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Motor City Open 2011
26-31 Jan, Detroit, Usa, $50k
31-Jan, Final:
Shorbagy supreme
By A.J. Hakim

David Palmer. Jonathon Power. Gregory Gaultier. That’s the short list of talent that went on to World #1 after winning a Motor City Open trophy. Current World #9, Mohamed El Shorbagy, may soon join them. The talented, 20-year-old Egyptian demonstrated on his run to this year’s title that he has the stuff to compete at the world’s highest level.

After downing Aussie legend Palmer in the semis, Shorbagy dispatched countryman and World #15 Omar Mosaad 3-1 (8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5) Monday night to win the 12th annual Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. With the win, Shorbagy pocketed the top prize: a $8200 paycheck and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.

“I’m just over the moon at the moment, just so happy right now,” Shorbagy said of winning the second tournament of his young career. “This is a very, very special tournament to win. I won my last tournament in last April. This time I’m getting a Rolex watch, and it’s like: ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m really wearing a Rolex watch!’”

Egyptians currently hold six of the top 15 spots in the world rankings, making for competitive, constructive training sessions back home. It also means the inevitable final between friends who know one another’s games all too well.

“This match today is different because I play against an Egyptian,” Mosaad said. “I play with him all the time in training, so he knows all my strong points and weak points.”

Shorbagy entered the match – the pair had split two previous meetings - with a plan to work the long game, to exhaust the 6’3” “Tower of Power” and - once fatigued - to close him out with the short game.

“The match was very, very tough,” Shorbagy said. “I wasn’t too sad when I lost the first game because I knew it was a long game, and it took lots of energy out of him. He’s a big guy, and I’m just trying to make the rallies long, long, long. And once I felt he’s tired, I started taking him short. I could see he was tired and couldn’t concentrate that much.”

The pace of Game One was indeed torrid with both players firing hard rails mixed with daring drops. But Shorbagy’s speed, fitness, and exquisite racquet control began to take its toll. By Game 4, the personable Egyptian was joking with the referee, his confidence swelling as the finish line loomed.

Monday’s victory capped a tough week for Shorbagy. The final featuring two Egyptians was an impressive feat at a time when the Egyptian players – there were five in the MCO field – were worried about family members back home in a chaotic Egypt. Title sponsor and Suburban Collection CEO David Fisher praised the players for their concentration in the trophy ceremony.

And then there was the draw itself - made tougher by new PSA rules that only seeded four players. Shorbagy entered the tournament as the two-seed, and drew Borja Golan -2009 MCO champion and former world #10 - in the first round. Waiting in the quarters was another Egyptian, the swift Tarek Momen, who had been a giant-killer in last year’s MCO. Then came ex- Motor City champ Palmer – on the downside at 34 of an extraordinary career – but still dangerous and eager to add a second MCO crown to his stuffed trophy case. Shorbagy was up to each challenge.

“I had quite possibly one of the toughest roads of the tournament,” Shorbagy said afterwards. “I was really unlucky to get (Golan) in the first round. He runs a lot and that took me a lot of energy to beat him. (Tarek) was another tough match for me mentally because he’s another Egyptian player.”

“And then the semifinal against Palmer,” he continued. “That was a very tough match for me mentally because it was the very first time I play him. So, I think to win this tournament, when you have such a tough road as this, it’s just something to give you really big confidence.”

Defeating Golan, Momen, Palmer and Mosaad in a single tournament. Winning an International 50 event at just 20 years-old. What’s next?

“I’m just happy to be with all these names up there,” the Egyptian said pointing to the banner on the Birmingham Athletic Club wall of previous tourney winners. “They are all really big names. Gaultier, Palmer, Power, John White, Darwish. So, just to win a tournament like that is something to make me proud.”

Motor City Open 2011
26-31 Jan, Detroit, Usa, $50k
Round One
28 Jan
29 Jan
30 Jan
31 Jan
[1] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/6 11/7 11/8
Tom Richards (Eng)
Tom Richards
7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5
Omar Mosaad
Omar Mosaad

11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7

[4] Adrian Grant

Omar Mosaad

8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5

[2] Mohamed El Shorbagy

[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
14/12 11/7 11/6
Omar Mosaad (Egy)
Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11/6 11/5 retired
[Q] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
Jonathan Kemp
5-11, 16-14, 4-11, 11-5, 11-9
[4] Adrian Grant
Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
[4] Adrian Grant (Egy)
[3] David Palmer (Aus)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
[3] David Palmer
11-3, 11-9, 11-4
[Q] Alan Clyne
[3] David Palmer

11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10

[2] Mohamed El Shorbagy

[Q] Alan Clyne (Sco)
Julian Wellings (Eng)
Chris Ryder (Eng)
12/10 12/10 12/10
Tarek Momen (Egy)
Tarek Momen
11/4, 11/5, 2/0 rtd
[2] Mohamed El Shorbagy
[Q] Borja Golan (Esp)
11/8 11/8 3/11 11/9
[2] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
2010 Event

27 Jan, Qualifying finals:

Mohammed Abbas bt Adrian Waller      13-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6
Ryan Cuskelly bt Jan Koukal                 0-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7
Borja Golan bt Christopher Gordon                  11-7, 11-3, 11-8
Alan Clyne bt Max Lee                                 13-11, 12-10, 11-7

26-Jan, Qualifying Round One:

Adrian Waller bt Zac Alexander                11-5, 13-11, 12-10
Jan Koukal bt Campbell Grayson   2-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7
Ryan Cuskelly bt Julian Illingworth              11-5, 15-13, 11-4
Borja Golan
bt Gilly Lane                           12-10, 11-4, 11-8
Christopher Gordon bt  Keith Pritchard      11-7, 11-4, 12-10

Alan Clyne bt Stephane Galifi                        11-4, 11-5, 11-9
Max Lee bt Nicolas Mueller                    5-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9
30-Jan, Semis:
All-Egyptian final in store
By A.J. Hakim

Experience gave way to youth Sunday at the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. Young guns Mohamed El Shorbagy and Omar Mosaad advanced past veterans David Palmer and Adrian Grant, respectively, to set up an All-Egyptian final. On another tense day for Egyptian youth in the streets of Cairo, Egyptian youth reigned supreme on American squash courts.

Shorbagy and Mosaad will compete Monday night for a piece of the $50, 000 prize money and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.

Shorbagy, only 20 years old and ranked #9 in the world, held his own against the big 34-year-old Palmer – a former world #1 and current #16 – in a fast-paced affair that ended in a 3-1 (11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10) result. It was the first time the two competed against each other, and the idea of playing against such a decorated squash player left Shorbagy in awe.

“I’m so proud to play with someone like David Palmer,” Shorbagy said of the Aussie who has won 26 career titles and been a mainstay in the Top Five for the better part of a decade. “It’s the first time I’ve ever played him, and I’ve always wanted to play him. I didn’t care about winning or losing. I was just enjoying every single second of that match.”

“Playing him and beating him, that’s something that makes me proud and something I’m going to tell my kids one day,” he added. “I played David Palmer once and beat him once. I know he was thirty-four years old but still I will say I beat David Palmer!”

For two games, the two big hitters sized each other up. Each game went quickly, one game each.

“I didn’t have a game plan in the beginning,” Shorbagy said. “All I did know was that he has the best backhand volley in the world. So I was just trying to keep it away from him.

The first two games we were trying to know each other’s game, and then in the third and fourth, it was tight all the way.”

Indeed, games three and four were enthralling – the best squash of the tourney. Two top players at the top of their games. Drives, drop shots, lunging defense, spectacular kills, subtle boasts. It was textbook stuff and the capacity crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club loved it.

“I was trying to be patient, not going for silly errors,” continued Shorbagy after the match. “I could see in his face that he was really tired, but because he has so much experience, he knows how to play tired.”

The crowd rallied behind Palmer at the end – eager to see a fifth game of this wondrous squash. But this was Egypt’s day.

Shorbagy’s opponent in tomorrow’s final - countryman Mosaad – is big, 22-years old, and ranked world #15. And he held his ground against the physical, 30 year-old Grant, who was coming off back-to-back, five-game marathons on Friday and Saturday. The strain of those two matches - along with the fact that the Englishman is still is recovering from a hip tear - worked to Mosaad’s favor, as he recorded his first win against Grant in four tries.

“I remember what I do wrong,” Mosaad said of his strategy since the two last met in Spain in November. “Today, I made the tactics to win this game. He played two matches before me - difficult matches. So I tried to make the game quick. The difference between this match and the others (I lost) was I make this game quicker, a little more volleys and I get the win.”

Monday’s final marks the third meeting between Mosaad and Shorbagy, with their series tied 1-1. Shorbagy won in Spain in 2008 and Mosaad took the most recent encounter in Finland in 2009.

“Me and Mosaad are really good friends off court,” Shorbagy says. “When people see us playing, they actually think we hate each other. But me and Omar are good friends and are really close from when we were really, really young. So, it’s going to be fun tomorrow.”

“I’m just happy to reach the final,” says the rising Egyptian star. “Whoever’s going to win, it’s going to be a good day because it’s going to be an Egyptian.”

29-Jan, Quarters:
Englishman will face Mosaad;
Vet Palmer vs. young gun Shorbagy

By A.J. Hakim

England’s Adrian Grant has a knack for playing emotional, physically grueling, marathon matches at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

In the 2009 Motor City Open final, he suffered a deep scrape to his knee and took a racquet to the shoulder before falling to Spain’s Borja Golan in four games. This year – 24 hours after outlasting Mohd Ali Anwar Reda in a two-and-a-half hour, five-game thriller – World #17 Grant was taken to the limit again by fellow Englishman, Jonathon Kemp. Grant came from behind to win in the quarterfinals of the 12th annual Open presented by the Suburban Collection.

The favorites all advanced Saturday with veteran Englishman David Palmer and Egyptian youngsters Mohamed El Shorbagy and Omar Mosaad joining Grant in the semis. But none of the other semifinalists have had a match as physically taxing match as Grant’s - let alone two of them in two days.

Grant - in only his second tournament back since suffering a five-centimeter tear hip tear that sidelined him for three months - acknowledged he’s only at about 80 percent fitness. He’s still working off the rust. He entered the MCO as the four seed, without any expectations other than playing himself back into form.

“I’m really lacking the games and the sharpness, so to go through something like this is a good tester for me,” Grant said of his battle with Kemp. “I’m coming into this tournament not hoping anything. Obviously I want to win, but I’m just glad on the court.”

“I played the Tournament of Champions before this in New York,” he continued, “and that was my first match in three months. And I was lost! I was so bad and off the pace. I’m training hard, but I wasn’t match fit. So, now that I’m getting matches day in and day out, that’s what I need, and that’s what I’ve come for.”

His 3-2 (5-11, 16-14, 4-11, 11-5, 11-9) victory over Kemp - and his aggressive play on the court - showed his recovery might be further along than expected.

“(Kemp) had some tactics to try to slow the game down, which worked pretty well because it stopped me from attacking,” Grant said. “I think at the end it was just pure guts and determination. Sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, and that’s what I’ve done. But I know I’m still coming up to my best and I’m still looking forward to that.”

Grant’s opponent in Sunday’s semi, World #15 Omar Mosaad, defeated the surprise Englishman, Tom Richards, who was looking for another upset after ousting top-seed Laurens Jan Anjema in Round One. Mosaad jumped out to early leads in each game forcing Richards to play catch-up. The big Egyptian eventually won in four: 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5.

“I went up 6-1, then lost my concentration and he started to play well,” Mosaad said of his recovery from Game One. “So, I changed my tactic, started to take more volleys, change the pace, and I started to play well.”

“Every game - every game - was a bad start, and you can’t give somebody who’s as much quality as him a start like that,” Richards, World #30, reflected afterwards. “I was moving him around well, I thought he was pretty tired. It’s quite disappointing - I’d like to be able to go play those points again and just push him.”

The other semi will pit Aussie David Palmer, a former World #1 and 2000 MCO winner, against Egyptian World #9 Mohamed El Shorbagy. At 34, Palmer is in the twilight of a great career, while the 20-year old Shorbagy is on the cusp of greatness. The rangy Egyptian won after fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen retired due to injury at the start of the third game. Palmer had little problem with qualifier Alan Clyne, World #51, as he cruised in three: 11-3, 11-9, 11-4.

“I’m happy to win,” Palmer said. “This is the first time I’ve played him. He’s tough, he’s very fit, one of the fastest guys around the court. I thought I played pretty good, except for maybe a lapse in the second. I knew I really had to focus in the third game.

Of his semifinal match against the up-and-coming Shorbagy, Palmer said “it’ll be a new experience. I’ve seen him play. He’s very good - like all Egyptians. He’s got great shots, he’s very fast, tall. He’s gonna be a handful, that’s for sure.”

It should be a dandy.



28-Jan, Round One:
Top seed Anjema falls,
Grant survives scare

By A.J. Hakim

Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – David (Tom, actually) slew Goliath in the opening round of the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.

For the first time in the tournament’s 12 years, the top seed was ousted in Round One, as world #9 Laurens Jan Anjema fell in consecutive games to England’s World #30, Tom Richards. And though the other seeds advanced according to form, it wasn’t without more drama.

Mohamed El Shorbagy (#2), David Palmer (3), and Adrian Grant (4), all advanced – but Grant was stretched to the limit against Egyptian Mohd Ali Anwar Reda in an epic 5-gamer that lasted over 2 hours. And in an opening round match-up that might have spelled trouble for the 2000 MCO champ, Aussie Palmer looked impressive in holding off countryman – and World #15 - Cameron Pilley. Unseeded Jonathon Kemp, Alan Clyne, Omar Mosaad, and Tarek Momen all advanced as well.

Richards, in his first appearance at the MCO, stunned the crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club with the ease in which he handled Anjema. The Englishman kept the tall Dutchman on the defensive throughout, scoring a quick 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 11-7) victory. It was Richard’s first win over Anjema in four matches.

“I’ve been moving well and hitting it real well, not making too many errors,” Richards said of his recent form which has him playing the best squash of his young career. “I’m an attacking player - so if I’m not making errors, hopefully I’m making them work hard. I haven’t beaten him before, but I knew, with the way I’ve been playing, I had a good chance.”

Richards next opponent will be Omar Mosaad. The 6’ 3”, 198-pound Egyptian looked in good form Friday, defeating Aussie Ryan Cuskelly 3-0 (14-12, 11-7, 11-7). Mosaad and Richards have met only once previously, with Mosaad the victor at the 2010 KIG Open.

In other matches of note, Alan Clyne advanced to the quarters for the second straight year after defeating BAC Club pro and crowd-favorite Julian Wellings in three games, 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 11-8). Despite the loss, Wellings - at 38, the tourney’s oldest entrant - played light on his feet and with superb shot placement. He had the sold-out crowd cheering loudly throughout.

Two-seed El Shorbagy, just 20 years-old and already World #9, eliminated 2009 MCO champion Borja Golan 3-1 (11-8, 11-8, 2-11, 11-7). The defeat is a temporary pothole on Golan’s road back from seven months on the disabled list due to a torn ACL. The pair put on an exhibition of marathon rallies which, in previous years, might have resulted in El Shorbagy losing his patience.

But a more seasoned, mature El Shorbagy maintained a slow pace and held back on forcing kill shots until he was 100 percent sure he had one.

“The first two games I just slowed down the pace, and it was working very well today,” El Shorbagy said after his win against the speedy Spaniard. “The third game I completely lost my concentration, found myself down five-love, so I just let the game go. I played my best in the fourth, and I think he played his best. I was just trying to get everything back, be patient, and to just dig in, dig in, dig in.”

The tournament continues Saturday afternoon with the quarterfinals set to begin at 3 pm.


27-Jan, Qualifying Finals:
Top seeds advance to Main Draw

A.J. Hakim reports

 The top seeds held their ground and advanced out of the qualifying round Thursday night at the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. Four familiar faces to Motor City fans will be heading into Friday’s first round Main Draw.

Each of the four — Mohammed Abbas (2004), Borja Golan (2009), Alan Clyne (2010), and Ryan Cuskelly (2007-present)—have competed previously at the Birmingham Athletic Club, with Golan having won the title in 2009. None of the four encountered much resistance Thursday, with Golan and Clyne each cruising 3-0 and Abbas and Cuskelly, 3-1.

Abbas, world #38 and one of five Egyptians in the Big Show, opened the day against England’s Adrian Waller. Coming off a first-round bye, the slim Egyptian needed little time reacquainting himself with the BAC’s bouncy court. He jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead in the first game and - despite a momentary third-game lapse - was in control throughout. Abbas closed it out in four: 3-1 (13-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6).

“The court in here is a little tough because it’s a little bouncy,” Abbas said afterwards. “So, I tried to make it tough, make him work a little inside, and I think I was doing all well until the I lost my focus. In the fourth I tried to keep him inside and it was okay.”

In a rematch of last year’s qualifying round, Scotland’s Clyne, world #53, outlasted Hong Kong’s Max Lee (#62) in three games: 3-1 (13-11, 12-10, 11-7). The games featured marathon rallies that worked against Lee, who struggled with his fitness. Lee squandered a crucial 10-4 advantage in Game Two..

“I was 10-4 up, it just made me crazy,” Lee said of the second game. “When I’m 8-4 up, I just really wanted to finish. He just started getting used to it and played fast, fast, fast and really picked it up. I just wanted to make one point. I can’t make it - just one point. Just keep making errors.”

Clyne also spoke of his key Game Two comeback.

“Comebacks are quite hard in this new scoring because you’ve got one point and that’s it,” Clyne said. “Just after I got the first couple of points, I thought, ‘I really have a chance here, and if I get this it’ll really shift the momentum.’ That was pretty crucial.”

In the night’s final match, Spain’s Golan, world #31 and on the comeback trail from an ACL injury, defeated Christopher Gordon (world #74) of the United States: 3-0 (11-7, 11-3, 11-8. Looking to return to his 2009 MCO championship form, Golan enters Friday’s match against the #2-seed, Mohammed El Shorbagy, content with his improved performance.

“Of course I have different goals,” Golan said of the difference between 2009 and this year. “Two years ago I came in here to win the tournament, and this year, I just came to make the main draw.”

“I think today was much better than yesterday,” he continued. “Yesterday, I didn’t feel very comfortable. My shots weren’t tight enough. But I learned, and I put more pressure on Chris. He played very well, he’s a tough opponent, but I tried to play tighter, play good shots in the front, and so I’m happy.”

Aussie Ryan Cuskelly defeated Czech Jan Koukal in four games: 3-1 (10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7).

Friday’s opening round competition begins at 5pm on court 3.

Thanks to Tom Richards, Mohamed El Shorbagy and Tweet for the results

26-Jan, Qualifying Round One:
2009 champ Golan continues comeback
Lee upsets Mueller; Koukal survives

A.J. Hakim reports

 First round qualifying matches kicked off the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. The tournament - in its 12th year and recently designated as an “International 50” event under the PSA's new tournament structure - features fifteen competitors ranked in the world’s Top 40, including two previous MCO champions, Spain’s Borja Golan and Aussie David Palmer.

Borja's Back

The Spaniard returned to the Motor City in the unfamiliar position of having to qualify for the Main Draw. Still recovering from a torn ACL that sidelined him for seven months and dropped his ranking from world #10 to #103, Borja has climbed back to #31 and is in search of the form that won him this tourney in 2009. He showed signs of his old form in his opening match against 59th-ranked Gilly Lane of the USA. Golan cruised to a three-game victory, 12-10, 11-4, 11-8.

Max takes out Mueller

But it was Max Lee (world #62) of Hong Kong whose return to the Birmingham Athletic Club stole the spotlight from Golan on opening night.

Lee, who suffered a first-round exit last year to Alan Clyne, provided the night’s biggest upset by defeating World #39 Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland in four games: 5-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9. Lee countered the Swiss players aggressive, fast-paced style with tight shots and quick rallies.

“I think the first game - why I lose - it was just too many errors,” Lee said. “In the following games, we keep a very good pace, and he just pick up everything. I feel like he wanted to keep a high pace and I can’t really afford his high pace, so I just keep a slow pace and just want to stay on the court as long as I can.”

“I don’t really like the bouncy court because it’s my fitness,” he continued. “I really can’t afford the long match, and the bouncy courts keep a high pace. The ball is bouncy and there’s long rallies and it’s very hard to finish the rallies.”

Koukal comeback

Just as Lee ended the night in dramatic fashion, Czech Republic’s Jan Koukal - World #54 - began the day with a come-from-behind, five-set victory over 47-ranked New Zealander Campbell Grayson. Koukal, recovering from the flu, dropped his first game 2-11 and failed to convert on several game point opportunities in the second, falling into an 0-2 hole. That’s when things started coming together.

Playing on the defensive for most of the match, Koukal started moving better – countering Grayson’s attack. The Czech swept the next three games, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7.

“He got a little tired, I started playing better and came back,” Koukal said. “I was sick last week in New York and pretty much just got out of bed on Monday. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though I wasn’t playing that well, I could fight it out.”

And ...

Other competitors advancing to Thursday’s final qualifier round:

Scotland’s Alan Clyne (world #53) defeated MCO newcomer Stephane Galifi of Italy (world # 46) in three games, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9, England’s Adrian Waller (world #52) defeated Australia’s Zac Alexander (world #61) in straight games, 11-5, 13-11, 12-10. Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly (world #42) - in the evening’s tightest match-up according to world rankings - easily defeated American Julian Illingworth in three games, 11-5, 15-13, 11-4. And Christopher Gordon (world #74) of the United States defeated Canadian Keith Pritchard 11-7, 11-4, 12-10.

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