Gilis and Lobban Secure Cannon Kirk Irish Squash Open Titles in Dublin
Belgium’s Tinne Gilis and Scotland’s Greg Lobban both secured their second career Challenger 30 level titles, after winning their finals at the Cannon Kirk Irish Squash Open on Saturday afternoon at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin.
The Belgian came into the tournament off the back of having claimed her first Challenger 30 level crown in her last outing on Tour, at the Annecy Rose Open in France. She was the No.2 seed for this week’s tournament in Dublin and after dispatching the adopted home favourite, Alexandra Fuller, in the semi-finals, she took on Welshwoman Emily Whitlock in Saturday’s final.
The pair were meeting for the second time on Tour, following a 3-0 victory for Gilis at the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open in March 2021. This contest was a much closer battle, with the first game going to a tie-break, as the contrasting styles of both players went toe-to-toe. It was the Belgian who took it 12-10, only for Whitlock to fight back to take the second and tie the match at one game apiece.
The World No.24 regrouped, and she came out firing in the third game, winning it 11-6, before then running out into a big lead in the fourth game. She looked all set for victory, but the Welshwoman was able to save four match balls. As it looked like the chance might slip away from Gilis, she kept her cool to win the fourth 12-10, and claim a second Challenger 30 level title of the season.
“I am very, very happy! It’s been very unexpected, especially the one in Annecy, that was a more relaxed tournament and winning that title, it took a lot of pressure off my shoulders,” Gilis said.
“This tournament, I came in feeling more relaxed and just wanting to play good squash. I had some tough matches from day one to the end. I feel exhausted, I’m so tired and I need a few days off for sure, but I am really, really happy with my two Challenger 30 titles, and hopefully they’re not the last ones!
“It was very physical, my match against Alex [Fuller] yesterday, and there was not much time to recover because we finished around 8pm. I couldn’t sleep at all, so I felt very tired this morning. Emily [Whitlock] is a good short player, her highest ranking is World No.12, so I knew it would be a tough match. She absolutely went for it, she was playing good squash and she put me under a lot of pressure. I had to fight for every single point. Even though my legs are so dead, I am very happy that I pushed through and got the win!
“It is nice knowing that my sister won this title last time, and with her not playing, I thought it would be nice to keep it in the family. I am very happy that I managed to do that, and hopefully, we keep it running! Next year, at least one of us has to play, and maybe both of us! It is great to keep it in the family, that’s for sure!”
The men’s final saw Greg Lobban and Alan Clyne go face-to-face in the first all-Scottish final in a non-restricted PSA tournament in eight years, dating back to the Geneva Open in 2014. The pair had met five times previously on Tour with Clyne winning four of those, but this was their first meeting since March 2018.
Lobban continued his sublime form this week in the first game, one that set an attritional tone for the contest. The first lasted more than a quarter of an hour, despite Lobban dropping only two points. He then won the second 11-5, maintaining his position in front of his compatriot on the ’T’.
The third game was much closer, and even longer than either of the first two as Clyne attempted to fight his way back into the contest. However, Lobban would not be denied, and he won the third 11-7 to close out the match in straight games, winning his second Challenger 30 level title, following a victory at the HKFC PSA International Squash Open three years ago.
“I am over the moon to be honest! It’s been a great week in general, but to top it off, playing Clyney in the final. Yesterday, we were so happy that both of us got to the final, but half an hour before the final kicked in, we were both thinking it was a shame that one of us had to lose,” Lobban admitted.
“It was a great final, I really had to push hard. I know the scoreline looked comfortable, but at no point was it! I am just really happy that I came away with the victory. I came in with a clear tactic today and I don’t think I could have executed it any better than I did!
“He obviously had the top seed to get past in the quarter finals and in an earlier match he went to 11-9 in the fifth so he has had a few tough ones this week. We knew that both of us were going to push hard, and not go down without a fight. He has done really well to get to the final, and for Scottish Squash, it’s great!
“To be honest, the last year and a half I have struggled. Last year, I didn’t really want to step on court, and when I did, I really wished I could just walk straight back off it. I had to switch things up to try and find the love of the game back and to enjoy life on Tour again. The fact that we have tournament after tournament now has helped me, I love the competition! I am really enjoying that side of it now!”
Semis : Double Scottish Delight
The finals of the Cannon Kirk Irish Squash Open are set, with Wales’ Emily Whitlock and Belgium’s Tinne Gilis, the top two seeds, through to the women’s final at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin, while Alan Clyne and Greg Lobban will face off in the first all-Scottish final at a non-restricted PSA World Tour event in eight years.
Clyne is through to the final in Dublin for the third time in his career, after a strong performance saw him defeat a higher seed for the second day in succession, this time overcoming the challenge of the tournament’s No.5 seed, Frenchman Auguste Dussourd.
“It is quite tough to back up after a big win yesterday. I played really well yesterday, and to play as well, if not better today, I am really happy because Auguste has been flying, he has had a good tournament. To beat him 3-0, I am delighted,” Clyne said.
“The Irish Open has been one of my favourite events and it hasn’t been on for a few years, so I was delighted to be able to come here. I seem to play some of my best squash here, so I am hoping to keep it going.”
Clyne will now face compatriot Lobban in Saturday’s final, after his fellow Scot overcame No.2 seed George Parker in straight games. The pair had played four times before on Tour, with both men having won twice, the most recent coming at the Manchester Open in 2021, where Parker won 3-0, this contest had the reverse scoreline though, as Lobban was able to back up his tough five-game win over another Englishman, Declan James.
“Really stoked with that. I fully expected to be on court for 80 minutes like last like night. I played really well, backed it up physically really well, but more importantly, mentally as well,” the Scot said.
“I felt in control for the whole match, in terms of myself, not necessarily the squash. I felt great out there! Being an all-Scottish final is huge for Scottish Squash, and we would have taken it for sure, coming into this tournament. It has been a great week for both of us, we’re great mates off the court and we’re both happy for the other to be in the final.”
Whitlock and Gilis came through their last four matches, with the latter taking out the adopted home favourite, No.6 seed Alexandra Fuller, in a pulsating four-game battle at the Fitzwilliam Club.
The Belgian won the Challenger 30 level Annecy Rose Open last week, and is aiming to keep this title in the family after older sister Nele won the last edition of the Irish Open back in 2019. Her match with Fuller was one of two extremes, with three tie-breaks and an 11-0 game all in four games of action.
Gilis took the first game on a tie-break 13-11, and was able to push on in the second, running out into a big lead early on. She went on to win it 11-0, but Fuller fought back, and with the crowd at the Fitzwilliam Club right behind her, she took the third. She then had her chances to win the fourth game as well, but the Belgian saved two game balls en route to a second 13-11 win, and ultimately, the match.
“I am very relieved. It was a very hard match against Alex. She is the home favourite. She trains here, her coach is here, her parents are here, her boyfriend is here, she had the whole crowd behind her and it is always hard playing the home favourite,” Gilis explained.
“I played really well the second game. It is not that she did anything wrong, I just think that my shots were working. I didn’t make any mistakes but I knew she was 2-0 down, she had nothing to lose. She was going to come back strongly and that’s what she did. She played so well in the third and put me under pressure. I managed to find a way through to win this battle, so I am very happy and I am very excited to play another final tomorrow.”
Gilis will face top seed Whitlock in Saturday’s final, after the Welshwoman overcame the unseeded Grace Gear in straight games in the opening match of the evening’s play. The Englishwoman had already taken out two seeded players to reach the last four, but Whitlock showed her class to me through unscathed, advancing to her biggest final on Tour to date.
“I did what I had to do, I think. I don’t think I played as well as yesterday, but a lot of that is to do with the fact that it was a good game yesterday, extras that come with a good performance, a bit like a hangover feeling maybe. A bit faded, but I did what I had to do,” Whitlock said.
“It was solid enough and I think I put Grace under some pressure, and her giving me a few errors helped me a little bit, but it was good to get another match on that court, especially with me playing tomorrow.”
Preview : Men & Women $30k PSA Challengers, 19-23 Apr, Dublin, Ireland
After two years of no Irish Opens, we have a bigger and better tournament for its return this year. The prize money has increased to $60,000 combined, for both draws. The top seeds are Emily Whitlock of Wales, World Ranked Number 18 & Patrick Rooney of England, World Ranked Number 25. We have 18 top 50 players in the world, among the entries in both draws.
There are 4 home players in the draw, Breanne Flynn, Hannah McGugan, Sam Buckley & Sean Conroy, all play on Tuesday.
All matches from Court 1 will be live streamed on Irish Squash TV on Tuesday & Wednesday. PSA Live will broadcast from the quarter finals on Thursday to the finals on Saturday.
Admission is FREE so please come to Fitzwilliam to enjoy some top quality squash from some of the best players in the world!