Belgium’s Tinne Gilis is hoping to kick on once professional squash resumes after she broke into the top 20 for the first time in her career this season.
The 22-year-old currently sits at her highest ranking of World No.19 and admits that one of the main targets she set herself at the start of the 2019/20 season was to break into the top 20 in the world and credits her close friend and fellow squash player Coline Aumard with helping her rise up the rankings.
“To reach the top 20 for the first time this season was one of my main goals and I’m very happy to achieve that,” said Gilis.
“I knew if I wanted to improve my squash, I needed to move out of Belgium which would be a very big step for me. Coline [Aumard] was the one pushing me over the line and made me do it. It was very tough for me in the beginning but never regretted it for a second.
“It’s also great having her around as she knows me better than I know myself. The members of The Park Squash Club in Nottingham made me feel very welcome from the second I got there. I think it’s great to be surrounded by other squash players who train really hard and to be in a positive high-performance environment.
Tinne Gilis (right) with Coline Aumard (left)
“I felt I was progressing through the season. The most important goal I set for myself was to improve my squash physically and mentally. I believe that if I manage to put in that work every day it will pay off and good things will happen.”
Gilis now sits just two places behind her older sister, Nele Gilis , in the World Rankings and while she insisted the two support each other, she admitted there is a competitive edge to their battles as she eyes up that Belgian No.1 spot.
“It’s of course amazing that both my sister and me are in the top 20 at the same time. I think we did our family and our country proud as it never happened before.
Tinne and Nele Gilis Embrace at the 2019 British Open
“It’s also an amazing feeling knowing that we are both improving our game. We’re always there for each other and supporting no matter what. If one of us loses it makes the other one sad as well, and same if we win. We’ll always be a team and it doesn’t always mean we’re coaching each other, but for us it’s just important knowing we see each other in front of the court while playing.
“It would mean a lot to me if I could take over the Belgian No.1 spot. I think it’s a great feeling knowing you’re the best in your country. I’ve obviously never beaten my sister before and it’s always been very tough to swallow, now more than ever.
“The reason is because the battles we have now are longer and closer than ever before. I know I can beat her but at the crucial points I always lose myself a bit and she takes advantage of it. It’s hard to beat a player that knows you so well. But I promise I will never stop trying.”
Despite a strong run in the second half of the season, it was a tough start for Gilis as she suffered early round exits at both the Open de France – Nantes and the Oracle NetSuite Open and Mol-born Gilis admitted she paid the price for not being match ready.
“I had a bad start of the season, mainly because I wasn’t ‘match ready’,” said Gilis.
“I didn’t do the right training in my last few weeks of summer training, so I paid the price at my first two tournaments of the season. It was a very tough time for me, but it definitely made me stronger as well, thanks to my family and friends who kept believing in me and helped me through this time.
“The rest of my results were pretty decent. No bad loses and I didn't lose to any players who were below me on the ranking, but I also didn't create any upsets which is something I will definitely aim for next season.”
The big moment of her season came at the stunning Pyramids of Giza where she reached the last 16 of the prestigious PSA World Championships and displayed a good performance against World No.2 Nouran Gohar.
“My best achievement this season was reaching the last 16 of the World Championships in Cairo.
The Women's World Championship in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza
“Playing in front of the pyramids was an unforgettable experience and I hope to get more opportunities to play in such iconic places.
“The feeling of reaching the last 16 of the World Championships is amazing, but knowing you get to play on the glass court in front of the pyramids is priceless. I remember being so excited that morning heading to the pyramids to practice on the glass court. It was so hot and bright and I got so tired after 20min but I really enjoyed my time on court.
“Of course I got a bit nervous playing my match against Nouran Gohar who is a lot more experienced playing on glass courts, but I was pretty satisfied with the way I played that evening. It was a great experience and unforgettable moment.”
With professional squash currently on hold due to COVID-19, Gilis insisted now is a good time for players to take care of their bodies and that players may come out of this unusual circumstance mentally stronger.
“I think this is a good opportunity to take more care of my body. We have so much time now so it’s easier for me to do more core, mobility, stretching and yoga every day.
“These are the things I usually don’t do that much cause it’s not my favourite thing to do.
“Some days you have to push harder mentally than others, but that’s also a good thing. I am sure everyone will come out of this stronger, if it’s not physically then maybe mentally.”