R3: SHOCK Fayrouz Aboelkheir 3-1 [4] Nele Gilis

Fayrouz Aboelkheir (EGY) 3-1 [4] Nele Gilis (BEL)  11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5 (52m)

Next opponent: Olivia Weaver

To be honest, I am not over that performance yet.

Nele is not at the best place in her squash at the moment. She had very difficult losses but then again she seemed to be back full blast in the Europeans, not many people go up 8/2 against Gina Kennedy and beat her 3-1

But today, in the first game, I hardly recognised the Belgium. She seemed like paralysed, not playing her squash at all. She complained from the start about Fayrouz movement, and to be honest, I didn’t see anything wrong. I saw a few excessive swings, yes, immediately spotted by the central ref. But movement was fine.

What was happening on the court was that we had a ‘loss of confidence’ in a top player, playing a young, hungry, talented magician who dazzled us today. She displayed today such maturity, way beyond her age; she is only 19. She played patient squash, she mixed the pace, slowing down on the backhand side, then lobbing when needed, found volley nicks from the four corners, and to crown it all, was counterdropping most of Nele’s lovely attacks.

Relentless. High. Low. Hit hard. Delicate. Fast. Slow.

In the third, Nele seemed to finally found her breathing, normal I mean. A little error from Fayrouz at 5/3, and a ball that the ref cannot see from her far away position, a let is awarded, but Fayouz looking at her coach conceides the point. Yes, honest as well….

But if Nele takes the third, she doesn’t look comfortable, she doesn’t look confident. The body language says it.

The fourth starts with the Egyptian finally making some easy errors, 3/2 for the Belgium. Is that the sign that the hard work produced is starting to show dividends? Fayourz is quickly back ahead, 6-3. At that point, Nele’s pickup is called not up. She asked to review. The video for us all shows the pickup is clearly good. Not good, says the video ref.

That’s the nail in the coffin. Instead of being back 4/6, Nele is down 7/3. Disheartened, she cannot stop the flow of winners coming from the Egyptian racquet, and it’s 11/5 in 11m.

It’s only the second time Aboelkheir has featured in the World Championships, but this will be the first time that the World No.19 will line up in the last eight of the sport’s pinnacle tournament. She will take on United States No.1 Olivia Weaver for a place in the semi-finals.

Fayrouz :  “I don’t know what to say! It’s my biggest win so far and it’s my first time to beat a top 10 player so I’m over the moon. I’m playing Nele and she’s the World No.4 so I had to play my best squash today. I think last year I changed a lot but I didn’t get the wins and it’s paying off now. I was trying to keep my focus on court as much as I can.

“She’s been playing on the tour for a very long time and I’ve been playing on the tour for about three years. Just like the first game I had the lead and she got back into it. I was nervous when I had match ball.”