Bloomfield Hills, Mich– The Birmingham Athletic Club’s favorite son, Ryan Cuskelly, fought back against Ali Farag after dropping the first game to claim The Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection championship in a 4-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-9 triumph Monday night at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
In his ninth year participating in the MCO, Cuskelly advanced to the semifinals for the very first time. He took that accomplishment two steps further in his upset of the defending tournament champion and world #7 Farag, earning what he called the biggest win of his career.
“I’m pretty excited to win my biggest title in my favorite tournament on the tour,” Cuskelly said. “I always told the guys here I’d win it someday, but I didn’t expect it to be this year.”
The night didn’t start well for Cuskelly, as Farag came out with pinpoint precision in a dominant first game.
Things took a dramatic shift in the second game, however, as Cuskelly chased down ball after ball and the pace of the match started to pick up. The 29-year-old Australian got out to a 3-0 lead before Farag took the next four points. Cuskelly answered with a five-point run when he got Farag on the move and forced the young phenom into hitting tough shots into the tin.
Cuskelly owned the third much like the second, going on a five-point run to create separation and move one game away from a title.
“He stepped it up,” Farag said. “I couldn’t find the right balance between being aggressive and playing smart. Every time I would try to be aggressive, I would hit the tin. He put too much pressure on me.”
The fourth game was a show that had the capacity crowd at the BAC on the edge of their seats. Farag appeared to regain his steady form, getting out to a 9-4 lead. At that point, Cuskelly was just trying to make sure he would go into the fifth with a bit of momentum.
“I was up 4-2 and I thought about the finish line, which is silly,” Cuskelly said. “Next minute I was down 9-4 and I just tried to get back to playing normal squash for the next game.”
As things got tighter and Cuskelly cut Farag’s lead to 7-9, and then 8-9, it became apparent that the momentum had swung. Cuskelly dove on the floor to save the next point, hitting a winner after he got to his feet and tying things up.
After Farag found the tin again to give Cuskelly match point, the longtime MCO grinder and world #19 was finally able to call himself champion when he hit a beautiful winner to claim the match.
“It’s unbelievable,” Cuskelly said. “I lost in qualification for years, but I did a lot of hard training in December and it paid off.”
Cheers to you, Mr. Cuskelly!