Nele Gilis & Ali Farag Celebrate Singapore Open Success
19 Nov 2023
Belgium's Nele Gilis and Egypt's Ali Farag celebrated title success at the Vitagen Singapore Open - claiming the PSA World Tour Gold event titles after Gilis defeated sister Tinne Gilis in a brutal five set clash, and Farag overcame Peru's Diego Elias in a final for the third time this season to claim his 36th PSA title.
The women's final was up first at the OCBC Arena. Older sibling Nele starting the better of the two as she got to work on pinning Tinne in the back two corners early in the match and making sure her sister was as far back in the court as possible before sending the ball short. Nele was relying on Tinne attacking first and then counter attacking her younger sister to make her question her tactics. This worked well as Tinne looked to be getting increasingly frustrated with proceedings as she lost the opening two games 11-6, 12-10.
Despite looking physically tired at the end of the second game, Tinne returned to the court with a fighting spirit, determined to give a better account of herself and get stuck into the match. She threw caution to the wind as she started to fire the ball into the front corners with great accuracy and rattled off winner after winner. Nele had no response for the change in tactics from her younger sister and lost the game 11-8.
More followed from Tinne as she could see that Nele was struggling to cope with the patterns of play that she was producing. Tinne couldn't miss as she relentlessly attacked the corners of the court, as a panicking Nele looked back at fiancé and world No.4 Paul Coll for answers. Tinne impressively levelled 11-5 to force a fifth and final game.
The words of wisdom from Coll in between the fourth and fifth games looked to have been crucial for Nele as she got off to the perfect start in the fifth game, leading 4-1. Despite Tinne clawing her way back to 4-5, Nele put together a string of positive rallies to test the movement of a fading Tinne, who couldn't register another point as Nele romped to the title, the biggest of her career.
"That was so tough physically but it was even tougher mentally to play against your sister," said Nele Gilis after her win.
"You try to forget about it but it's almost impossible. To be honest, the way she won the third and the fourth, I thought I had zero chance in the fifth.
"I tried to just reset and forget about the past two games and just start a completely new game and focus point-for-point and I'm glad I managed to sneak the win. To be honest it could have gone either way and I would've been so happy for Tinne if she'd won as well."
The men's final between the current world No.1 and No.2 Ali Farag and Diego Elias marked the third time that the pair had met in a final this season. Farag had taken both encounters 3/1 and was looking to spoil the birthday celebrations of Elias, who turned 27 today.
Elias started the better of the two, playing accurate and aggressive squash to lead 8-1 in the first game. The Egyptian World Champion started to work his way back into the opening game but the lead that the Peruvian had established was too much to deny him a 1/0 lead.
An attritional start to the second game seemed to favour the top seed as he was now managing to exploit more space on the court and forced the Peruvian into more severe movements to try and eat into the No.2 seed physically. This worked perfectly as Elias faded at the end of the game, surrendering it 11-4.
In a crucial third game, Farag continued to work Elias into all four corners of the court, twisting and turning the tall frame of the now 27-year-old, forcing errors from his racket. Despite this, Elias' skill was earning him points in the game and although he saved three game balls, Farag took the lead winning 14-12.
Elias remained competitive in the fourth game and tried his best to close the court down and get back on the volley to keep Farag behind him. The world No.1 became wise to the Peruvian's tactics and started to lift the ball to the back corners, forcing Elias backwards. Farag stormed to a 10-6 lead to earn four championships balls. He would convert on his third to claim a 36th PSA title and third title of the 2023/24 season.
"When I started my career I would never of thought that I would have 36 titles to my name," said Farag afterwards.
"Nicol David [Malaysian squash legend] once said that you should cherish these moments whilst they're happening, so I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it whilst improving at the same time. I'm very proud and happy and looking forward to Hong Kong already.
"The third was very crucial. Diego started the match better, he was hitting his marks and I had to change a few things. We had some brutal rallies at the start of the second and in the third we had a really long rally followed by a review and I felt a drop in energy. Thankfully, I managed to recover and then got a good lead in the fourth and managed to close it out."