Sibling rivalries are nothing new in pro squash, with the Elshorbagy and Martin brothers, Mexico’s Salazar twins and the Grinham sisters among the consanguineous duos to have done battle on the tour.
But rarely have two siblings so closely mirrored each other in their progression through the sport as Nele and Tinne Gilis.
The Belgian duo have both reached their highest rankings in recent months, with Nele becoming the first female Belgian player to reach the top ten in November 2022. Tinne, the younger by 20 months, has reached as high as eleventh.
Though Nele has been a fixture in the top 20 for slightly longer, there is now nothing to choose between the two sisters, who turned pro in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Nele emerged victorious in their most recent encounter in September (the final of Bronze event Squash de Nantes) but Tinne had won the previous two.
While the elder of the two sisters is known as one of the game’s best athletes, Tinne is associated with her attacking flair.
“It’s very hard mentally for both of you when you play your sister, and you have to try not to focus on that and think you’re playing someone else,” Tinne said, while rewatching her first PSA match with Nele during a feature for Squash TV.
“I think an hour before his match I was in my room talking to my mental coach, and we were both crying with happiness that we were going to do this,” Nele added.
“We cared, but we didn’t care about the outcome – as long as I could enjoy it and give it my all.”