Nele and Declan down top seeds in five game thrillers

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Two dramatic five game finals saw Nele Gilis and Declan James crowned the Open International de Nantes Champions, both beating their top seeded opponents in five games in front of a packed auditorium at the spectacular Theatre Graslin.

Declan wins a thriller

[2] Declan James (Eng) 3-2 [1] James Willstrop (Eng)   2-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9 (76m)

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Having not lost a game all week, Declan James was blitzed 11-2 in the first game of the final by top seed James Willstrop.

It was to his credit that Declan settled, took a good lead in the second before levelling 11-9, then fought back again in the fourth after Willstrop had resumed control of the match in the third.

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At 9-all in the fourth Willstrop was within two points of the title, and the decider was close all the way, again reaching 9-all.

The match finished on a series of possibly harsh ‘no let’ decisions – some appealed, some not – the final one going Willstrop’s way as Declan beat his doubles partner for the first time, and became the 2018 Nantes Champion.

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Declan:

“Along with the Commonwealths earlier in the year with James, this is probably the best moment of my career.

“I had a really good mentality before I went on and I just said to myself that the result doesn’t matter, it’s just an occasion to enjoy and as long as I leave everything on the court then I will be happy.

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“I had to dig really deep at times, James was making me do so much work and was unplayable at times but I knew that would be the case because of how much class he has got. I just had to dig in as much as I could and go to the wire a little bit and the crowd really helped and gave me an extra bit of energy.

“The fifth game was a bit of a blur, I didn’t expect it to unfold as it did and the points just kind of came to be at the end, but I case that’s what happens and you just dig as deep as you can and that’s good for me going forward.

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“I said to myself in the fifth, when he started on a run, just don’t let him run away with it too easily because I just thought go out on your sword and leave everything on the court, don’t worry about the result just make sure that you put a good showing in in the fifth game and that’s what I managed to do and it all just happened really quickly in the end but it’s a really special moment for me.

“It was electric and sometimes when you are having to dig deep hearing that reaction can give you an extra few percent, which it did today and it really helped me. I thought the crowd was unbelievable and it made it much more special.”

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Nele goes one better

[4] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-2 [1] Emily Whitlock (Eng)   4-11, 11-6, 6-11, 12-10, 11-6 (72m)

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Runner up last year, Nele Gilis avenged her final defeat as she beat Fiona Moverley in last night’s semis, and today she went one better as she beat another English opponent, top seed Emily Whitlock, in a thrilling, high qualify final that the tournament, venue and the packed crowd – mostly supporting Nele of course – deserved.

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Emily was dominant in the first but Nele was quickly into her rhythm in the second, and urged on by the crowd she levelled. Emily grabbed the momentum in the third to retake the lead, but once more it was Nele leading through the fourth, the crowd being treated to a display of controlled squash and determined retrieving from both of them.

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Nele got to 10-8, Emily recovered to 10-all but Nele won the next two points – the last a dead nick at the back at the end of a long rally – to set up a decider.

Nele was ahead from the beginning of the fifth, and although Emily closed a little, she hit the tin twice to put Nele on the brink of the title, and she needed no second invitation.

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Nele

“I’d like to thank Emily for a great final, I really enjoyed the match and I’d really like to thank everyone that came to watch, the atmosphere was incredible. I remember last year how good it was and this year it was out of this world.

“I just told myself from the beginning to fight for each and every point. I just wanted to make the most of my time here in this amazing venue, so I just told myself to fight and not give up and make the most of this amazing venue and I did and I’m so happy.

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“Paul texted me after his match in China and told me that I would be the one that would have to bring it home, so I won it for him.”

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