Top-seed storms back from two games down, takes second MCO title
by James Hawkins
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — Entering this year’s 15th Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection, only one player had won it twice — retired Canadian squash legend Jonathon Power. Egyptian World #4 Mohamed Elshorbagy added his name to that short list Tuesday night after rallying from behind to defeat World #8 Peter Barker in an epic, five-game championship match: 8-11, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7.
For his efforts Elshorbagy won $11,000 in prize money and a $9,000 Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch — courtesy of Greenstone’s Jewelers.
“I’m happy to win my second Rolex now,” said 23-year-old Elshorbagy, who also won the MCO in 2011. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing the only other player who has won this tournament twice is Jonathon Power. It’s such an honor to put my name up there with him.”
After two games before a standing room only crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club, however, it appeared Barker might be crowned the new champion. The Englishman’s short game was working to perfection and his dogged defensive retrievals were stifling Elshorbagy’s offense. It didn’t help that Elshorbagy struggled with his stroke, tinning four shots in Game One and five more in the second – twice when he had game ball.
“Peter played so well in the beginning of the match. It wasn’t his length game that surprised me, but his short game. His short game has improved a lot,” Elshorbagy said. “Losing the second game that way was really tough, but I came back and told myself I have to find a way to win. It doesn’t matter how, I’m going to find it. I just had to be strong mentally and that’s what all the top players do. That’s what I learned from players like (Gregory) Gaultier, (Amr) Shabana and Nick (Matthew). I thought ‘Okay, I’m going to cut the errors, be really patient and if he’s one of the best players on the tour in the length game, I’m going to try to match him and go for the shot when I’m 100 percent sure that it’s going to be the right one.’”
Elshorbagy’s personal pep talk worked as he mounted his comeback with better shot-making, racing out to a 5-2 lead in Game Three and sealing it on a backhand nick rollout and a pair of unforced errors from Barker.
In Game Four, Elshorbagy stormed out to a 5-0 lead as threw a relentless mix of drop shots and deep-corner rails that Barker couldn’t reach. Barker tied it at 5-all, but Elshorbagy went on another run – hammering long rails and flicking drop shots that Barker was a step slow to retrieve. In just his second tournament back after a November calf injury, Barker looked spent. Elshorbagy closed out the game at 10-5 as Barker hit a backhand into the tin.
To an ovation from the crowd, the two sportsmen shook hands before squaring off for the deciding Game Five.
Much like Game Four, Elshorbagy rolled to an early 5-0 lead behind a pair of backhand winners and a sereis of drop shots. His lead ballooned to 7-1 before a determined Barker clawed back in with a pair of ridiculous drop shots and several unforced errors from Elshorbagy. Clinging to a 7-6 lead, Elshorbagy responded with a pair of winners – then closed out his eighth career PSA Tour title on a drop shot and rail into the back right corner that Barker was unable to corral.
“After I had that lead in the third game, my length started getting better and my confidence came back as well, so I had more options to go short,” said Elshorbagy “But credit to Peter for coming back the way he did from the injury he had. It was such a fair match and I’m happy this tough battle was as close as it was.”
As runner-up, Barker took home a check worth $8,000.
“As the game went on, my body started breaking down a little bit. I need my movement because retrieving and making my movement hurt people is my game. But more credit to him because he stuck in there and upped the pace,” Barker said.
“I’ve heard great things about this tournament and I’m sorry it took me until I was 30 to come,” Barker said to the appreciative crowd. “But all the good things you hear about it on the tour is true. I’ll be back.”
2014 Motor City Open championship match:
-  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) def.  Peter Barker (ENG) 8-11, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (92m)