Big upsets for Gilis and Watanabe on Day Three
Nele Gilis and Satomi Watanabe produced big upsets as they downed defending champion Joelle King and former finalist Tesni Evans to set up a semi-final in a women’s draw bereft of the top seeds. Former champion Nour El Tayeb will face Gina Kennedy in the other semi as both won their quarters-finals convincingly.
The men’s quarters went to form, if not quite to seeding, as World Champion Ali Farag set up a semi-final with defending champion Joel Makin, while second seed Tarek Momen will meet in-form compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad.
Read on for reports, quotes and photos from each match
Reports & Reaction
El Tayeb Fights Back To Book Semi-Final Spot
2020 Manchester Open winner Nour El Tayeb came from behind to reach the semi-finals of this year’s event following her 3-1 win over Sivasangari Subramaniam.
Subramaniam picked up where she left off in yesterday’s round two victory over Rowan Elaraby in the opening game, with her attacking prowess earning her the first game. An aggressive start in the second from El Tayeb was the perfect riposte to falling behind, charging into a 6-1 lead, before taking the game 11-8.
World No.6 El Tayeb turned it up a notch in the third as she nudged ahead for the first time in the match, and she made another strong start to the fourth. However Subramaniam pegged the score back to eight-all but Tayeb moved to match ball before play was halted for a lengthy period following a blood injury sustained by the Malaysian when El Tayeb accidentally caught her on the nose.
Subramaniam was able to return to court for what proved to be one final rally, with El Tayeb wrapping up the match to advance to the last four.
“It was a tough match because she played with different tactics to what I’m used to and it was hard for me to beat her today. She kept coming back – the last two times when I had a good lead she would let the game go, but today she didn’t.
“I’m happy that I kept digging in – it was a tough match and I got a lucky nick at eight-all in the fourth game. I was lucky in the last few minutes of the match.
“Because we’re both in the middle, accidents can happen. I think I have a big swing, which doesn’t help as well. It was a pure accident – I think we hit each other three or four times during the match, but hopefully it’s nothing serious and she’s fine.
“I’m glad she’s playing well, she’s not been on tour for a while and that’s why her ranking dropped. She’s a very dangerous player, one of my favourite players and I’m happy to see her improve tournament after tournament.”
Result :  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8 (55m
Momen Secures First Semi-Final Spot
Tarek Momen battled back from 2-1 down to reach the semi-finals of the Manchester Open for the first time after getting the better of Nicolas Mueller.
Momen, who was a quarter-finalist in his maiden appearance at this tournament back in 2020, fell behind after Mueller clinched the first in a tiebreak where he saved two of Momen’s game balls. The former World Champion delivered a much-improved performance in the second to draw level, but Momen required physio at the end of the game to treat a leg injury.
Momen returned on court for the third game, but Mueller showed terrific fighting spirit again to force a tiebreak before converting game ball himself at the first attempt to re-establish his lead.
But Momen, who’s never lost to Mueller on the PSA World Tour, came back with two excellent performances in the fourth and fifth games to overturn the deficit and book his place in the semi-finals.
“I felt a bit short with my length and I struggled from the beginning to get my length into the corners. He took full advantage of that and cut off everything and made me do a lot of work. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough to find another way and I insisted on getting my length back and my doing that I ended up hitting a lot of balls in the middle and gave him a big advantage.
“At the same time I’m disappointed about letting the lead go in the third because that would have made things easier for me, but he played some brilliant squash to win that one. To take the positives out of this match, the fourth and fifth games I managed to be really sharp, I got my length right, my balance between front and back right and it was the way I wanted to play going into tomorrow’s match.
“Thankfully I had two good games before the match was over and hopefully I can take that with me tomorrow and build on that.”
Result :  Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-2: 11-13, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4, 11-5 (60m)
Kennedy Downs Whitlock
England’s Gina Kennedy produced a clinical display to dispatch Emily Whitlock in straight games for a place in the last four. Kennedy, who’s met Whitlock twice already this season and winning both encounters, was ruthless as she sealed a spot in the semi-finals in just 26 minutes.
After taking the first 11-5, Kennedy’s calculated accuracy was hard to handle as she doubled her advantage with an 11-4 victory.
The 26-year-old was efficient throughout, and in particular in the final game which she clinched 11-3 to progress to the semi-finals of the Manchester Open for the first time.
“I felt really good today. I thought the conditions were a bit bouncier than they were yesterday, so the first couple of rallies I was overhitting a lot and I think I found my length well,” said Kennedy.
“A bouncy court probably favours me in this situation, particularly given Whitlock’s ball control and her serve is so good so you have to be sharp from the get go and I’m really please with that performance.
“I watched the whole thing (Nour El Tayeb’s match with Sivasangari Subramaniam) and both of them played really well, they’re both class and I love watching them play.
“I’m really excited at the chance to play Nour – she’s been missed when she’s been out for a couple of months so it’s great to have her back.”
Result :  Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 (26m)
Gawad Dispatches Crouin
Karim Abdel Gawad continued his recent sparkling form with an assured performance against Victor Crouin.
Gawad, who reached the final of the World Championships last week, was in fine fettle in booking his place in the semi-finals of the Manchester Open for the second year running.
It was Crouin who made the brighter start in the opener, taking a 9-5 lead, however Gawad stepped up his attack to go on and take the game 11-9. The Egyptian was measured with his play in the second and third after a slow start to the first game, with his devastating shot selection too much for Crouin.
Gawad takes on his fellow countryman and the No.2 seed Tarek Momen in the semi-finals tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m very happy to get through to the semis with a 3-0 win against Victor, he’s been rising up the rankings and since he’s been playing the PSA everyone has said he’s a potential player and now he’s proved it being inside the top eight,” said Gawad.
“I wish him the best of luck for the next seasons – he’s still young and he has too much to show. All the best to him, it’s always nice to see him on tour and he’s a very honest player on court, very clean, so it’s always good to play him.
“Of course I’m really happy and really grateful to be back. The thing I learned from my injury is always be hungry and always look forward to the tournaments, give 100% and play 100%, enjoy every moment on court, enjoy every tournament and enjoy being on tour – that’s the thing I learned from my injury and being at home for almost a year.
“I think I’m taking it very well and working on it very well. Mentally I’m much more stronger than before. I’ve had my injury since 2020 – I wasn’t moving well on court and I couldn’t get the right treatment. I’m enjoying it a lot and enjoying every moment on court.”
Result :  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (34m)
Watanabe’s perfect week continues as she downs eighth seed Evans
Satomi Watanabe continued her brilliant run at the National Squash Centre as she upset Welsh No.8 seed Tesni Evans to become the first Japanese player to reach a Manchester Open semi final.
Watanabe, who shocked No.4 seed and last year’s finalist Sarah-Jane Perry in yesterday’s second round, made an impressive start to the quarter final, with the Japan No.1’s pace and power proving too hot to handle for Evans in the opening game, which Watanabe took 11-4.
Evans, a runner up in 2019 and a semi finalist at the last two editions, came out well in the second game, slowing the pace and pouncing on anything loose to level with her third game ball for a 13-11 win.
In a tight third game, Watanabe was able to move back in front with a hard-fought 11-9 win, after which Evans requested a new ball.
After an initially even start to the fourth game, Watanabe soon began to dominate, with the 24-year-old finding her power and accuracy from the first game to seal her place in a Silver-level semi final for the first time with an 11-6 victory.
“I think one of the first tournaments I won was in New Zealand and from there I started learning how to play against the top players. I watch a lot of top players playing on SQUASHTV. I don’t know how I’ve got here. I love squash so much. I think the passion I have has brought me here.
“I really struggled with her lobs today and her change of pace is so good, I couldn’t play my game of fast punching drives. She has a bit of chat on court and I really love playing her.”
Result: Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt  Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-1: 11-4, 11-13, 11-9, 11-6 (50m)
World Champion Farag Fights Back to Ruin Rooney Dreams
In the second match of the evening session, reigning World Champion Ali Farag came from behind to beat North West native Patrick Rooney.
The Englishman couldn’t have asked for a better start to the contest, with Rooney firing in a number of excellent backhands to exploit the limited movement of Farag, who appeared to be struggling.
After taking the first game 11-7, Rooney was pegged back in the second by an improving Farag, who held well and stamped his authority on the match with an 11-4 win.
Firmly in his groove, Farag threatened to run away with the third game as he took the opening four points. Rooney, however, recovered brilliantly to take the next seven.
After a number of breaks for court service due to a slippery floor, it was the Egyptian who was able to better gather himself, taking advantage of a mistake from Rooney’s serve when the Englishman led 9-8 to move into the lead with an 11-9 victory.
With momentum now behind him, Farag pushed on at the beginning of the fourth game, before both players began to make a number of errors as fatigue set in.
Eventually, though, the experience of Farag prevailed and the 31-year-old forced himself over the line with an 11-8 win to wrap up the match.
“His length hitting on the backhand side is so accurate. It’s a strength of mine to try and take time away from my opponents and volley on that side, but he didn’t give me enough chances to put pressure on him, and then he would put the pressure on me.
“In the first game, I was trying to play fast, but I was too inaccurate for someone like Pat not to take advantage. For the second I needed to slow the pace down, get my accuracy up, and then build from there. But it was a 50-50 all the way through, which is a testament to how good he played today and how good he’s been playing.
“I’m very happy and I’d like to apologise to the referee for shouting and getting emotional.”
Result :  Ali Farag (EGY) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-1: 7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 (42m)
Gilis Dethrones Defending Champion King
Belgium’s Nele Gilis shocked top seed and defending champion Joelle King of New Zealand to set up a semi final with Satomi Watanabe.
Going into today’s match, Gilis had never beaten King in their previous six matches, with King recording a straight-games victory in their most recent meeting, which came just two weeks ago in the PSA World Championships quarter finals.
The pain of that defeat was little compared to the manner of King’s 3-2 victory in the semi final of last year’s Manchester Open, when Gilis saw three match balls saved.
Today, though, Gilis was able to turn the record book on its head with a brilliant display. The Belgian’s relentlessness proved the difference in a competitive first game, with the Belgian retrieving excellently as she saved two game balls on the way to a 12-10 win.
Gilis continued to unnerve King in the second game, with the Kiwi making an uncharacteristic number of errors as the No.7 seed took a huge 2-0 lead with an 11-4 game victory.
King continued to struggle in the third game and at 9-5 down, looked in real danger. Although the Kiwi then took the next two points to test Gilis’ nerves, the World No.9 kept her cool to take the two points she needed to record a historic win.
“Joelle is someone I’ve looked up to since I was 10 years old. I’ve always admired her strength and the way she plays. She was one of my favourites for sure and to be able to compete with her is such an honour for me.
“I’ve believed for a while that I can compete with the top girls but to actually beat one of my idols today is unreal and amazing.
“I finished last season with an injury and really wasn’t enjoying squash in the last few months of the season. I was forced to take time off and at one point wasn’t sure if I was ever going to play pain-free again, so when I started training pain-free I found a new enjoyment for the game and ever since then I’ve really been enjoying stepping on the court.”
Result :  Nele Gilis (BEL) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-0: 12-10, 11-4, 11-7 (40m)
Defending Champion Makin Comes Through Dessouky Test
In the final match of the day, 2022 Manchester Open winner Joel Makin of Wales came through a battling five-game encounter with Egypt’s Fares Dessouky to earn a semi final against World Champion Ali Farag.
The defending champion made a strong start in an entertaining first game, with the Welshman’s intense physicality well matched by Dessouky’s attacking instincts. After taking the first game 11-8, Makin was pegged back early in the second, with Dessouky, playing in his first Manchester Open since 2020, taking a quick 6-1 lead.
Makin began to reel Dessouky in, but the Egyptian was able to hold out, clinching the second game with a typically brilliant backhand drop from the back of the court.
Dessouky looked to have carried this momentum into the third game, with the Egyptian starting better as he took a 5-2 lead. Makin, however, dug in well and began forcing errors from the No.6 seed, and reclaimed the lead with an 11-6 win.
In a fractured fourth game, that saw one lengthy delay due to confusion over the score and a number of reviews and decisions, Dessouky fought back level once again as he took Makin to five games after with a fourth game 11-7 win.
The fifth game began much like the fourth, with play broken up by decisions and reviews. Eventually, though, Makin was able to power through the distractions against an increasingly frustrated Dessouky to close out the match with a hard-fought 11-4 victory.
“I’ve had to rely on the [never-say-die attitude] a few too many times now. I thought the squash was good there, just a little patchy. The court was a little dead so when either of us were in the middle we were both putting each other under a lot of pressure.
“There were a lot of swings, when it was 1-1 and I was down I had to do something different as I was getting picked off. I had to find a way back into the match and be a bit more aggressive and it was better.
“99 percent of that was very good quality. There were a couple of bumps but we’re both powerful guys.
“I like playing here, you’re only a couple of hours from home and I’ve played the leagues around here, North West Counties, for years. I’ve played here a lot and enjoy playing here.”
Result :  Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-2: 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-4 (81m)