Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 Salma Hany (Egy) 11-9, 3-11, 11-3, 12-10 (75m)
I guess everybody will be talking about Nele’s performance tonight, and so they should. My little Belgium sweety pie has played the match of her life in out-of-this-world conditions, and in front of a Egyptian crowd. Chapeau ma belle.
But let me congratulate Salma on the enormous work she has been producing with her coach Diana Karim. Salma in the past would start matches very well, but then wouldn’t trust her body/fitness, and would quickly go for the easy option, making a lot of unforced errors.
So today, when she lost the first game in 19m in horrific conditions, so close to taking it at 7/7, 8/8, 9/9, only bowing 11/9, I thought that was the end of the battle.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It was Nele actually who had a drop of energy – heat, etc – and our Salma that went up and flew over the Gouna’s nest! In 11 long minutes, Salma wowed the crowd, 11/3, and looking very good and very fresh. Not a single error in the first two games!
Ok, she got a bit flat in the third, but it was still 15m of hard work for 11/3, people. We are not talking of a 5m wham-bam thank you, Ma’am. That was a lot of running and long dropping and retrieving and visiting the four corners.
The fourth is a classic. 23m of an incredible mind and body battle. Both girls leaving everything out there. A few decisions but with that heat, not exactly surprising. Salma had her nose in front throughout, Nele was making sure she would stay in touch, 6/4, 6/6 but when the Egyptian zoomed to 9/6 with quick winners, we felt the 5th coming.
Again, couldn’t be more wrong. Nele dug in, two incredible rallies, we are back at 9/9. A no let against Nele, and it’s game ball 10/9. The crowd is going wild with support. The rally ends with a let for Salma, Nele is not convinced, and the decision is overturned, 10/10. Cue crowd!
Two incredible rallies to finish, and finally, after 75m of ridiculously hard conditions battle, Salma makes two errors in a row. Nele is ecstatic, it’s her first time beating Salma. Since jan 2012 in the British Junior Open, U17 (thanks SquashInfo).
Paul Coll on Nele’s performance : Thankfully, Nele won, so I can just go and play golf, and she can bring in the money!
I thought she did very well, she had never beaten Salma, we had a game plan that worked, all she had to do was trust it, and that’s the hardest thing in those conditions. She was running hot out there, everybody is, it’s a question of making clear decisions, and she did that sh*** better than me today…
So I’m very proud of her, she followed the game plan to a T, and got it there. Playing your biggest match in those conditions is very impressive, very proud of her mental toughness today and something I can learn from again.
Nele : It’s tough conditions out there and my mouth’s very dry!
I’m a bit speechless and a bit emotional. It’s my first time reaching a semi final and I’ve looked up to Salma, we’ve played all through juniors together; we’ve played seven times on the PSA World Tour but it must be about fifty in juniors and she chopped me every time!
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! It feels amazing. I feel like it’s been years of chipping away and getting more experiences in places like this. I just felt like it’s been coming for a while.
I quite like this glass court, it’s probably the best match I’ve ever played on an outdoor glass court. I feel good and confident going into the next match [against El Sherbini] and I’ve got nothing to lose. She’s the biggest legend in women’s squash probably and I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m going to give it my absolute all!
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) May 31, 2023