New Zealand Open : Paul and Nele claim the titles

New Zealand Open 2023 : FINALS

[1] Paul Coll (Nzl)   [2] Marwan ElShorbagy (Eng)    11-6, 11-6, 11-6 (42m)

[1] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 [2] Tinne Gilis (Bel)     11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (51m)

Soon-to-be husband and wife Paul Coll of New Zealand and Nele Gilis of Belgium have been crowned the New Zealand Open champions after beating England’s Marwan ElShorbagy and sister Tinne Gilis in Tauranga.

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In front of a packed crowd at the Mercury Baypark Arena, Coll exorcised the demons of his defeat in last year’s final to Marwan’s brother, Mohamed ElShorbagy.

The home favourite started brilliantly, covering the court well with his trademark relentless energy as he took the lead with an 11-6 win in game one before doubling the lead by the same scoreline in game two.

ElShorbagy, who last night fought back from two games down in a brutal 83-minute battle with Joel Makin, struggled to match the top seed’s intensity as the match wore on, with Coll powering on to victory in front of the raucous home crowd with yet another 11-6.

Afterwards, Coll said: “It feels so good, the atmosphere was wicked with so many family and friends. It was absolutely buzzing in the stands. I was very happy to do it in three so the nerves didn’t start to kick in too much and I’m ecstatic to get my name on the NZ Open trophy.”

Meanwhile, in the women’s event, Nele Gilis put in a crushing performance against younger sister Tinne.

The top seed – considered an honorary Kiwi by many in the Tauranga crowd thanks to her engagement to Coll – made a strong start to the match, edging a number of punishing rallies in a 17-minute 11-8 game one win.

Game two was a more straightforward affair for the 27-year-old, with Nele doubling her lead with an 11-3 win as Tinne appeared to struggle with an injury.

Tinne improved in game three as she looked to launch a comeback, but was unable to consistently beat her sister’s impeccable defences, with Nele sealing her second title of the year with an 11-8 victory to bring the contest to a close.

Afterwards, Nele said: “It feels absolutely amazing, pretty much in front of a home crowd and my mum. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the year. It’s so difficult and emotional to play your sister.”

For Coll and ElShorbagy, attention turns to the WSF Men’s World Team Championship, which begins tomorrow in Tauranga.

Semis : Top seeds through to Tauranga finals

New Zealand’s Paul Coll and England’s Marwan ElShorbagy will contest the Men’s final, while sisters Nele and Tinne Gilis will compete for the Women’s title after a thrilling semi-finals day in Tauranga.

In the match of the day, ElShorbagy came back from two games down to beat Wales’ Joel Makin. The second seed looked to be in dire straits when third seed Makin opened up a 2-0 lead with dominant 11-7, 11-3 wins. Impressively, the England #2 completed the comeback 11-6, 11-5, 11-8 to bring a gripping 83-minute contest to a close.

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“I’m enjoying playing. I lost some of the enjoyment at the beginning of the season,” ElShorbagy said. “I’ve been trying to be more creative with my game and trying to think about my game and I’ve just been enjoying it, to be honest. I’m just glad I’m enjoying playing again and will enjoy tomorrow, hopefully!”

Facing ElShorbagy in the final is home favourite and top seed Coll, who overcame French fourthseed Victor Crouin. Coll had looked comfortable at 2-0 up but Crouin pulled a game back before Coll completed the 11-7, 11-8, 2-11, 12-10 win.

In the women’s event, Nele and Tinne Gilis will face off in a final for the fourth consecutive time after they beat Malaysia’s Aifa Azman and Wales’ Tesni Evans.

Top seed Nele, a popular figure with the home crowd thanks in part to her engagement to Coll, won in four games 11-8, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6.

“It feels amazing. In front of pretty much a home crowd, it’s very special and means a lot.”

Tinne, meanwhile, was in crushing form against Wales’ Tesni Evans, who reached the final last year but is still working her way back to full fitness following a lengthy injury layoff,  the Belgian taking the match 11-6, 11-4, 11-9 in 28 minutes.

Quarters : Nele survives scare as top seeds reach Tauranga semis

Quarter-finals day in Tauranga saw the top four seeds reach the semis in the Men’s and Women’s draws, although women’s top seed Nele Gilis had to fight back from two games down to deny Lucy Beecroft a surprise last eight berth.

“I’m proud of myself that I found a way to win. Lucy wasn’t missing and I was missing my targets – you can’t do that against her because she’ll pick you off! But I found a way. It was one of those days that I had to dig deep.”

Gilis will face No.4 seed Aifa Azman in the semi-final after the Malaysian cruised past Hong Kong’s Ka Yi Lee to reach a Silver-level semi-final for the first time.

Nele meets Malaysia’s Aifa Azman for a place in the final while younger sister Tinne will face third seed Tesni Evans, who came from a game down to beat Tomato Ho.

In the men’s draw home favourite Paul Coll despatched Auguste Dussourd in three games and now meets another Frenchman in fourth seed Victor Crouin who beat compatriot Gregoire Marche.

The the bottom half of the draw second seed Marwan ElShorbagy came through in five games against Patrick Rooney and now faces more British opposition in third seed Joel Makin, who beat Baptiste Masotti in three.

“That was a tough match,” said Marwan, “we both gave everything. Patrick is very skilful of course and came back very well. He’s a great player and if he keeps working this way he’s going to be in the top 10 very soon.” 

Day Three : Comeback for Ho and Crouin and Quarter-finalists decided

Hong Kong’s Tomato Ho and France’s Victor Crouin came back from two games down to reach the quarter-finals, while home hero and last year’s finalist Paul Coll made a triumphant return to Tauranga.

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In the first Women’s match of the day, sixth seed Ho found it tough going early on against Egypt’s Malak Khafagy making uncharacteristic errors with Khafagy taking a 2-0 lead 11-5, 11-6. In a scrappy third game, Ho looked much improved and she reduced the deficit 11-9 before levelling 11-6. Game five was a nerve shredder but it was Ho who was able to make the decisive breakthrough, converting her fifth match ball progress 12-10.

“She’s a tough opponent and she can always make trouble for seeded players so I think I’m a bit lucky to come back!” Ho said afterwards.

Ho faces Tesni Evans in the quarter-final after thethird  seed, returning to the tour after a lengthy injury layoff, breezed past Hong Kong’s Cheng Nga Ching.

Meanwhile in the Men’s event fourth seed Crouin was also forced to do things the hard way as he survived a bruising encounter with Germany’s Raphael Kandra. Kandra, who led Crouin 2-0 in this year’s British Open before the Frenchman came back to win 3-2, was in top form early on to earn another 2-0 lead.

Just as in Birmingham, though, Crouin adapted, finding ways past Kandra’s defences with increasing ease as he flipped the match on its head to complete the comeback.

Day Two : Beecroft back from the brink as Round Two begins

The second day of play in the New Zealand Open witnessed eight second round matches, from the top of the women’s and bottom of the men’s draws.

England’s Lucy Beecroft came back from the brink to beat Aira Azman and reach a maiden Silver-level quarter-final. 19-year-old Azman made the quicker start, with the Malaysian settling well as she fired in a number of winners to take the first game 11-8.

Beecroft then responded, reading her opponent better to move into the lead with hard-fought 13-11 and 11-9 wins. The fifth seed had a golden opportunity to win it in four games when she earned two match balls at 10-8, but could not convert as Azman forced a fifth game with a 12-10 win.

In a gripping conclusion, both players threw everything at each other. Beecroft made the first move, but couldn’t keep up the momentum as Azman went match ball up at 10-9. The Englishwoman saved it, but then went match ball down again at 11-10. Once more, however, the World #28 clung on, holding her nerve to final break the deadlock and end the match with an 13-11 victory.

“It’s just relief to get through it I think.” Beecroft said afterwards. “A few match balls up and not converting – I was in a pickle. I probably should play like I’m match ball down more often! That’s when I become more disciplined.”

Beecroft’s opponent in the quarter-final will be Nele Gilis, after the Belgian topseed quickly overcame Malaysia’s Wee Wern Low in straight games.

In the men’s event, Marwan ElShorbagy put in a fantastic performance to see off Canada’s David Baillargeon. Second seed ElShorbagy looked razor sharp from the first minute as he blew the World #40 away 11-2 win in game one. The Canadian improved after that, but still struggled to find answers to the England No.2’s dazzling attacking play, with ElShorbagy coasting to victory 11-7 and 11-6.

Facing ‘the Jackal’ in the last eight is England teammate Patrick Rooney after the 26-year-old came from behind to take down compatriot and sevents seed Adrian Waller.

Earlier in the day a frenetic five-gamer saw Malaysia’s Aifa Azman hold off Marie Stephan’s comeback to set up a rematch with Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi Lee, who made short work of Australia’s Jessica Turnbull in the opening match of the day.

In the first men’s match of the day, France’s Baptiste Masotti put in a dominant performance to see off India’s Abhay Singh in straight games, then Wales’ Joel Makin marked his return from injury with a 3-0 win over Scotland’s Rory Stewart.

Day ONE :  Low,  Cheng, Senthilkumar and Singh serve up shocks

Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern overcame a serious looking injury as she came from behind to beat Alex Haydon, while Hong Kong’s Cheng Nga Ching ousted Alicia Mead to progress to the women’s second In the Men’s Open there were upset victories for Indian duo Velavan Senthilkumar and Abhay Singh.