Semis : Farag dethrones Gawad to set up Coll Clash

The Optasia Championships Finals are set semi-final victories at The Wimbledon Club from Nele Gilis, Satomi Watanabe, Paul Coll and Ali Farag.

read on for reports and reaction

Optasia Championship 2024 : 16-Mar, Day FIVE, SEMI-FINALS

[1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 [3] Nada Abbas (Egy)  11-6, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6 (64m)
[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-0 [6] Jasmine Hutton (Eng)  11-5, 11-4, 11-2 (22m)

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)  11-6, 13-11, 11-5 (47m)
[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-1 [3] Mostafa Asal (Egy)  11-4, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5 (54m)


Gilis is the first finalist

[1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-1 [3] Nada Abbas (Egy)  11-6, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6 (64m)

Top seed Nele Gilis was the first player to reach the 2024 Optasia Championships finals (and the first-ever women’s finalist) after she overcame Egypt’s Nada Abbas in four games that took just over the hour to complete.

The Belgian World #4 looked comfortable in the first game, holding an early lead then pulling away from 7-6 to take the lead, the game finishing on three consecutive strokes against Abbas.  World #15 Abbas struck back quickly though, as she did much the same in the second, levelling with a run of quick points from 7-6 to 11-6.

Gilis wasn’t to be denied though as she regained control in the next two games, closing out the match 11-3, 11-6, finishing with an exquisite high volley drop.

“I wasn’t really finding my lengths at the back. That’s why I felt like I was under constant pressure. She’s very attacking. Anything around the middle she would kill or drop or boast and I just felt on the back foot for the majority of the match and I couldn’t quite find my range.

“I have some improving to do for the final tomorrow. The court plays a lot differently in the morning compared to match time. The temperatures a lot different because there’s more people in the crowd. It’s not cold in here but for some reason the ball dies off very quickly.

“It’s no excuse because I’ve got to be able to adapt and adjust quickly. I feel like I didn’t do that today.

“I’ve loved my week so far. The atmosphere here is great. Everyone seems to love it. It’s always good to go to a new city for a new tournament. I’m very excited and I’m happy to be in the final here. I’m ready to give it one last push.”

Coll holds off Asal comeback to reach final

[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-1 [3] Mostafa Asal (Egy)  11-4, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5 (54m)

2016 Champion Paul Coll beat third seed Mostafa Asal in four games to reach the Optasia Championships final just an hour after fiance Nele Gilis had reached the women’s final.

The second seeded Kiwi had won just four of eleven encounters with Asal, but came into the match on the back of a comprehensive win in last month’s Windy City Open.

For two games it looked as though a repeat of that performance was on the cards, as Coll controlled both opening games to take the lead 11-4, 11-8, reaping benefits from his accurate dropshots on both sides which Asal struggled to reach, often resulting in strokes.

The Egyptian came out firing in the third though, markedly upping the pace and hammering in nine winners as he romped to a 10-1 advantage with the crowd willing him on all the way. Coll saved three game balls but soon enough Asal had the game.

The fourth was an anticlimax for the crowd though, as Coll regained control with Asal hitting too many tins and conceding strokes through overaggressive shots. Coll maintained the scoreboard advantage, delightedly taking the game 11-5 after three successive tins from Asal.

“I rate Mosafa, all the stuff he’s doing. He’s a bit of trouble in his career already but he’s trying to turn over a new leaf. I’m playing a new brand of squash and I wanted to back up the performance I had in Chicago massively.

“It was very clear in my head what I was doing. Even though that third set ran away from me, I knew exactly why it ran away from me and it just goes to show the danger he possesses. If you leave the ball on his racket, you end going all over the court.

“I knew the power that he possesses. I’ve seen some of the comebacks he’s put on. I’m very happy that after I lost one set, I attacked him and got it back on my terms.”

Dominant Satomi through to the final

[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-0 [6] Jasmine Hutton (Eng) 11-5, 11-4, 11-2 (22m)

There was to be no repeat of yesterday’s comeback drama for Japan’s fourth seed Satomi Watanabe as she totally dominated her match against Jasmine Hutton to end British interest in the tournament.

Taking control from the outset, and firing in winners apparently at will, the world #19 was completely in charge from start to finish with world #24 Hutton never able to make an impression for more than a rally or two at a time.

“It was a really scrappy match yesterday. When I got back to my room I watched what I did wrong yesterday. Today, my mind was more clear on what I needed to do, what I’m not supposed to do. I think it helped me and really pleased with the performance today.

“She’s obviously a very attacking player. I knew she was going to hunt for the volley in every single shot if I gave her the any loose balls so I was trying to keep it away from her. Even if she was trying to volley, she had to stretch to do it and that was my target and I think it worked well today.

“I think everyone knows how good [Nele] is. I’ve just lost to her in Chicago. This time I hope I can give everything and have a good game against her.”

Farag dethrones Gawad to set up Coll clash

[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)  11-6, 13-11, 11-5 (47m)

Top seed Ali Farag came into his Optasia Championships semi-final against defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad on a six-match winning streak over his fifth-seeded compatriot, and to be fair on a great run of form against everyone.

After an even start to the opening game Farag pulled away from 4-all to take the lead 11-6, but Gawad struck back to take a quick 3-0 lead in the second. That was extended to 8-2 but Farag slowly started reeling in the points – 6-8, 6-9, levelled at 9-all and earned game ball as Gawad hit the tin. That was saved and Gawad got game ball 11-10 but Farag wasn’t in the mood to let that effort go and took the next three points to go two up.

The world #1 marched on in the third, opening up a 5-2 lead with Gawad beginning to look dispirited and finding too many tins. At 7-3 Farag scrambled and scrambled to stay in the rally, hitting a miraculous but loose return from deep in the court, only for Gawad to hit the tin on a simple winning shot.

The look between the players said it all, and with three more Gawad errors in the final points Farag was on his way to a final showdown with Paul Coll.

“I think he played a lot better this time [compared to Windy City]. Last time, I got off to a good start, this time it was neck-and-neck in the first and he got off to a great start in the second. I played a shot I don’t even know how I played it. That was a turning point.

“He slowed it down very smartly in the second. I like to switch the play to Karim up high because he’s so lethal at shoulder height. I think I used that too much and he got used to it. The fact that I won the second obviously gave me a huge boost and I capitalised on that in the second. I was lucky today to get the win, but I’m sure we’re going to have more battles in the future.”