French filet Aussies: Abbas in fine form
Abbas (in front) controlled play agaisnt Mehmund all night. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan – Four qualifiers advanced in convincing fashion Thursday night to take their place in the main draw of the 2012 Motor City Open, presented by The Suburban Collection. Frenchmen Mathieu Castagnet, World # 46, and Gregoire Marche (#45), Hong Kong’s Max Lee (39) and Egyptian Mohammed Abbas (35) will play in the first round which begins Friday at the Birmingham Athletic Club (BAC).
Hong Kong’s Lee never escaped the qualies in his first two MCO appearances (2010 and 2011). Turns out, all he needed was a court change.
Lee lost both his previous matches on Court 3, but this year his two matches on Court 2 yielded positive results – including Thursday’s 3-0 (13-11, 11-8, 14-12) victory against World # 48 Siddharth Suchde of India.
“Last two times I lost in second round qualifying in the same court, so this time I changed the court,” Lee said afterwards. Who says athletes aren’t superstitious?
Cuskelly climbs the ladder for an overhead. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Also making their debut in the main draw are Frenchmen Castagnet and Marche who defeated Aussies Ryan Cuskelly, World #36, and Zac Alexander (43), respectively.
Unlike his two-hour marathon against Cuskelly at last year’s North American Open in Richmond, Virginia, Castagnet needed only 45 minutes and three games to down the Aussie (11-8, 11-7, 11-5).
“I’m really happy to win my match today,” said Castagnet who let out a whoop after taking match point. “Ryan Cuskelly is one of the top players in the world. I was happy to win 3-0 because normally we are supposed to play 122 minutes like last year.”
Neither competitor was 100 percent for the match, with Castagnet recovering from a hamstring injury suffered last week and Cuskelly from mental and physical exhaustion after a grueling 19-tournament tour last year. The combination of Castagnet’s return skills and the ball’s lively bounce off the BAC courts proved the difference.
“He gets the ball back all the time,” Cuskelly said after the match. “It’s like you’ve got to get four or five winners just to win a point. I just didn’t really feel all that fit or strong, just a little flat. I had a big year last year, so I haven’t got that big push at the moment like I had last year. The body just feels a bit run down.”
Cuskelly’s fellow Aussie, Alexander, struggled with fitness too in his match against the sharper, stronger Marche who won in three (11-4, 11-3, 11-8). “He was too sharp at the start,” Alexander said. “I always felt like I was going to need a bit of luck to get through this week, just the way I was feeling, and he was too sharp, too good.”
Mehmund sets up another big backhand. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Egyptian Abbas, playing his third MCO, ended 18-year-old Aurangzeb Mehmund’s Cinderella run, defeating the Pakistani 3-0 (11-5, 11-2, 11-5). Mehmund had upset Jan Koukal in round one of qualifying. Abbas’ experience and craftiness in the short game trumped Mehmund’s aggressive, hard-hitting style.
“He’s really fast and hits it really hard and always aiming for the nicks inside,” Abbas said. “What I’m trying to do all the time is try to get it back to the wall and limit a little bit his shots and wait for any opening so I can go short with it. Most of the time I was defending, waiting for a mistake or an opening so I can go at it with a winner.
Friday’s First Round play at the BAC begins at 5:00 p.m.
Thursday’s final qualifying results:
- Marche def. Zac Alexander 11-4, 11-3, 11-8
- Lee def. Siddharth Suchde 13-11, 11-8, 14-12
- Castagnet def. Ryan Cuskelly 11-8, 11-7, 11-5
- Abbas def. Aurangzeb Mehmund 11-5, 11-2, 11-5
Friday’s Round One matches, main draw:
-  Mohamed El Shorbagy (defending champion) v. Mathieu Castagnet
-  Cameron Pilley v.  Alan Clyne
-  Ong Beng Hee v. Gregoire Marche
-  Shahier Razik v.  Miguel Angel Rodriguez
-  Alister Walker v.  Aamir Atlas Khan
-  Stephen Coppinger v. Mohammed Abbas
-  Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan v. Max Lee
-  Adrian Grant v.  Hisham Mohd Ashour