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The glass court in Les Machines de l'île - All pictures courtesy of Hamish Irvine / PSA

Open International de Nantes - Semi-Finals: As It Happens

Follow us here for reports and reaction from semi-finals day at the 2017 Open International de Squash de Nantes.

Top seed and defending champion Gregoire Marche will be roared on by his home crowd when he takes on Egypt's Mazen Hesham for a place in a third successive final in Nantes, while Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller and Ben Coleman go head-to-head in the other men's semi-final.

Meanwhile, Millie Tomlinson and Nele Gilis clash in the first women's semi-final, with Canada's Hollie Naughton aiming to follow up a quarter-final upset against Coline Aumard with victory against second seed Fiona Moverley.

You can watch the action LIVE on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player.

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Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local CEST)
17:00 [1] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) v [4] Nele Gilis (BEL)
18:00 [1] Gregoire Marche (FRA) v [3] Mazen Hesham (EGY)
20:30 [5] Hollie Naughton (CAN) v [2] Fiona Moverley (ENG)
21:30 [4] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Ben Coleman (ENG)

Gilis Battles Back to Reach Final

Nele Gilis

Belgium’s World No.27 Nele Gilis launched an incredible comeback from two games down to dispatch tournament top seed Millie Tomlinson.

World No.22 had started strongly playing at a high tempo against a nervous looking Gilis to take the first game by an 11-7 scoreline.

The Englishwoman continued to dominate with her power and variation of shots in game two. However, Gilis soon grew into the game but threw away one match ball opportunity as Tomlinson hung on to take it on a tie-break and win 13-11.

The Belgian refused to back down however, and came out of the blocks firing in the third as she took six points without reply. Tomlinson also proved to be a tough competitor as she hit five consecutive points herself, however, it was not enough to see out a victory as Gilis kept her momentum and claimed the game 11-6.

The 21-year-old Belgian and 25-year-old Englishwoman continued to go toe-to-toe as both players attacked and pulled off some fantastic shots to draw emphatic applause from the crowd. However, Gilis continued to grow in confidence and took the fourth game 13-11 to force a decider for a place in the final.

Gilis put in an assured performance in the fifth as the packed-out crowd at Les Machines de l’île continued to get behind her with the Belgian winning 11-3 in the fifth to secure a place in the final and she will now face either Canada’s Hollie Naughton or England’s Fiona Moverley.

“The first two games I was so nervous and a little scruffy,” said the 21-year-old Belgian.

“Then after the second game I tried to keep it more simple and it is just such an electrifying crowd that they gave me that extra push I needed today and I was so happy to get the win.

“I had beaten Millie before so I had confidence that I could beat her and I’m really pleased with how my squash is going so far.

“I’m really pleased with how I came back and looking forward to the final and whoever it may be. I’m just going to enjoy it and hopefully the crowd will be as good tomorrow.”

[4] Nele Gilis (BEL) bt [1] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-2: 7-11, 11-13, 11-6, 13-11, 11-3 (61m)

Marche On Course for Three-Peat After Halting Hesham

Gregoire Marche (left) celebrates his win over Mazen Hesham (right)

French No.2 Gregoire Marche is just one win away from making it three Open International de Squash de Nantes titles in a row after the top seed saw off Egyptian maverick Mazen Hesham in a four-game thriller.

Les Machines de l’île was a cauldron of noise as the two men went head-to-head in a high-octane encounter, their first on the PSA World Tour, and it was Marche who went ahead after prevailing in an opening game that was full of incredible winners and dynamic exchanges.

Hesham, the World No.70, found some of his best shots in the second game, pulling away midway through to draw level but his performance level dipped considerably in the third.

The 23-year-old looked spent physically as Marche raced away to an 11-1 victory to restore his lead but it was Hesham’s turn to rack up the points at the beginning of the fourth as he returned to the kind of form that saw him win the second game after taking the first five points and then going 8-3 ahead.

Marche dug in though to force a tie-break, with Hesham holding game balls on four occasions before the Frenchman’s incredible athleticism and desire saw him come out on top in some breathtaking rallies that brought deafening noise from the crowd amidst an electrifying atmosphere.

And a delicate drop at match ball saw Marche force the win over the line to complete an 11-6, 7-11, 11-1, 14-12 victory that will see him take on either Nicolas Mueller or Ben Coleman in the final.

“It was a bit up and down tonight, Mazen can do crazy things with his racket,” said Marche.

“There are some games when he can completely give up like he did in the third game, so you never know with him. I was 8-3 down in the fourth and I knew, even if I was down, that it’s never finished with him because he can hit three winners and then make four mistakes, so I just pushed myself in the end.

“We had two or three big rallies in the fourth and it went my way tonight. At some points when you’re tired, you just don’t think about because the crowd is incredible.

“There’s something special here for me in Nantes, maybe because it’s the one tournament in France, you want to do well and I am really motivated. It’s the first one of the season so it proved that I did a great job during the summer and I am happy to be in the final again.”

Hesham, who has spent much of the past two seasons out injured, said: “There are some good things and some bad things.

“When I was injured and I didn’t have squash in my life, there was a huge gap. My life was empty. So I feel that I have my life back, that I have found purpose in my life again.

“But I need to realise I’m  not injured anymore. In the third, he took a good start, and then I had that feeling I was injured. So I had to keep repeating to myself between the games that I was all right.

“Of course I’m disappointed to lose that way but I cannot be unhappy with my week. I finished the whole tournament, that is amazing for me. There are a lot of positives to take away.”

[1] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt [3] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 7-11, 11-1, 14-12 (58m)

Moverley Cruises Into Final

Hollie Naughton (left) Fiona Moverley (right)

England’s World No.30 Fiona Moverley made light work of Canada’s Hollie Naughton as she dispatched the World No.38 in just 24 minutes to secure a berth in her biggest PSA World Tour final.

Moverley took control of the match from the outset and showed no signs of letting up as she prevented Naughton from finding her rhythm in the three-game encounter.

The 30-year-old – who overcame South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller and Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi in previous rounds – quickly found her length and range as she powered past Naughton by an 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 scoreline to book her place in the final against Belgium’s Nele Gilis tomorrow.

“I’m over the moon to come through in three,” said Moverley following the match.

“We played in Chicago in February and I was 2-0 up and she fought her way back to 2-2 and I only just beat her 3-2, so I knew what I was up against today and I know how hard she works. I really wanted to keep my consistency and keep my level as high as possible and not let her in basically.

“It was definitely hard yesterday with the rain and everything so to have it dry tonight made it easier. It still chills off in the evening so it can be a little cold on there but that played to my advantage tonight and I was finishing the ball really well.

“I didn’t get into any big rallies with her because she is a really physical player and really fit and I just didn’t let her get into that kind of game so I felt like I was on top.

“It’s a really strong women’s draw this year and it’s a really open tournament. I know I’m seeded two and I’ve got to the final but there was no easy route to get there. Everyone is playing at a really high level and on any given day we can beat each other so it was really important to find my form and build myself into the tournament, which I think I’ve done.

“It’s nice when your summer training pays off. We all have our ups and downs throughout the season but to start on a high is really good and hopefully I can maybe even go one further and finish on a really big high tomorrow.

“Nele has had some good battles and played really well today. We haven’t played in a while and I definitely won’t take anything for granted, she has fought her way here so it will be a good battle.”

[2] Fiona Moverley (ENG) bt [5] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 (24m)

Mueller Defeats Coleman to Reach First Final in Three Years

Nicolas Mueller (left) v Ben Coleman (right)

Swiss World No.30 Nicolas Mueller will appear in his first PSA World Tour final since 2014 after he dispatched England’s Ben Coleman by a 3-1 margin to set up a clash with defending champion Gregoire Marche in the title decider.

The due were appearing against each other for the first time on the Tour and it was Mueller – who beat Mohammad Alsarraj and Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi to reach the last four – who seized the initiative to go one game up after controlling the rallies and sending Coleman scrambling around the court en route to an 11-5 triumph.

Mueller struggled to hit his lengths though in the second game and Coleman took full advantage to bring the match back to all square. But Mueller stepped back up the court to punish any loose shots from Coleman and the third and fourth games were a procession as he closed out an 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4 victory to reach the final.

“I’m very happy with the way I played, I played attacking squash and I knew the conditions suited me a bit better than him,” said Mueller.

“I love it when it is cold outside because the ball doesn’t bounce as much. I overdid it in the third, I went short too quickly and I felt too comfortable and he punished me severely. I’m very happy that I found my length again in the fourth and I think that was the difference in the end.

“Greg [Marche] and I go back a long time, we’ve known each other for 15 years, I think. We know each other’s game very well and we’ve got a lot of respect for each other.”

[4] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4 (48m)

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