Strong field includes five former champions; Ex-champ Ong Beng Hee ousted
By James Hawkins
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. —The opening round of the 15th Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection, offered the tourney’s most competitive field ever. How strong? Nine of the world’s top-15 squash players (five of them former champions) were in action at the Birmingham Athletic Club outside Detroit Saturday.
Defending champion Amr Shabana of Egypt, Malaysian Ong Beng Hee (2012 winner), Egyptians Mohamed Elshorbagy (2011) and Karim Darwish (2010), and Finnish qualifier Olli Tuominen (2007) all kicked off their quest to join retired Canadian squash legend Jonathon Power as the only players to win the MCO title twice. And each of the former champs cleared his first hurdle except for Beng Hee, whose bid was cut short by Egyptian World #10 Omar Mosaad in five long games: 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9. Top seed Elshorbagy (World #4), second-seeded Darwish (World #9) and fourth-seeded Shabana (World #9) all rolled in straight games.
For Shabana, it’s been a crazy 24 hours.
By winning the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in nEw York Friday, he became the oldest player (age 34) to win a PSA World Series event. But there was no time to dwell on his accomplishment as Shabana boarded a plane to Detroit at 9 a.m. Saturday to turn his focus to defend his 2013 MCO title against up-and-coming compatriot Omar Abdel Meguid.
Shabana cruised to take Game One 11-5, but had to dig deep in Game Two. Facing game ball at 10-8, he caught a break as Abdel Meguid (World #30) tinned his next three shots to fall behind 11-10. After fighting off three more game balls, Shabana was finally took_ Game Two 18-16 en route to an 11-5, 18-16, 11-2 win.
“Omar has incredible hands, a very wide reach and any loose shots he’s going to put away. That’s why the second game was crucial,” Shabana said. “If he would’ve won that second game, it could’ve turned the match around so that’s I really pushed it.”
Unlike the former Egyptian champs, it wasn’t as easy for Tuominen. The 34-year-old World #27 pulled off the lone upset of the night, besting Egyptian World #12 Tarek Momen in a five-game thriller: 13-11, 7-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-8.
“Tarek is a very good player and I never beat him before,” said Tuominen. “He’s so precise and hits ball a lot to the front, but I was able to get most of them back. I just managed to keep my game accurate enough, not give him many opportunities so that he made some mistakes and punish him a little bit when he came to the front and move him around. It’s one of the best matches I’ve played in a while.”
The day’s longest match pitted Colombian World #13 Miguel Angel Rodriguez against World #15 Saurav Ghosal of India in a highly entertaining, two-hour bout between two speedsters.
Despite suffering a swollen right elbow after a diving play in Game Two, Rodriguez managed to prevail in five games: 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 12-14, 11-7.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match. The last time we played was four or five years ago in Spain and I lost 3-1,” Angel Rodriguez said. “I played with a good pace and control. In the fifth game – when I went down 5-3 – I knew I had to fight. All I was thinking about was not making any mistakes, to stay positive. And I did. I’m happy to win in my first match of the year.”
British World #8 Peter Barker and Aussie World #14 Cameron Pilley also moved on to the quarterfinals, which will begin Sunday at 4 p.m.
Saturday’s Main Draw Round 1 results:
-  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) def. [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 (30m)
- [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) def. Tarek Momen (EGY) 13-11, 7-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-8 (82m)
- Omar Mosaad (EGY) def. Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9 (90m)
-  Amr Shabana (EGY) def. [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 11-5, 18-16, 11-2 (61m)
-  Peter Barker (ENG) def. Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 11-5, 9-11, 12-10, 11-1 (89m)
- Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) def. Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 12-14, 11-7 (111m)
- Cameron Pilley (AUS) def. Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 11-7, 11-3, 11-4 (36m)
-  Karim Darwish (EGY) def. [Q] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 12-10, 11-9, 11-3 (34m)
Sunday’s quarterfinal matches:
-  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) vs [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN)
-  Amr Shabana (EGY) vs Omar Mosaad (EGY)
-  Peter Barker (ENG) vs Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
-  Karim Darwish (EGY) vs Cameron Pilley (AUS)