R2:  Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 3-2  Nele Gilis (Bel) 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3 (89m)
On my left, Hania El Hammamy, 20, WR5. On my right, Nele Gilis, 24, WR12. Those two produced one of the best four games I saw in my life. A bit like when Hania plays Camille. Or when Ramy was battling out with Mohamed. That good.
I know that Hania has Uni exams at the moment, and I felt the beginning on the match she wasn’t focused as she normally is. Plus. Last time they played, last British, Hania lost the match, down 2/0 she came back 2/2 to lack legs in the 5th.
So, not that relax the Egyptian Gazelle was. On the other hand, Nele had nothing to lose, and a lot to prove to herself really. She wanted that confrontation. She wanted to see how she measured up to Hania. She wanted a tough battle. Elle n’a pas été déçue!
First game, 19m. That’s done. Hania offering 5 points to her opponent (4 errors, one stroke), while Nele wasted only 3, and wait for it, two on the last points of the game ….
What is amazing with Nele is the way she retrieves the ball. If you ever watch Simon Parke, he had the ability to get out of balance, as if he was going to fall forward, and retrieve that way shots that nobody else would and still be able to push off and find a winner from it. Well Nele, same. You think she is going to fall, but she is picking it up, again, and again, putting an astonishing pressure on her opponent throughout.
2/2 in that first game, 6/3 for Hania, 8/5, but 5 points in a row for the Belgium, straight to game ball, 10/8. Hania, now fine and focused, will string the next 4 points to take the opener 12/10 on the first tie-break of the match.
Practically the same length for the second game, 18m, exactly the same intensity, with Hania up most of the game, 4/1, 5/2, 7/4, 9/6. Again, at the same stage of the game, it’s Nele that finds the accelerator, 4 points in a row, to set up game ball again, 10/9! But there again, Hania closes it 12/10. Second tie-break of the match.
Of course there is more to come….
21m third game. I kid you not. Very close from the start, 3/3, 4/4, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8. A stroke, followed by two huge rallies, match ball to Hania, 10/8. Two errors. 10/10. Another error on her third match ball 11/10, 11/11. A stroke for the Belgium, 12/10. And at that point, probably the most ridiculous squash you’ll ever get to see, 13/11 Nele, absolutely SURREAL Squash!
Have a look.
What a rally!!! 😱
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 9, 2020
The next game, not surprisingly, Hania is a bit flat. Both mentally and physically. She’ll still fight tooth and nail though. Down 2/6, 4/7, 7/9, she’ll manage to save two game balls from 7/10 down, but bows 11/9 with a tin, 14m.
Out of the blue, she gets her second wind, and takes Nele by surprise, 9/2, and closes it down, FINALLY, on her fourth match ball, 11/3, 10m last game.
Take a bow girls. Such a fight, fair, clean, not stop start, fluid, respectful, intense, suspense and all. Bravo mes petites, bravo.
For a few months, I was telling Paul that I was hoping I would get to play Hania, I was hoping we would play a tough match, and I was so excited today to have that chance. And you know what, it was tough!!!!
I always try to make them play one more shot every time…. I also try to play a more attacking squash but at the same time, I don’t want to give them any cheap point. If they want to win a point, they have to work hard for it.
I thought I played well for the first four games. I didn’t feel I was down 2/0 because I had game balls in each game. So I just focused on keep doing what I was doing, as it was working.
In the 5th, I don’t know what happened. Seriously. It feels like it lasted 2 seconds. I tell you I’m going to have nightmares about it! It’s like I fell asleep. And you can’t do that against somebody of Hania’s calibre. Against anybody actually.
I wish I had converted one of the game balls I had in the first two. I wish I didn’t lost my forking brain in the fifth…
“I think Nele and I are the most physical players on tour. I really enjoyed it because I know it’s my strength and I know it’s Nele’s as well. I would say if I was playing this match against Nele a year ago then I would have lost this match. I was confident and I didn’t mind going to five, I really enjoyed playing and really enjoyed that I was able to keep pushing.
If I compare this match to the one against Nele last year at the British Open, I lost that match in five and definitely Nele had the advantage over my physically. Today, I had my moments and I played well in certain games and then when I wasn’t playing my best – I think the key point was that I was strong physically and I didn’t let her win the long rallies.