• MCO final: ElShorbagy downs Coll in five-game thriller

    by Geoff Robinson
    Motor City Open

    Birmingham, Michigan—It was only logical that, in a drama-filled week at The Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection, the championship match would be a 96-minute, five-game epic that ended on a controversial call.

    At the finish line it was top-seed Marwan ElShorbagy of Egypt winning the MCO for the first time by getting the better of second-seeded Paul Coll of New Zealand: 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9.

    Marwar Shorbagy uses every inch of his long fram to retrieve this forehand against Paul Coll. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    Marwan ElShorbagy uses every inch of his long frame to retrieve this forehand against Paul Coll. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    On his first championship ball at 10-9, ElShorbagy was awarded a stroke to win when the official decided that Coll ran through his opponent’s backswing after the Kiwi had picked himself up from a successful, diving save.

    Initially, confusion reigned. ElShorbagy threw his racquet in disgust and Coll backpedaled in disbelief as both thought the call had gone against them. Then the Egyptian celebrated as clarification came that a stroke had been called.

    Though the crowd was a bit disappointed that the match ended the way it did, it shouldn’t take away from one of the best showdowns in the 19-year history of the MCO.

    MCO runner-up Paul Coll left it all on the court in his finlas loss to Marwan ElShorbagy. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    MCO runner-up Paul Coll left it all on the court in his finals loss to Marwan ElShorbagy. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    “It was a tough match,” ElShorbagy said after the marathon final on the Birmingham Athletic Club’s lively, permanent courts. “It was the longest of my career. It doesn’t get any tougher than beating (Coll) on this court with how it plays. The (point) never ends. I had to be very strong mentally.”

    ElShorbagy (World #5) outlasted Coll in a 22-minute first game before the New Zealand man bounced back to even things up in the second.

    The tension really started to pick up in the third.

    Marwan ElShorbagy drops a backhand in close against MCO finals opponent Paul Coll. (MCO photo)

    Marwan ElShorbagy drops a backhand in close against MCO finals opponent Paul Coll. (MCO photo)

    ElShorbagy fell behind 1-4 after finding the tin a few times, but he was able to deliver masterful winners to take back the advantage. The all-important game ended after Coll found back-to-back tins.

    The trend continued into the fourth game. ElShorbagy was either on point or finding tins. Coll’s unstoppable effort delivered a few breathtaking dives that wowed the capacity crowd. It was a back-and-forth game, but three straight unforced errors by ElShorbagy were his undoing.

    “Once I got the opportunity to use my speed and push him to the front I seemed to hurt him,” Coll said.

    Kiwi Coll goes low. "Superman" nearly won his debut appearance at the MCO agasint veteran ElSHorbagy. (MCO photo)

    Kiwi Coll goes low. “Superman” nearly won his debut appearance at the MCO against veteran ElShorbagy. (MCO photo)

    In the fifth, ElShorbagy grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on the back of two big winners and a Coll tin. That lead ballooned to 5-1, then to 7-3, before Coll fought back to pull within a point at 7-6. A couple of nice drop shots from Coll tied things at 8-8, but he found tin on the next point. A winner by ElShorbagy pushed the match to the brink, but he found the tin on the next ball, setting up the dramatic final point that left Coll speechless as he walked off the court.

    Eye on ball: Marwan Shorbagy shows perfect form in a long rally with Paul Coll. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    Eye on ball: Marwan ElShorbagy shows perfect form in a long rally with Paul Coll. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    “It’s a tense part of the match and anything can happen,” Coll said. “I was scrambling. It probably was a stroke, but I’m obviously disappointed to lose like that. I forced a few things at times. He made me a bit edgy on my backhand volley because I could feel him behind me trying to get a stroke.”

    The win is the eighth Professional Squash Association championship for ElShorbagy, who promised the crowd during the trophy presentation that he would be back in 2019.

    MCO champion Marwan ElShorbagy of Egypt hoists the hardware after defeating Paul Coll (New Zealand in the final. ElShorbagy also won a Longines watch from Greenstone Jewelers. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    MCO champion Marwan ElShorbagy of Egypt hoists the hardware after defeating Paul Coll of New Zealand in the final. ElShorbagy also won a Longines watch from Greenstone’s Fine Jewelers. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    “I’m really pleased to win my first-ever Motor City Open,” ElShorbagy said. “This is great for me, it’s amazing. I’m so happy. To come back here next year and see my name on the wall will mean a lot to me.”

    In the meantime, the 2018 champion will enjoy his nearly $12,000 in prize money (out of a total $70,000 tournament pot) and a Longines watch presented by Greenstone’s Fine Jewelers.

    Paul Coll retrieves another deep drive from Marwan ElShorbagy in their grueling five-game final. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

    Paul Coll retrieves another deep drive from Marwan ElShorbagy in their grueling five-game final. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell for MCO)

     

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