thio, Singapore Squash president.

Officials from the USA, New Zealand and a seven-strong delegation from Colombia’s Embassy have watched the action unfold.

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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