• MCO Qualifying, Day One: Tuominen, Iqbal survive

    by Geoff Robinson

    Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
     – Eight qualifying matches kicked off the 2016 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection before a capacity crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club. Wednesday’s international scorecard included four U.S. players, two five-game thrillers, and one BAC local favorite.

    Finland’s Olli Tuominen, the 2007 MCO champion, started the night with a marathon, come-from-behind victory over Chris Hanson of the United States, 8-11, 4-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-5.

    Finland's Olli Tuominen (fore) came from behind to defeat the USA's Chris Hanson. (BAC photo)

    Finland’s Olli Tuominen (fore) came from behind to defeat the USA’s Chris Hanson. (BAC photo)

    Hanson won the first two games with relative ease, and it looked like it was going to be a short-lived stay at the MCO for the former champ. But Tuominen kicked it into high gear in the third game against the world # 75. After the Finn raced to a 4-0 advantage in the fourth game, Hanson fought back and earned himself two match points. He hit the tin while attempting a drop shot on the first match point – then Tuominen stole the second match ball and the game. Fatigue took its toll on Hanson in Game Five, and Olli rolled on to Thursday’s final qualifying round.

    “He was playing quite well,” Tuominen said afterwards. “I managed to take control in the third. It wasn’t my best performance, but it’s good that I was able to get myself together.”

    One court over, Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, World #30, seemed to have things going his way against the USA’s Christopher Gordon. Salazar won the first two games 11-7, 11-7. But after failing to convert four match balls in the third and falling behind 7-2 in the fourth, Salazar was forced to retire due to a thigh injury.

    USA's Chris Gordon (right) outlasted Mexico's Cesar Salazar. (BAC photo)

    USA’s Chris Gordon (right) outlasted Mexico’s Cesar Salazar. (BAC photo)

    Gordon will face off against Tuominen Thursday for a spot in the Main Draw.

    Pakistan’s Nasir Iqbal and Arthur Gaskin of Ireland also went the distance before Iqbal finally prevailed in the fifth game. Gaskin’s early form ignited the crowd – staging comebacks to steal the first two games from the world’s 39th-ranked player. Down 9-2 in the first game, Gaskin started controlling the pace, putting Iqbal on the move. Gaskin won nine straight points to win it, 11-9. He came back again in Game Two from a 5-1 deficit to win, 11-8.

    But Iqbal still had fight left. The Pakistani dominated Game Three, 11-6, then broke open a tight fourth game to win, 11-8, leveling the match. It seemed as if the stars had aligned for Iqbal in the fifth game, as he raced to a 9-4 lead. Gaskin again refused to buckle, reeling off three consecutive points. But Iqbal held on to win, 11-7, after Gaskin hit a backhand into the netting on the final point.

    “My game was not working in the first two games,” Iqbal said. “My coach told me to start playing defensively, and when I did that I started moving him around and was able to win.”

    Pakistan’s Nasir Iqbal (right) outlasted Arthur Gaskin in five. (BAC photo)

    Pakistan’s Nasir Iqbal (right) outlasted Arthur Gaskin in five. (BAC photo)

    Iqbal will play his countryman, Farhan Zaman, in the next round of qualifying after Zaman took out Australia’s Campbell Grayson in four games: 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9.

    After dropping the second game to Grayson, Zaman got a laugh from the crowd after a no let was called, yelling to the umpire – “He’s big!” – after the Pakistani was unable to get around the large Australian. In the third and fourth games, Zaman got better length on his shots and Grayson wasn’t able to adjust.

    Local favorite and BAC Assistant Pro Shahid Khan (England) did his best to keep up with Malaysia’s 34th-ranked Naflizwan Adnan, but fell in straight sets: 11-5, 11-6, 11-3. World #41 Diego Elias (Peru) defeated Dylan Cunningham of the United States: 11-7, 11-6, 11-5. Cunningham hung tough through some solid rallies, but made too many unforced errors.

    Adnan will face off against Elias in the final round of qualifying.

    To finish the night Hong Kong’s Leo Au (world #31) made quick work of Sam Gould: 11-4, 11-2, 11-2). Au will face off with Todd Harrity tomorrow after the American ousted England’s Ben Coates: 11-3, 11-3, 11-6.

    The USA's Todd Harrity reaches for a backhand in his win over England’s Ben Coates. (BAC photo)

    The USA’s Todd Harrity reaches for a backhand in his win over England’s Ben Coates. (BAC photo)

    WEDNESDAY RESULTS

    Christopher Gordon (USA) def. Cesar Salazar (Mexico) 7-11, 7-11, 12-10, 7-2 (ret)

    Olli Tuominen (Finland) def. Chris Hanson (USA) 8-11, 4-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-5

    Diego Elias (Peru) def. Dylan Cunningham (USA) 11-7, 11-6, 11-5

    Naflizwan Adnan (Malaysia) def. Shahid Khan (England) 11-5, 11-6, 11-3

    Nasir Iqbal (Pakistan) def. Arthur Gaskin (Ireland) 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7

    Farhan Zaman (Pakistan) def. Campbell Grayson (New Zealand) 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8

    Leo Au (Hong Kong) def. Sam Gould (USA) 11-4, 11-2, 11-2

    Todd Harrity (USA) def. Ben Coates (England) 11-3, 11-3, 11-6

    THURSDAY MATCHES

    Adnan vs. Elias
    Au vs. Harrity
    Iqbal vs. Zaman
    Gordon vs. Tuominen

    Chris Hanson (fore) got ahead of 2007 champ Tuominen but couldn't stay there. (BAC photo)

    Chris Hanson (fore) got ahead of 2007 champ Tuominen but couldn’t stay there. (BAC photo)

     

     

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