In top form, Egyptian blitzes tournament without dropping a game
Top seed Karim Darwish hit his stride against Azlan Iskandar in Monday’s Motor City Open final. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Birmingham, Mich. – If there were any doubts about Karim Darwish’s form following a month off to nurse a sore back, they were quashed Monday night in the final of the 2010 Motor City Open presented by Suburban Volvo. Darwish, the tournament’s top seed, dominated three-seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar of Malaysia on the way to a 11-3, 11-7, 11-4 victory. The Egyptian’s supreme performance capped an event in which he did not lose a game.
Darwish dazzled a sold-out crowd at Michigan’s premier squash venue, the Birmingham Athletic Club, en route to taking home his $6,400 share of the record $40,000 purse and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.
“Last time (I was here) was in 2004 and I lost in the semis,” Darwish said of his upset loss to Olli Tuominen in his last appearance at the MCO. “It’s such a great feeling to win this tournament.”
Darwish quickly found his rhythm, building a 9-2 lead in Game One. Dictating the pace, he forced Iskandar – coming off an exhausting five-game win over Thierry Lincou the night before – into a quicker game than he could withstand. The Malaysian’s lone opportunity was in the second game when he came out firing and jumped to a 6-1 lead. Sensing a momentum change, the crowd cheered on the underdog Malaysian. But four quick errors – combined with several quality shots from Darwish – and Iskandar’s lead evaporated to a 6-6 tie.
Iskandar fought hard… but Darwish was always a step ahead. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
His opportunity erased, Iskandar turned defensive, allowing Darwish to re-establish his rhythm and take Game Two. “There were points in the second game where I thought I attacked a lot,” said Iskandar, whose record against Darwish in PSA-sanctioned events dropped to 0-5. “Then I really got defensive at 6-1, and that game was so important.”
“It’s those differences that make a match,” continued the World #20, “and someone like Darwish, who likes to keep a good rhythm, you need to keep (rhythm) with him – or break it. Today, I chose to keep it with him, which probably wasn’t the right thing to do.”
In an ending indicative of how the match played out, a mentally-fatigued and frustrated Iskandar stumbled and fell while retrieving a shot on the last point.
“Today I was really focused, and really wanted to finish it as quick as possible,” said Darwish, who improved to world #4 in the PSA’s February rankings. “I didn’t want to go in and play a long match, so I think I played really well today. I didn’t expect that I’d be that comfortable, but I know that he is a little bit tired from yesterday’s match. I took advantage of it, and I tried to play more offensive, tried to attack every ball and tried to get him to the back as much as possible.”
Champion Karim Darwish receiving the Motor City Open trophy and a Rolex watch. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
After the match, both players spoke admiringly of the tournament, the club, and their host families.
“The tournament has been really good,” Iskandar said. “Everyone has been so responsive with us, and it’s helped me to play good squash. The family I stayed with has been so good, and I felt really at home.”
“This is the second time for me here in Detroit,” said Darwish, his arms full of the tournament’s trophy, a check from David Fischer, Chairman and CEO of Suburban Volvo, and a dazzling Rolex watch from Robert Greenstone of Greenstone Jewelers. “I really liked the atmosphere here at the club. The people are so friendly. I really enjoyed it this week.”