Belgian No.1 Nele Gilis has earned a spot in the CIB PSA World Tour Finals for the first time after securing enough points to finish fifth on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings.
Gilis ended the season at a career-high ranking of World No.7 after putting together a fantastic run at the El Gouna International, where she defeated World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the semi-finals before eventually falling to World No.1 Nouran Gohar as she became the first Belgian player to reach a Platinum final.
The 27-year-old from Geel, who also lifted titles at the Open de France de Squash and the Malaysian Open, says she is delighted to achieve two her major goals this season.
“I wanted to crack the top eight this season and I just made it. I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life since I was a junior. So to finally be here, it’s amazing.
“Reaching the World Tour Finals is something very special.
“Only the top eight go and making the World Tour Finals has been a goal of mine for a long time because it means you’ve been very consistent throughout the season, so it means a lot that I’ve made it.”
After recovering from a hip injury towards the end of the 2021-22 season, the Belgian No.1 has come back stronger than ever after putting in the hours in the gym and on court with her coach, Rob Owen, winning her first Bronze level tournament last November in Malaysia, reaching the final of the Manchester Open Silver event, and just last week the final of the Platinum El Gouna International.
“I was injured at the end of last season and then I couldn’t play for a while. I wasn’t enjoying playing and then when I was playing pain-free again, I was just very grateful to be able to play pain-free and I started enjoying it, every time was so good and now I just enjoy it a lot more.
“I had a tear in my hip labrum which is actually quite common among squash players. I had stem cell therapy done, I don’t know any other squash players who have done that, but a lot of them got surgeries or just rehab. But I know a lot of them still struggle with it and still have to manage it. Whereas I’m just totally pain-free now, so I’m very lucky.
“For my hip, I’ve had to do a lot of strength work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But on court, I’ve been working with Rob [Owen] for a few years now and we’ve been putting in a lot of hours together and he’s completely changed my technique, my game and the way I look at the game. He’s made me understand the game a lot better so I feel like this is a product of years of hard work together and I owe a lot to him.”
Despite currently sitting at her highest world ranking, Gilis is not content with just sitting inside the top eight as she explains:[su)quote]
“I just want to be the best I can be. Top eight was the goal and then top four is the next one. I just want to see how far I can go. I just love it so much, ever since I was a young girl. Sometimes I have to take a step back and see how far I’ve come and that motivates me to just keep going.
“I actually haven’t thought about my goals for next season yet. I will this summer, but it’s probably the top five. That would be good.”[/su_quote]
Gilis then had a message for players ranked above her, saying: “I’ve arrived, I’m coming for you.”
The 2022-23 CIB PSA World Tour Finals will take place from 20-25 June from Cairo’s EDNC SODIC venue, with action available to watch live on SQUASHTV.