Semi-Finals : Gilis joins Egyptian trio in finals

Four places in the PSA Silver event finals were at stake today, will all four matches finishing three games to one.

The men’s final will be a repeat of the World Championship final earlier this month after top seed Ali Farag dethroned Joel Makin and Karim Abdel Gawad again upset the seedings as he beat Tarek Momen.  Former champion Nour El Tayeb will join her husband in the finals after she ended English interest in beating Gina Kennedy, and she’ll face Belgium’s Nele Gilis who reached her first PSA Silver final as she beat Satomi Watanabe.

Manchester Open 2023 : DAY FOUR, SEMI-FINALS

Men’s Semis :
[1] Ali Farag
(Egy) 3-1 [4] Joel Makin (Wal)   7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (64m)
[8] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-1 [2] Tarek Momen (Egy)  13-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 (78m)

Women’s Semis :
[7] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 Satomi Watanabe (Jpn)  11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-4 (48m)
[3] Nour El Tayeb
(Egy) 3-1 [6] Gina Kennedy (Eng)  7-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-7 (45m)

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Reports & Reaction

El Tayeb Reaches Final In Manchester Again

The opening match of semi-finals day saw Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb come through a tricky encounter with England’s Georgina Kennedy.

Nour El Tayeb and Georgina Kennedy on court

El Tayeb was the winner in Manchester in 2020, and she took on the English No.1 for a place in the final once more. The pair have just one place between them in the World Rankings, and it was the lower-ranked Kennedy, at her career-high of World No.7, who came out flying.

In front of her home crowd, Kennedy was in control in the early stages, moving El Tayeb around the court, and she went on to take the opening game 11-7. The Egyptian, who has been as high as World No.3 previously, showed her abilities in the second game, and it went to a tie-break. El Tayeb saw one game ball saved, but the Egyptian fought through to win it 12-10 to level the match.

From there, the World No.6 was in complete control. Kennedy looked to fire the ball in short more often, but that played into the hands of the skilful Egyptian, who was able to pick her off at will. She dropped just three points in the third, and although Kennedy threatened a fight-back in the mid-part of the fourth, El Tayeb came through to reach a second Manchester Open final.

“Very, very happy and proud of course! Not trying to repeat myself, but having my daughter here, I feel drained a bit, waking up early! So it took me a while to get into the rhythm,” the Egyptian said.

“Ali [Farag, El Tayeb’s husband] kept encouraging me, telling me I was working hard to be here. It made me a little angry so I pushed myself hard in the second! I was lucky to win that, and then I relaxed and started to play better. I think we both got tired, but having won the second, it gave me more confidence than her, and I am glad that I was able to push on.

“Winning the second, and obviously her losing a big second game, she was going to be either 2-0 up or at 1-1 and we know that is a huge difference. It gave me confidence, I relaxed a bit, I was a bit better. This made the difference, I guess.

“It is nice to have them both here. I travelled with my daughter a few times but I haven’t reached this far in a tournament. I am happy to be in a final with her here and hopefully Ali can win later tonight, and then hopefully win tomorrow as well!”

Result:   [3] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [6] Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-1: 7-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-7 (45m)

Gawad Overcomes Momen To Make Final

Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad is into a second final in as many events, after downing compatriot Tarek Momen to make it into the finale of the Manchester Open.

Karim Abdel Gawad celebrates his semi-final win

Gawad came into this tournament off the back of reaching the PSA World Championships final last week, and he came into the tournament as the No.8 seed. He beat Frenchman Victor Crouin, the World No.8 on Friday, and took on World No.7 Tarek Momen in the semi-finals.

The pair were doing battle for the first time since December 2018, and it was a tough, but scrappy, contest throughout. Both players used several reviews in the opening two games, and it was Gawad that was able to keep his cool. He snuck the first on a tie-break 13-11, before then clinching the second 11-9.

Momen fought back, as he always seems to do, and his array of skills in the front court were on show. He sent the match to a fourth, but a lack of review available to him put pay to his chances late in that fourth game. A decision on match ball went the way of the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’, and it will be Gawad in the Manchester Open final this year.

“I am pretty sure he had the chance it but at the same time, sometimes you are too afraid to play the shot when your opponent is in front of you. It happens to all of us, but it was a bit unlucky for him. We are not computers, we have to stop sometimes for the safety of the players, but sometimes we don’t get it right,” Gawad said of the decision on match ball.

“The Gawad of old would always lose the first game! Now I am getting older, I have to win that first game. After the injury, I am just taking good care of the body, warm up well, mentally prepare well before the matches and I think that has helped me a lot. That is something that I have worked on and it helps a lot. Being focussed from the very first point to the very last point and that is important. I am glad I have changed this and it helps the way I play.

“I think I have played six tournaments if I am not mistaken and I have made three finals. I am happy with the way I am playing now, enjoying every moment. Not happy that it is the end of the season. My season only started a couple of months ago and now we are at the end, but I am sure I will get ready for next season. I am hungry for more and I will be ready for next. I am hoping to finish this season well, in the best shape!”

Result:   [8] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [2] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 13-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 (78m)

Gilis Into First Silver Final

Belgium’s Nele Gilis is into the final of a Silver level competition for the first time in her career after she defeated Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in a high-quality four-game contest.

Gilis took down World No.4 Joelle King in the quarter finals in one of her best ever performances, and she brought that form into her last four clash at the National Squash Centre.

Watanabe, the first Japanese player to reach the world’s top 20, took leads in each of the first two games, but in both, the Belgian No.1 was able to fight back with a strong surge of points, and she held a two-game advantage.

The Japanese No.1 took advantage of taking another early lead in the third, but she kept her foot on the gas pedal. A rapid start from the Belgian in the fourth saw her through to victory, though, with Gilis into a Silver level final for the first time.

“It feels amazing! I am so happy. Last year, I just missed out on a spot in the finals, so I am very happy to come back this year and make it through to the final!” Gilis said.

“She came out firing in every single game. I thought I started a bit passive, and then I tried to diffuse her, but it is a fine line between not playing too slow. I found my groove again when I was down 5-0 in every game or whatever it was. I am happy that I was able to fight back in each.

“I just feel like I am really enjoying squash at the moment. I am learning something from every event, improving after every event, so I just want to keep it going. I tried to tell myself to imagine I was playing a top 10 player, because she is top 10 standard. If you are the favourite, there are some nerves because you are supposed to win. I try not to think about it, but at the end of the day, they always come out during the match.”

Result:   [7] Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Satomi Watanabe (JPN) 3-1: 11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-4 (48m)

Farag Sets Up Another Gawad Clash

Egypt’s Ali Farag will face off against compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad for the second final in as many weeks, after the four-time World Champion defeated Wales’ Joel Makin, the defending Manchester Open champion.

Ali Farag

It was Makin who came out the stronger of the two in the opening game, extending rallies to try and put some work into the legs of the World Champion. It worked, and the Welshman, the defending champion of this competition, took the early lead.

Makin then had his chance to double his advantage in the contest. He led the second game 10-7, but Farag, as he so often does, was able to claw his way back. He saved all three game balls, before then winning the first two points of the tie-break, to take the game 12-10 and to level the match at 1-1.

A quick burst of points saw the Egyptian take the third game, and he then had three match balls in the fourth. Makin saved two to add to the tension in the National Squash Centre, but Farag got over the line, winning it 11-9 to move through to the final.

Just ten days on from their meeting in the PSA World Championships final in Chicago, Farag will face off against compatriot and good friend Karim Abdel Gawad in the final in Manchester.

“I guess the reserves come from here [his head] rather than the body, you know. I walked on court, almost pre-giving myself an excuse to lose because of how intense the schedule has been,” Farag admitted.

“I got really frustrated after the first with how low my intensity was. You can’t afford… To be at 99% is not enough, you have to be at 100%. I geed myself up between the first and the second games, I couldn’t accept it. I had to give myself a chance to win, but I didn’t like my low intensity.

“Then in the second, even though my intensity was up, he was still the better player. If I had lost then, I still would have been happy with myself. Obviously, the second was huge; 10-7 down. I dug in a lot and I snuck it. It went my way and I could see he was feeling it physically. We let our squash do the talking, and fortunately it went my way.

“Can we take the result from the last one, so we don’t play the match! Karim [Abdel Gawad] and I have played at least 50 or 100 times, throughout our junior careers and then we are 10-10 on the PSA. It shows how close it is, you can never tell who is going to win. I am super happy to see him back playing well again, not so happy to be playing against him, but tomorrow.. I will have another game plan ready!”

Result:   [1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [4] Joel Makin (WAL) 3-1: 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (64m)