Gilis sisters fire Belgium to historic first European women's title

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Gilis sisters fire Belgium to historic first European women's title

Belgium made squash history at the ESF European Team Championships in Zurich on Saturday as the formidable Gilis sisters earned the nation's first ever title.

World no.4 Nele and world no.9 Tinne were ecstatic after sealing a 2-1 victory at the Uster Squash Arena - denying defending champions England a 43rd title out of 45 championships and becoming only the fourth country to etch their name on the illustrious trophy (after France in 2019, the Netherland in 2010 and England on every other occasion since 1978).

Nele, who beat England's Commonwealth Games champion Georgina Kennedy in four games in the match's opening rubber, said: "My phone is blowing up! Everybody is telling me we re-wrote history! I can't take it in just yet. I'm so, so proud of the whole team.

"It's something we always believed we would do at some point - but it feels so, so good to achieve it. I really, really do hope this is a massive boost for squash in Belgium and will inspire lots of juniors, get a lot of media attention and get more people playing the game."

The 28-year-old is engaged to New Zealand's Commonwealth Games gold medallist Paul Coll. She smiled: "I'm European champion and getting married in two months' time - life is pretty good!"

Nele v Kennedy always looked like the most critical of the three matches and it was the Belgian who got off to a lightning start by taking the first 11-2. The second was tighter but still went to Nele, 11-8, then Kennedy improved her accuracy in an elite-class third which the 27-year-old from London took 13-11. However, Nele reasserted herself to take the fourth 11-5 and put the second seeds 1-0 up.

Lucy Turmel then levelled matters with an expected 11-8 11-7 11-2 victory over world no.202 Marie Van Riet, so the result came down the third rubber between Tinne and Jasmine Hutton - a repeat of last year's decider in Helsinki which Hutton crucially won.

World no.29 Hutton had her opportunities, but errors on attacking shots proved crucial at several key points and it was Tinne who achieved redemption for last year with a 11-8 12-10 11-2 win.

Belgian coach Ronny Vlassak has worked with Tinne and Nele since they were juniors - and Nele paid tribute to the Dutchman: "Ronny has been massively important for both of us. All the effort, time and belief he put in me is unmatched."

Wales won a tight women's bronze medal match which all came down to a decider between Emily Whitlock and Enora Villard. The world no.24 from Colwyn Bay won 9-11 11-6 11-7 11-7. Earlier the hugely promising Lauren Baltayan (who celebrates her 17th birthday tomorrow) beat Lowri Roberts in three and Tesni Murphy beat Marie Stephan in four.

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