• MCO Qualifying, Round One: No surprises as favorites advance

    Cuskelly, Butt, Koukal, Clyne are winners, local favorite Joint bows out

    The pace was fast and furious all night! Here Scott Arnold rips a forehand on his way to victory over Fred Reid. (Birmingham 							Athletic Club photo)The pace was fast and furious all night! Here Scott Arnold rips a forehand on his way to victory over Fred Reid. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)

    Birmingham, Mich. – Round one of qualifying for the 2010 Motor City Open presented by Suburban Volvo, wrapped Wednesday night as higher-ranked favorites advanced with minimal resistance. Played at Michigan’s premier squash venue, The Birmingham Athletic Club outside Detroit, the MCO is in its 11th year and sports a record $40,000 purse plus Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.

    Only one match extended beyond three games as Scotland’s Alan Clyne (world #68) defeated Max Lee (world #87) of Hong Kong, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-6. Also advancing into Thursday’s second qualifying round: Czech Republic’s Jan Koukal, Ryan Cuskelly of Australia, England’s Adrian Waller, Aussie Scott Arnold, Bernardo Samper of England,  Australian Matthew Karwalski, and Yasir Butt of Pakistan. The top four qualifiers will enter the MCO’s main draw which begins play Friday evening.

    Clyne v. Lee was a succession of rapidly-paced, quickly-finished rallies. The torrid pace prevented either player from establishing a rhythm, which worked against Lee who prefers slower, more strategy-oriented games. Lee eked out a first-game win, but lost focus and dropped the next three.

    “I find that he wanted to pace up the game more,” Lee said. “And all the games I wanted to slow down, slow down, attack, attack, slow down, slow down because my pace is actually slower.”

    The pace took its toll on Lee as Clyne jumped out to leads of 8-1 and 5-0 to start the second and third games, respectively. Clyne took the match by the throat in the fourth by winning seven consecutive points and taking a 10-5 lead.

    “The third game was very balanced,” said Lee.”But he’s fitter than me, actually.”

    Avenging a defeat in China last year, Jan Koukal (L) was too strong for Dick Lau 							(Birmingham Athletic Club photo)Avenging a defeat in China last year, Jan Koukal (L) was too strong for Dick Lau (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)

    Koukal (world #60) and Hong Kong’s Dick Lau (world #97) met in the penultimate match of the night. From a tight, 11-8 opening game (won by Koukal), it appeared it would be a match of equals. Koukal’s 11-2 victory in the second set said otherwise.

    “He beat me last time we played in China a couple months ago, so I was a little nervous in the beginning of the match because I didn’t know what to expect,” Koukal said afterwards. “I was surprised I was moving well, so I could make him work quite hard, and he ended up making a lot of mistakes which helped.”

    Lau lamented his missed opportunities and shots and said he was out of form. “It’s the beginning of the year, and I find myself in not as good of shape,” Lau said. “I’m getting better, but he was too good for me today. I was a bit impatient, and he played well.”

    Qualifying opened with a match-up of two Aussies, world #54 Ryan Cuskelly against world #85 Wade Johnstone. Cuskelly, who made it into the main draw last year, never took his foot off the gas pedal, controlled the “T,” and forced Johnstone to the defensive. Cuskelly prevailed: 11-5, 11-8, 11-5.

    The rest of the scores:

    • Waller (world #75) def. Christopher Gordon (world #79) 11-4, 11-3, 11-8
    • Arnold (world #64) def. Fred Reid (world #219) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5
    • Samper (world #65) def. Khawaja Adil Maqbool (world #91) 11-8, 13-11, 11-6
    • Karwalski (world #74) def. Mick Joint (local pro at the Detroit Athletic Club and a crowd favorite) 11-8, 13-11, 11-6
    • Butt (world #55) def. Edward Marks (world #263) 11-8, 11-3, 11-6

    Matchups for Thursday’s second round of qualifying, which begins at 6 PM:

    • Ryan Cuskelly vs. Adrian Waller
    • Alan Clyne vs. Jan Koukal
    • Scott Arnold vs. Bernardo Samper
    • Matthew Karwalski vs. Yasir Butt

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