First round matches set for Friday night
Birmingham, Mich. – Qualifying for the 2009 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection wrapped up Thursday with four men advancing to Friday’s Main Draw. Martin Knight of New Zealand, Malaysia’s Mohd Nafiidzwan Adnan, Yasser El Halaby of Egypt, and Aussie Ryan Cuskelly all scored convincing victories on a festive Sponsor’s Night at the Birmingham Athletic Club where the crowds were big, boisterous, and full of love for the nomad athletes that have come to town to perform for them.
“I’ll root for you today!” called out one fan as Knight approached the entrance of Court Two for his match-up against Regardt Schonborn. The good tidings came just a day after Knight had played the role of public enemy #1 in defeating local pro and crowd favorite, Mick Joint.
“Obviously I was going to get a better crowd today than I did yesterday,” Knight said afterwards, laughing. “But a couple of the guys who were down here watching the game yesterday supporting Mick, came down and supported me today. It was really pleasing.”
By the end of his match, Knight had won over the entire audience who were captivated by the display of athleticism put on by the fit Kiwi and his South African opponent. From tin to stern, both competitors covered the entire court to retrieve balls that, to the crowd, often appeared unreachable.
In the end, Knight stood victorious, thanks in large part to an improbable come-from-behind win in Game One that set the tone for the match. Trailing 7-10, Knight rallied for the final five points and escaped the first set 12-10. From then on, he jump on his opponent early in Games Two and Three, taking both for a three-game sweep: 12-10, 11-7, 11-5.
“It was hard to get out in front of him and do anything useful,” Schonborn said of Knight. “He’s so comfortable retrieving, and he gets in a comfort zone and feeds off his own movement. It’s hard to break.”
Competing in the court adjacent to Knight and Schonborn were Australian Wade Johnstone and world #58 Adnan.
Battling fatigue from a hard fought first-round win, Johnstone couldn’t muster the energy to maintain his form against his more-rested opponent. As a result, Adnan secured a four-set victory: 12-10, 6-11, 11-4, 11-6.
In the first match of the day, Australia’s Zac Alexander met Egyptian Yasser El Halaby. Yasser arrived fresh off what he considers his best performance as a pro at the Tournament of Champions in New York where he advanced to the Round of 16 – defeating former World #1 (and 2006 MCO champ) John White along the way.
The favorite of the MCO qualifying draw, El Halaby proved the more skilled player, controlling the tee and keeping Alexander off-balance on his way to a three-set win, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9.
Christopher Gordon, the lone remaining representative of the United States in the tourney, struggled against Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly (world #63), who finished with an 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 victory. Cuskelly got out of the blocks quickly, going ahead 8-1 in Game Two and 5-1 in the third, and Gordon didn’t have enough firepower to overcome the deficits.
Main Draw matches begin Friday at 5:00 PM. The schedule:
- 5:00PM COURT 3 – Cameron Pilley (AUS) vs. Tarek Momen (EGY)
- 5:30PM COURT 2 – Stewart Boswell (AUS) vs. Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
- 6:00PM COURT 3 – Adrian Grant (ENG) vs. Julian Wellings (ENG)
- 6:30PM COURT 2 – Shahier Razik (CAN) vs. Jan Koukal (CZE)
- 7:00PM COURT 3 – Amr Swelim (EGY) VS Olli Tuominen (FIN)
- 7:30PM COURT 2 – Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) vs. Nafiidzwan Adnan (MAS)
- 8:00PM COURT 3 – Borja Golan (ESP) vs. Yasser El Halaby (EGY)
- 8:30PM COURT 2 – Hisham Ashour (EGY) VS Martin Knight (NZL)
Final Qualifying results:
Yasser El Halaby (EGY) def. Zac Alexander (AUS) 11-8, 11-7, 11-9
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) def. Chris Gordon (USA) 11-7, 11-9, 11-9
Nafiidzwan Adnan (MAS) def. Wade Johnstone (AUS) 12-10, 6-11, 11-4, 11-6
Martin Knight (NZL) def. Regardt Schonborn (RSA) 12-10, 11-7, 11-5