Motor City Open : It’s Abouelghar in five

Final: It’s Abouelghar in Five

In a final between the third and fourth seeds, it was Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar who prevailed, beating Peruvian Diego Elias in a see-saw five game final to win the Motor City title, and a lovely new watch !

[3] Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 3-2 [4] Diego Elias (Per)  5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 4-11, 11-8 (63m)

As he had all week, Mohamed Abouelghar took the long, tough road on Saturday to win the championship of the 2019 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.

Abouelghar needed five games to top Peru’s Diego Elias in the finals, completing a week where the Egyptian won four matches in 18 games in the PSA event.

Third-seed Abouelghar topped #4-seed Elias to become the seventh Egyptian to win the MCO in the past 10 years at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

“I’m very, very happy and proud to put my name on the trophy with so many legends, it’s very special.”

Semis: Elias, Abouelghar set up finals clash

There will be a new squash champion on Saturday at the Motor City Open.

Four former MCO champions came to Detroit this week hoping to become the third two-time champion in the pro squash event’s 20 years.

All of them fell throughout the week though, as Diego Elias of Peru and Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt assured there would be a first-time MCO champion, Elias beating top seed and defending champion Marwan ElShorbagy in straight games, Aboulghar ending the run of unseeded compatrion Zahed Salem.

Diego joins Egyptian trio in Motor City semis as Salem strikes out Rodriguez

Matt Shoch reports

Three of the top four seeds advanced Thursday to the semifinals of The Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.

Zahed Salem made it three Egyptians in Friday’s semifinals, knocking off second-seed and the 2015 MCO champion Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia in four-games at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

“I always believed that I could win,” Salem said. “But until the last point – until we left the court – anything could change. I had to keep focused and not do something different, because I could lose anytime if I lose concentration.”

Rodriguez won the first game, 11-6, but Salem ran through the last three against the “Colombian Cannonball.” The Egyptian let out a scream of joy after the final point.

It was Salem’s first career win against a Top 10 player, as the Rodriguez is ranked World #6. Salem said it was also his first career win against Rodriguez in about a half-dozen tries. When the last met, Rodriguez swept Salem three games in November at the Hong Kong Squash Open.

In Friday’s semis Salem will meet close friend and countryman Mohamed Abouelghar, the third seed and World #10. It will be a rematch of the finals in Guatemala a few years back, which Abouelghar won against a hobbled Salem.

“He’s a very good player and a very good friend of mine,” Salem said. “I’m looking forward to a good, clean, and fair match.”

Abouelghar needed five games to get through unseeded Adrian Waller of England. The Egyptian regrouped after Waller won the fourth game 11-2 to earn the deciding fifth.

“It feel good to be through it, to be honest,” Abouelghar said. “Sometimes, when you’re not on your best, you just need to find a way to get through the match with a win.”

In earlier quarterfinal matches, the higher seeds held as top-seed Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt topped seventh-seeded Omar Mossad in three games. Fourth-seed Diego Elias of Peru topped #5-seed Ryan Cuskelly of Australia, who retired with an illness after two games.

“It was quick, but it was tough,” El Shorbagy said. “Omar is a great player and I’ve learned so much from him over the years. He’s a great fighter. He’s trying to get back to his best, and . . . and I’m happy for him, but for me to be able to win three games makes me more fresh for tomorrow.”

El Shorbagy, the defending MCO champion, lost to Elias in four games at last week’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York.

“We’ve played each other a lot of times,” El Shorbagy said. “We’ll see what happens. No pressure on both of us. Hopefully we have a good match, and hopefully we both enjoy it.”

Against Elias, Cuskelly came into the quarterfinals ill and then got tied up with his opponent in the match’s opening point. After an injury timeout, Cuskelly returned to the court, but the 2017 MCO champion couldn’t shake his ailments.

“It’s just something that happens in squash, I just hit him with my knee in his calf,” Elias said. “It was too bad he couldn’t keep going.”


Three former champs through to quarters as Waller and Salem surprise

Matt Schoch reports

Two seeds fell in upsets and three former champions moved on in Round of 16 squash action at the Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.

Adrian Waller of England and Zahed Salem of Egypt topped seeded opponents and will play in Thursday’s quarterfinals, seeking their third win in as many days at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

Waller pulled the biggest upset of the night, knocking off sixth-seeded Raphael Kandra of Germany, World #17, in a five-game, 70-minute thriller, winning from 4-6 down in the decider.

Salem closed the night with a five-game victory against eighth-seed Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland. Mueller, a semifinalist here last year, dominated early with an 11-3 win in the opening game, but Salem then won two tight ones before World #20 Mueller forced the decisive fifth game. Salem took an 8-1 lead and held on for the 11-5 win. The Egyptian is coming back from a hamstring injury that put him out of action for a month last year.

Four of the eight quarterfinalists are from Egypt, the country that has won six of the past nine MCO titles. The top-five seeds, including three former MCO champions, will headline the quarters.

Top-seeded Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt, the defending MCO champion and World #5, won in four games against countryman Mazen Hesham.

“Mazen is a tricky player,” El Shorbagy said. “It’s always good to come back here, also as defending champion. I’m really excited for the rest of the week. It was good to get my name on the wall with those great players, and if I can do it again, that would be great. That’s the aim.”

Second-seeded Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia, the 2015 MCO champion and sixth-ranked player in the world, dropped the first game to Mathieu Castagnet of France, but recovered to take three straight.

Fifth-seed and 2017 champion Ryan Cuskelly of Australia cruised in three games over Spain’s Iker Pajares , who had played a marathon 95-minute match the day before.

World #14 Cuskelly has had tough draws of late and has not won many matches since October.

“I’ve played top four in the world every tournament in the last three tournaments,” Cuskelly said. “I’m just looking forward to playing and getting some matches.”

Diego Elias of Peru advanced after his opponent. Cesar Salazar, withdrew with an injury in Game 3.

Chris Hanson and Todd Harrity became the first two Americans to earn main draw victories in MCO history on Tuesday, but both fell on Wednesday despite good showings.

Harrity went four games with third-seed Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt, but fell 12-10 in the final game. Hanson, the lowest-ranked player in the field and a late entry, suffered a five-game, 72-minute loss to seventh-seeded Omar Mossad of Egypt in a rematch from last week’s Tournament of Champions in New York City.

Americans advance in Detroit

Matt Schoch reports

In the first 19 years of the Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection, no U.S. player had ever made the main draw of the pro squash tourney. Now, after just one day of the 20th annual event, two have victories.

Americans Chris Hanson and Todd Harrity cruised to three-game wins to move on to Wednesday’s second round at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

Hanson and Harrity moved on to the Round of 16 along with six other winners Tuesday night. Waiting for them are the eight seeded foes, who each received byes through Round One.

Harrity, from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, topped Vikram Malhotra of India, 11-4, 11-4, 11-7. Hanson topped Campbell Grayson of New Zealand, 11-5, 11-7, 11-6. The New York native said his play lately has been better than his world ranking.

“I thought I was playing at a really good pace,” Hanson said. “Even when the games were close, I felt like I could pick it up just a little more and a little more.”

Hanson will have a rematch with seventh-seed Omar Mossad of Egypt on Wednesday. The pair met last week in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York with Mossad winning in three games.

Harrity said the goal at events like the MCO is to win one match, which makes it easier to relax. He’ll meet third-seed Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt on Wednesday.

“The first match is the toughest in a lot of ways,” Harrity said. “The court, the crowd, the environment, it’s been awhile since your last competition. So you’re always just a bit edgy.”

While the Americans had relatively smooth sailing, the most entertaining Round One match was the opener. Spain’s Iker Pajares battled back twice from a game down, outlasting Chris Simpson of England in 95-minutes, 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9.

In the deciding fifth game, Pajares trailed Simpson 7-2, but won nine of the last 11 points. Simpson had four unforced errors during Pajares Bernabeu’s closing run.

Tuesday was likely the final MCO match for 2007 champion Olli Tuominen of Finland, a crowd favorite.

After Tuominen lost to Mathieu Castagnet of France in three hard-fought games, the Birmingham Athletic Club crowd recognized his history at the MCO, chanting “Olli! Ollii! Olli!” for the 39-year-old. Tuominen said this is his final year on the Professional Squash Association World Tour.

Tuominen has been playing league matches throughout Europe and also said he will focus on his duties as player/coach of the Finnish national team.

The MCO is the second-longest running pro squash tourney in the U.S. In addition to his take of the $75,000 total purse, the champion will take home a Longines watch from Greenstone’s Jewelers.

A charity auction will be held in conjunction with the MCO with proceeds to benefit Racquet Up Detroit, a youth development program that combines squash, mentoring, and community service. Racquet Up juniors will be among those participating in the MCO’s Junior Clinic where tourney pros coach young players from the greater-Detroit area and Windsor.