Belgium’s World No.33 Nele Gilis recorded her first ever win over England’s World No.24 Fiona Moverley to knock out the defending champion and reach her second successive Open International de Squash de Nantes final.
Gilis had never beaten Moverley before today, with their last meeting coming at the 2017 final in Nantes, where the Englishwoman claimed a 3-0 victory. However, in front of a full house at the théâtre Graslin, the 22-year-old Belgian made sure to turn the tables as she dispatched Moverley by an 11-7, 11-9, 11-3 scoreline to send her crashing out at the semi-final stage.
“The last four times we played she beat me,” said 22-year-old Gilis following her big win.
“I was quite relaxed coming into the match and I knew what to expect. There was no pressure on me, it was all on her, so I was just playing freely and enjoying my squash and it helped me in the end.”
The Belgian No.1 was the only non-English player to make it through to the final in Nantes and will now face top seed Emily Whitlock after she defeated 18-year-old compatriot Lucy Turmel earlier in the day.
“I think we’re quite similar,” said 24-year-old Whitlock. “Lucy is an attacking and ambitious type of player and wants to do well.
“She showed no nerves in her quarter-final match, so I was expecting her to be fully focused and wanting to win in front of this crowd – I’m just glad I didn’t get nervous and got the win.”
Meanwhile in the men’s draw, top seeds James Willstrop and Declan James will prepare to do battle in Sunday’s final as they go head-to-head for the title following respective wins over Egypt’s World No.31 Zahed Salem and France’s World No.87 Baptiste Masotti.
Former World No.1 Willstrop – who will feature in his first final in 15 months – put in a performance worthy of a showman along with Egyptian Salem as they contested an enthralling five-game battle on stage at the Théâtre Graslin.
The two players had the packed-out crowd in raptures as they displayed some of their best squash with the Englishman eventually prevailing an 11-6, 11-13, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5 winner in 78 minutes.
“We were both reaching into every corner of the court and you could see what it did to both of us,” said the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. “Luckily in the fifth I just edged ahead early on.
“The crowd here is great, they give you so much back and it’s such a pleasure. They enjoy the squash and that’s what I’m playing the game for right now, I love occasions like that and I feel very happy that I am able to do it. The real motivation is right in front of you with that crowd.”
Compatriot and World No.23 James awaits Willstrop in the final after he knocked out ‘giant killer’ Masotti – who was the only remaining Frenchman in the tournament – in straight-games to reach his biggest PSA final.
“I knew Baptiste had a five-setter yesterday and he would possibly be feeling it, so I tried to make it as tough as I could from the start and extend the rallies,” said Nottingham-born James.
“He gave me a few errors towards the end of each game, which helped, but I’m really happy with how I pulled my performance together.
“Onto tomorrow, I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for James. He is one of the greatest players of our generation and in the history of the game.
“We had a great partnership together at the Commonwealth Games and shared a special partnership there, so tomorrow is really just an occasion to enjoy in front of this wonderful crowd.”
The finals of the Open International de Squash de Nantes will take place tomorrow (Sunday September 9) from 15:15 local time (GMT +2) at the théâtre Graslin.
Results: Men’s Semi-finals
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Zahed Salem (EGY) 3-2: 11-6, 11-13, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5 (78m)
 Declan James (ENG) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-7 (48m)
Results: Women’s Semi-finals
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) bts Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-2, 11-5 (40m)
 Nele Gilis (BEL) bt  Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-3 (43m)
Draw: Men’s final – to be played September 9
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Declan James (ENG)
Draw: Women’s final – to be played September 9
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v  Nele Gilis (BEL)