Finals : Watanabe and Coll claim the titles

Satomi Watanabe stunned top seed Nele Gilis in straight games to claim her biggest ever PSA World Tour title, while in the battle of World #1 and #2 Paul Coll came from two games down to deny Ali Farag …

Read on for reports, quotes and photos …

Optasia Championship 2024 : 17-Mar, Day SIX, FINALS

[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-0 [1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 (46m)

[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-2 [1] Ali Farag (Egy)  8-11, 2-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-9 (91m)


Superb Satomi wins her biggest ever title

[4] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-0 [1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 (46m)

Japan’s Satomi Watanabe produced the performance of her life to beat top seed and World #4 Nele Gilis in straight games to become the inaugural Optasia Championships Women’s Champion.

Gilis came into the match having won two titles this season and with a 4-0 H2H record over World #19 Satomi, and started well enough as she established a 4-1 lead in the opening game. Watanabe wasn’t deterred and made her way back, levelling at 4-all and keeping a point ahead as the scores edged up to 9-all. The Roehampton-based Japanese had been hitting winning shots all game, and two more gave her the lead 11-9 after 15 minutes.

The second was more of the same, Gilis led 3-2 but Watanabe forged ahead again, 8-6, 10-8 and another winner to double her advantage.

Watanabe’s delayed crosscourt flicks were causing her opponent all sorts of trouble, an she utilised them again in the third, taking a 5-0 lead, all on winning shots. The only sticky patch came as Watanabe clipped the tin in three successive rallies for Gilis to recover to 5-6 – but that was the end of it, and with the help of two successive back-wall nick to reach match ball at 10-6, just one final winner was needed for Watanabe to claim her first World Tour title.

“To win one of my biggest titles, I’m so speechless,” said Watanabe after the match. “To beat Nele in the final, when I’ve lost to her four times in a row. It was almost like I was doubting myself all the time when I play her.

“It was so great to have my sister and my coach in the corner who believes in what I can do more than myself.

“It was part of my game plan that I just have to be really really patient and wait until the right time when I could actually see anticipating wherever I was trying to hit.”

Coll comeback denies Farag

In the men’s final, one of the contestants – Egypt’s World #1 Ali Farag and New Zealand’s World #2 Paul Coll – was set to claim their second Optasia title. With the pair competing in their fifth match – and fourth final – of the season the score weas tied at two apiece.

It was Coll who started the better, moving from 3-all in the first to take a 7-3 lead, but Farag struck back, delighting the packed crowd with some wonderful recoveries and winning shots as he fought back to level at 7-all, taking the lead 11-8 after 18 minutes.

The second was all Farag, continuing his form from the first, taking a lead at 5-2 and reeling off the next six points for 11-2 after 9 minutes.

As the World Champion moved ahead in the third, 5-2 and 7-4, Coll was looking a little dispirited at times. But as Farag finally started to make some errors, Coll’s interest and energy levels rose, and playing as fast as possible he levelled at 9-all, earned and lost a game ball but worked for another one and a deep crosscourt gave him the game 12-10 after 20 minutes.

Farag was still observing the Ramadan fast, and was a handful of minutes short of the 18.13 timeslot when he could start taking on fluids. Not that it seemed to make much difference – he had the upper hand from the outset of the fourth, leading 4-2, 6-4 and 8-5 finding winners like he had in the opening games. But then he started clipping the tin, and Coll was back at 8-all then 9-all. Farag would get one match ball at 10-9 on a stroke, but Coll saved that with a crunching drive and two Farag tins later we were into a decider.

Water on board, Farag recovered from a 2-4 deficit in the fifth, then from 5-all found four winners in a row to move two points from the title. For the third game in a row though, Coll fought and fought back, throwing in a massive dive at 9-8 to Farag which probably kept him in the match.

As Coll levelled at 9-all Farag looked to be cramping up. Two more rallies, two more winners and Coll was the Champion!

“It was a massive battle out there tonight. I just want to say I’ve got the utmost respect for Ali for what doing. Not just for the athlete he is, but for the person he is. I think that’s why he’s so dominant this season. Thank you for all the battles.

“I put lot of work in the off-season to get back to my fighting best. I didn’t feel like I had that last season. I was doing all my breathing techniques, all my mental things because it was a real battle.

“I had to come back several times. I had my coach come down today which really helped me. Seeing my childhood friends in the front row was something special, and hearing my girlfriend who had a tough loss come and support me. All these people around me really got me up today.

“I’m proud of the fight I put in. Another just really enjoyable battle with Ali out there. I’ve enjoyed every match this season and I’m happy to get another win.”