Darwish and Iskander Advance to Motor City Final
Malaysian wears down two-seed Lincou in five; Darwish rolls over Aziz
Top seed Karim Darwish winds up against OmarAbdel Aziz in their semis duel. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Birmingham, Mich. – And then there were two. Top-seeded Karim Darwish and three-seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar reached the finals of the 2010 Motor City Open presented by Suburban Volvo in dramatically different fashion Sunday afternoon. Darwish swept through countryman Omar Abdel Aziz in 35 minutes, while Iskander upset #2 seed Thierry Lincou in a brilliant five-gamer.
The two will meet for the championship Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Birmingham Athletic Club, Michigan’s premier squash venue. The winner receives a portion of the tournament’s record $40,000 purse and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.
Darwish no doubt enjoyed watching Iskander and Lincou take each other to the limit. The Egyptian enters the match in dominating form, not having dropped a game on his way to the final. His semifinal opponent, Aziz, was coming off a marathon quarterfinal upset of Olli Tuominen the night before. Worse, he was nursing a leg injury. Aziz went down quickly: 11-4, 11-5, 11-3.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t want to retire, to be rude,” Aziz said of his feeling before the match. “I wanted to give it my all, do my best and see what happened.”
To compensate for the injury, Aziz tried playing an all-out strategy, making risky moves and putting his shots to the front, which only allowed Darwish to recover easily and match the attack.
“Omar is a very good player,” said Darwish, who is trying to regain his 2009 form as World #1 after a back injury sidelined him in December. “His fitness is really good, but today he was a little bit tired from yesterday’s match, so I took advantage of it.”
“Overall, I’m happy with my performance so far,” he continued. “My confidence is coming back again. To be in the semis in New York (last week’s Tournament of Champions), and to be in the final here, it’s a great achievement and I’m looking forward to my match tomorrow.”
Mohd Azlan Iskandar (front) put away #2 seed Thierry Lincou in five games. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Waiting for Darwish in the finals will be Iskandar, who has found much success on the lively BAC courts where the ball stays up, complimenting his natural speed. Against Lincou, a former World #1 currently ranked #9, Iskandar used the court to his advantage, playing at a quick pace and forcing Lincou into long, exhausting rallies. Down 1-2 in games, Iskandar rallied to win in five: 5-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-3, 11-4.
Lincou started strongly, building 5-2 leads in both the first and second games while hitting his kill shots with impressive accuracy.
”I was feeling really well, started really well,” said the Frenchman afterwards. “I had a good game plan. Then he started to pick everything up, limit his mistakes, so it was much harder for me to make a point. On the day, I think he was just fitter than me.”
That 5-2 lead in Game Two disappeared as Iskandar quickened the pace. It would prove a critical game for Iskander. “He was finding his length,” said the World’s #17-ranked player. “He was putting it away. The second game was very crucial. Of course, the third game I should’ve wrapped it up but I didn’t. I just said, ‘you know what, I’m feeling good, I’m just gonna step up now, you know.’”
Indeed, Game Three was Lincou’s undoing. Down 2-7, he rallied brilliantly to take the game 12-10 in overtime. But by winning the battle, he lost the war. The inexhaustible Iskander ran out the next two games and the match.
Monday will mark the fifth time Darwish and Iskandar have played in a PSA-sanctioned tournament. Darwish boasts a 4-0 record, with their most recent meeting ending in a 3-2 victory in the quarters in Hong Kong last October.
- Karim Darwish def. Omar Abdel Aziz 11-4, 11-5, 11-3
- Mohd Azlan Iskandar def. Thierry Lincou 5-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-3, 11-4
Motor City Open Final:
- Karim Darwish (1) v. Mohd Azlan Iskandar (3)