Egypt’s World No.5 Hania El Hammamy battled past Belgium’s World No.12 Nele Gilis, 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3 in a thrilling match to reach the quarter finals of the CIB Black Ball Open in Cairo, Egypt.
The Belgian threw everything she had at the defending champion, who lifted her maiden Platinum title at this event back in March, but it was not enough to stop the charge of El Hammamy who held off the comeback and played with patience to convert the big points.
The last time the two players faced it each other it went all the way to five games in an enthralling 82-minute clash on the traditional courts at the 2019 British Open as Gilis snatched that victory and today’s match showcased the athletes at their best once again with Gilis pushing El Hammamy to five game across 89 minutes.
24-year-old Gilis had game balls in both of the opening two games but was unable to convert as her Egyptian opponent picked her opportunities wisely and played with patience to take a 2-0 lead.
This one is heating up— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 9, 2020
Terrific work from
NeleGilis</a> as she sends <a href="https://twitter.com/HaniaaElHammamy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">HaniaaElHammamy around the court in Cairo!#BlackBallOpen pic.twitter.com/RgoWMSa1SI
Gilis didn’t let that affect her though as she continued to showcase her supreme retrieval skills, picking up everything El Hammamy threw at her, to save three match balls and get a foothold back into the round two clash, before cutting out the errors and playing accurate squash to punish Hammamy once again in the fourth and draw level.
What a rally!!!— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 9, 2020
Those pick ups are incredible from
NeleGilis</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/HaniaaElHammamy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">HaniaaElHammamy!! #BlackBallOpen pic.twitter.com/w6YLtveR4p
A resurgence from 20-year-old El Hammamy came in the fifth though as she stepped up a level to show why she is currently ranked No.5 in the world and close out the fifth for the loss of just three points to reach the quarter finals, where she will face Wales’ Tesni Evans.
“I definitely kind of enjoyed it and didn’t enjoy it at the same time,” El Hammamy told SquashTV afterwards.
“I think Nele and I are the most physical players on tour. I really enjoyed it because I know it’s my strength and I know it’s Nele’s as well. I would say if I was playing this match against Nele a year ago then I would have lost this match. I was confident and I didn’t mind going to five, I really enjoyed playing and really enjoyed that I was able to keep pushing.
“If I compare this match to the one against Nele last year at the British Open, I lost that match in five and definitely Nele had the advantage over my physically. Today, I had my moments and I played well in certain games and then when I wasn’t playing my best – I think the key point was that I was strong physically and I didn’t let her win the long rallies.”
Gilis said: “For a few months, I was telling Paul [Coll] that I was hoping I would get to play Hania, I was hoping we would play a tough match, and I was so excited today to have that chance.
“I always try to make them play one more shot every time. I also try to play a more attacking squash but at the same time, I don’t want to give them any cheap points. If they want to win a point, they have to work hard for it.
“I thought I played well for the first four games. I didn’t feel I was down 2-0 because I had game balls in each game. I just focused on keep doing what I was doing, as it was working.
“In the fifth, I don’t know what happened. It feels like it lasted two seconds, it’s like I fell asleep and you can’t do that against somebody of Hania’s calibre. Against anybody actually.”
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-2: 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3 (89m)