12:41 am
26 May 2024

Gilis Marks Maiden Platinum Semi At El Gouna

1 Jun 2023

Nele Gilis reached a Platinum-level semi-final for the first time in her career after defeating Salma Hany in the quarter-finals of the El Gouna International at the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center in Egypt.

Gilis, who's been enjoying a rich vein of form, ended a run of nine successive defeats to Hany over the past 11 years after beating the Egyptian to tee up a semi-final showdown with world No.1 Nour El Sherbini.

The Belgian drew first blood, edging the 19-minute first game 11-9, before the expected Hany response came in the second, with the world No.12 firing in winners as she struck back with an 11-3 win.

Gilis stormed back into the lead with a dominant 11-3 victory of her own, but in a nail-biting fourth, Hany had a great opportunity to force a fifth game, but could not press home her advantage as Gilis dragged her back to 9-9.

Hany regrouped and had game ball at 10-9, but could not convert as Gilis - after a lengthy video review on a 'yes let' decision that was overturned - took the game to a tie break.

Gilis struck first to earn match ball at 11-10. In a brutal final rally in which both players gained and lost the upper hand, the Belgian finally broke Hany's resistance to earn a shot at the second seed for a place in the final.

"I'm a bit speechless and a bit emotional," Gilis said. "It's my first time reaching a semi-final [of a Platinum event] 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 50 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!"

World No.1 El Sherbini cruised past Nele's sister Tinne Gilis to reach her third consecutive El Gouna International semi-final.

The 2021 champion made a dream start against the Belgian No.2, taking the first six points as she eased into the lead with an 11-4 win in game one, before doubling her advantage after coming from 7-6 down to take the second 11-7.

El Sherbini raced away to a 10-3 lead in the third, only for Gilis to throw caution to the wind and save six match balls, before the Egyptian eventually ended things with an 11-9 win.

"Maybe I lost a bit of concentration and wasn't focusing on what I was supposed to do," El Sherbini said.

"She was just focusing on what she needed to do and was fighting until the last point. I'm a bit frustrated with what happened in the last game, but thankfully it didn't go any further than this and I won it in the end. I don't know what would have happened if I'd lost it."

Men's defending champion Mostafa Asal overcame his Egyptian compatriot Mazen Hesham in straight games to progress to the last four.

In a fast-paced and entertaining first game, Asal was able to keep his nose ahead of Hesham throughout, chasing down enough of the Falcon's winners to take the opener 11-7.

After a strong start to the second, Hesham pegged Asal back after forcing some errors from the top seed's racket, but the world No.2 regained his focus and moved two ahead with an 11-8 win.

The third game was a more fractured contest, but it was former world No.1 Asal who was better able to reset after each interruption, keeping calm to edge ahead and take the game 11-7.

"Mazen is one of the toughest players on tour and he's in form now. It's tough to play players in form at the end of the season, so I'm happy with my performance today. It was much calmer inside the court, having my fans all over the place is amazing for me. I hope my loyal fans are coming for the semis and the final!" Asal said post-match.

"I'm playing in one of the best clubs in Africa and I'm sure they'll come and support! I'm really proud of myself today."

Mohamed ElShorbagy awaits Asal in the semis. The Englishman produced a vintage performance to battle back from a game down to see off last year's finalist Paul Coll.

Coll clinched the first game when he converted game ball at the first time of asking. However ElShorbagy dominated the second to restore parity with his attacking prowess coming to the fore.

Two-time champion ElShorbagy's firepower was proving to be too much for Coll to handle in the third as the Englishman nudged 2/1 ahead.

Despite a positive start to the fourth from Coll, errors proved to be costly as ElShorbagy took full advantage to secure his semi-final berth.

"Every time I play Paul, I know it's going to be brutal. And when you play him in hot conditions, it's even more brutal!" ElShorbagy said.

"I'm an honest player and I know he's not at his best this season, and he would have known that I was not at my best last season, so we haven't really played each other at the same [level] for a while. I think the last time was the US Open last year when we both played well at the same time."