Young phenom defeats World #3 English great, #9 Castagnet, and #1 El Shorbagy to claim title
by Geoff Robinson
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Ali Farag of Egypt showed up to the 2016 Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection as the 22nd-ranked player in the world – a big jump from his #88 ranking last year when he bowed out in the first qualifying round.
Now, his star will rise even higher after taking down English superstar and World #3, Nick Matthew, Monday to claim the title of MCO champion.
The win was Farag’s third consecutive defeat of a Top Ten player in as many days. After defeating World #1 Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt in the quarterfinals, Farag again impressed against World #9 Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet in the semis before making his case as the best young player in the game by completing the trifecta with his victory over Matthew. For his efforts Farag will take home a check for $10, 830 and a Longines watch from sponsor Greenstone’s Fine Jewelry.
Farag had won three PSA Tour titles prior to this weekend, but none could hold a candle to his route to the MCO championship.
“This is definitely the best week of my career by far,” the 23-year old Egyptian said afterwards. “I’ve showed myself that I can compete with these guys and have the mental toughness to do it three days in a row. Hopefully this is going to be the beginning of a good future.”
After falling behind 2-6 out of the blocks to the three-time World Champion Matthew, 35, Farag was able to find his rhythm, hitting two winners and crossing up the veteran on multiple occasions to take the first game: 11-7.
In Game Two Matthew stormed back with vengeance, winning five straight points after opening the game 3-3. Game Matthew, 11-5. Match evened at 1-1.
“The first game I should’ve done better,” Matthew said. “I turned it around in the second, but I got off to a bad start in the third and he started to read me.”
Farag was unstoppable in the final two games, coasting in the third, 11-6, then getting off to a start in the fourth that put everyone on notice that it would be the young phenom’s night. On the opening point of the final stanza Farag made a diving attempt to save the point. Two shots later, he hit a masterful backhand for a winner that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Farag reached game point at 10-4 – and while Matthew was able to fight off three championship points, the Harvard graduate that turned pro barely a year ago finally put the Englishman away with another beautiful backhand, 11-7.
“In the third and fourth, you have to go up an extra gear if you want to compete,” Farag said.
“He was on a roll,” Matthew said. “The crowd was feeding on him. The last few points was the first time I felt tired all week. Credit to him for getting me to that point.”
Receiving the MCO trophy, Farag credited all who came to watch him play over the last four days. The rising star said he would be back in 2017, and that he appreciated the opportunity to play in front of people who truly appreciate the players’ efforts on the court.
“If you ask any player, they would tell you that this is one of the best tournaments on tour,” Farag said. “We feel at home, and everyone takes care of us. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Farag def. (3) Matthew: 11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7, 50 mins.