R3: Salma 3-1 Nele

Salma Hany (EGY) 3-1 [3] Nele Gilis (BEL)  11-5, 11-6, 5-11, 11-1 (56m)

Hany went into the match with revenge on the mind, having lost out to Gilis two weeks ago in the German Open and in the quarter-finals of this event last year.

Lost at sea. The ‘Nele Ship’ was navigating without a helm today. All credit to Salma’s accuracy and game plan.

It was a great night for a lady tonight, her name is Diana Karim, and she is Nada Abbas and Salma Hany’s fitness coach. She saw her first player nearly take out the world number one, and her second actually take out the #3 seed.

I know Nele is looking for her confidence she seems to have lost since her win in New Zealand against sister Tinne. Tournament after tournament, she had tough or/and close losses. Since having reached her best-ever ranking of 4 in the world, I feel she might have a pressure on her that she never had before.

And tonight I saw that: a lovely strong player, playing against herself, not playing her game but just not wanting to lose. It’s not like she didn’t try. And her third game shows what she can do.

But her body language throughout the match was negative, not to mention argumentative with the ref – who might have gone a bit too hard on the girls I felt tonight. It’s good to make them keep calm and respectful, but letting them be human would be appreciated! But what do I know.

Salma, on the other hand, had nothing, absolutely nothing on her shoulders. And she played the best squash I’ve seen her play for a long time. Taking the pace off, she prevented the Belgium to get into hard and powerful rallies, managing to frustrate her and forcing errors out of someone who very rarely makes any.

I loved the part where her coach, former PSA player, Andrew Wagih, gave her hell after her third game loss. “I can’t take the colourful words out of what he said” she laughed with the MC….

A superb win for the Egyptian, well deserved, and just a bad patch for the Belgian. This too shall pass.

Salma : “I had a really good, solid gameplan today. Obviously we played just ten days ago in Germany and that match was pretty fresh and I had in mind what I needed to improve. I came into today with a really positive mindset to keep improving my shots and not think about the last two losses.

“I changed some of my plans from the last two times and didn’t want to let her know what I was going to play next. I managed to vary my shots and kept her on her toes.

“Obviously Tinne has been playing really well. We played at the beginning of the season in Qatar and I’m not really thinking about that now, I’m just enjoying this one now.”