Will meet two-seed Ashour in final
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — Thirty one-year old World #34 Ong Beng Hee may be in the twilight of his career but the veteran still has some gas in the tank. The Malaysian shocked the Motor City Open, presented by The Suburban Collection, Sunday by upsetting defending champion and top seed Mohamed El Shorbagy, 11-9, 11-7, 13-11.
He will face another Egyptian, two-seed Hisham Mohd Ashour, in Monday’s finals.
The first time Beng Hee competed at the MCO in 2000, he was a 19-year-old up-and-comer on the Professional Squash Association circuit. That year, he advanced to the semifinals, losing to then-World #9 Alex Gough in four games. Since then he has risen as high as #7 in the world rankings and been a steady presence in the Top 20 before injuries slowed him up in the last year.
He won Sunday playing a fresher, younger Shorbagy. Beng Hee was playing just 24 hours after a five-game, 122-minute marathon quarter against Cameron Pilley – and two nights after another five-game endurance-test against Gregoire Marche.
“I’m extremely happy I made the finals this time,” Beng Hee said. “I’ve been struggling the last season, so to start this year being in the finals – I’m extremely happy.”
After executing his game plan, pushing the shot-making Egyptian deep in the court, and playing a near-perfect first two games, Beng Hee started to feel fatigue late in Game Three.
“I don’t think Shorbagy played his best, maybe a bit nervous because he’s the defending champion and I had no pressure,” Beng Hee said of his opponent, the World #6. “When I went 10-7 up, I got a bit tired because I think I played really well until then. And Shorbagy started to pick up his momentum. He’s a young guy, so he’s obviously extremely fit and very strong. And he started to play a lot better.”
“I think towards the end I got a bit lucky,” continued the Malaysian. “Eleven-all is anyone’s game. Had he won it, it would have definitely gone to five because I was getting a bit tired.”
His opponent in the final, Ashour, was also feeling tired with legs heavy from competing in his third straight tournament. Still, Ashour defeated Stephen Coppinger in four, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9.
“I know he’s been playing really well lately,” Ashour said of Coppinger, ranked #34. “The thing is, my legs are so heavy today, and he takes the ball so early too. He’s a half-volleyer. He takes the ball early so I knew my legs are not super fast, so I had to hold the ball a lot and try to always keep him behind me.”
The 29-year-old advances to his second final in 2012, having reached the championship at the Comfort Inn Open in Vancouver. He hopes his fast start in 2012 — and possible MCO championship — will help him achieve a childhood dream.
“I’m pretty happy I’m in the finals,” said the current World #14. “If I win this tournament I think I move from 14 to into the Top Ten, which has been my dream since I was 10 years old. I’m almost 30 now.”
Ashour and Beng Hee met previously in November at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open 2011, with Ashour winning in four. “May the best player win,” said Beng Hee. “I think it’s going to be a tough match.”
The championship match begins at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday’s semifinal results:
- Ong Beng Hee def. Mohamed El Shorbagy 11-9, 11-7, 13-11
- Hisham Mohd Ashour def. Stephen Coppinger 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9
Championship match, Monday:
Beng Hee vs. Ashour