Gilis Shocks El Sherbini To Make Maiden Platinum Final At El Gouna
2 Jun 2023
In her career-first victory over the world No.1 and seven-time World Champion, Nele Gilis stunned Nour El Sherbini to reach her first ever Platinum-level final following her straight games success in the El Gouna International at the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center in Egypt.
The Belgian No.1 is also the first player from her country to appear in a major final, as Gilis claimed her maiden victory over the illustrious Egyptian after five previous unsuccessful attempts in which she hadn't won a single game.
The rejuvenated Gilis got off to a great start, and earned herself two game balls at 10-8, which she converted straight away after El Sherbini hit the tin.
The errors continued to flow from the World Champion's racket as Gilis took full advantage to pull El Sherbini across the court. Gilis converted game ball at the second time of asking to double her lead.
El Sherbini cut a frustrated figure throughout, and that frustration turned into desperation in the third game as Gilis raced into a 5-2 advantage, which then became a 10-5 lead. Match ball was converted at the first attempt for Gilis on what was a momentous occasion for the Belgian.
"I think it was a bit of a mix, I was very relaxed and had nothing to lose and El Sherbini not being at her best, but you still have to take those opportunities when they arise," she Gilis later. "I've been visualising for the last 24 hours and not once did I think it would be 3/0. It's a bit surreal and I'm beyond happy!
"I just had to force myself to volley and stay in front of her and be confident on my shots that I've been practising for years and just do it because if I don't I'm never going to win, so I might as well have a crack and see how it goes and thankfully I did that."
Gilis' opponent tomorrow will be Nouran Gohar after the top seed knocked out defending champion Hania El Hammamy to reach a second successive final in a monumental 107-minute battle - the fifth longest women's match of all time.
World No.2 Gohar, who will return to the top of the Women's Rankings if she wins the El Gouna International, defeated the reigning champion 3/1 to progress to the final.
It was a cagey opening from both players, but El Hammamy went 10-7 ahead only for Gohar to charge back to win four successive points to take it into a tiebreak. Despite the world No.3 having two more chances to convert game one, Gohar took it 15-13 in a physical 31-minute opener.
Mistakes were costly for El Hammamy in the second game, but she was able to regroup and go 9-4 up. Despite Gohar battling back to 9-10, defending champion El Hammamy levelled the match.
El Hammamy opened up another cushion in the third when she went 8-5 up, only for Gohar to peg her back to eight-all. El Hammamy had game ball, but was thwarted by the resilient Gohar once more to send the game into another tiebreak.
Three game balls were squandered by El Hammamy, as Gohar capitalised to clinch the third 17-15. The former world No.1 looked determined as ever as she relentlessly pushed El Hammamy into the back corners and sealed the match with an 11-6 victory in the fourth.
"I know they call me mentally tough but these kind of matches give me more confidence," said Gohar.
"To be able to close it out in four in 107 minutes, it's good but I'd like to close it out sooner. It was tough physically but mentally as well. I know the referees sweat more actually, we just want to win so much."
Asal stormed into a two-game lead with his devastating attacks proving to be too much for ElShorbagy to handle, with the world No.2 winning both games 11-8.
However ElShorbagy disrupted the rhythm Asal had found in the opening two games to get a foothold back in the contest, edging a tense and scrappy third game 16-14.
Asal's concentration appeared to have dipped in the fourth as ElShorbagy capitalised to level the match, and the wear and tear on the Englishman's body was evident in the early stages of the fifth game, so much so that Asal had to gift his older opponent some socks after ElShorbagy had sweated through all of his own.
The break in play was beneficial to Asal, who marched into an 8-0 lead before closing out the match moments later to crown a monumental battle with ElShorbagy that finished into the early hours of the morning.
"It was really difficult conditions," said Asal.
"It's all about sportsmanship between me and Mohamed, we both lost a bit of control in the third game but I have so much respect for him. I'm playing my idol - I was here years ago, watching him and Greg [Gaultier], his coach, in the final. He's the Beast for a reason.
"It's a lot of emotions. I was suspended for two months and now I'm in the final to defend my title. It was not my best season, despite reaching world No.1. Last season was much better but I was trying to get all my momentum for this tournament. It's not done yet, I have a final tomorrow."
Asal will lock horns with Ali Farag for the title, as the four-time World Champion continued his excellent form as he made it 19 wins in a row to secure a fourth successive final appearance after seeing off world No.1 Diego Elias in four games.
Farag, who has lost the opening game in every round of this tournament, continued that unwanted record against the world No.1, who picked off Farag to draw first blood.
Farag, who will return to the summit of the World Rankings if he clinches the El Gouna title, clicked into gear in the second and was starting to find his rhythm, however Elias' one game ball was soon wiped out after Farag held tough and won the next three points to equalise.
The Egyptian hit top form in the third, winning comfortably 11-2, and Farag's pace was relentless in the next game as he proved to be too strong for the Peruvian to make it four finals in a row.
"I have to dig in deep into my reserves, squash reserves, physical reserves. If that was a true individual sport, I would have stopped in Manchester," said Farag.
"I have my wife [Nour El Tayeb], my coaches, my family, my physio. You think it's easy to push but it's all the conversations I have with my parents, they chill me out so if I was stressed out all day I would not play the way I do. Hopefully I can push one more time tomorrow to make them even more proud."