Egyptian phenom will meet Castagnet in semis; Matthew, Golan cruise
by Geoff Robinson
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Ali Farag won three PSA World Tour titles in 2015 – but Saturday’s quarterfinal against fellow Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy in the 2016 Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection was the finest moment of his career. He went toe-to-toe with the World #1 and came out on top in five games.
The 22-year old will join France’s Mathieu Castagnet, Nick Matthew of England, and Spaniard Borja Golan in Sunday’s semifinals at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
When the first match of the day kicked off on Court 3, it didn’t appear that anything out of the ordinary was on the horizon. El Shorbagy took the first game over Farag with ease: 11-6. The two-time MCO champ came out of the blocks fast – in form and hitting pinpoint shots for winners.
Things changed midway through the second stanza as El Shorbagy, leading 6-3, may have gotten too comfortable. Farag fought his way back into the game and took it: 11-9.
Seizing the momentum, Farag rode quality strokes to Game Three victory: 11-7. El Shorbagy fell behind 1-4 to open the fourth and appeared on the ropes, before reaching deep down to get back in the game. A pair of winners to give him game point, then Farag tinned to even the match, 2-2.
Game Five was neck-and-neck until 4-4, but Farag started bringing his larger opponent in with drop shot after drop shot, and El Shorbagy appeared to wear down as the unforced errors piled up. Farag continued to run the top seed back and forth, winning the match with an 11-8 triumph in the fifth.
“It’s one of the bigger wins of my career,” Farag said afterwards. “To beat the world number one is a huge thing. He was dominating the first game and a half. I changed my plan a bit, and thankfully it worked.”
Meanwhile, Castagnet and Ryan Cuskelly were staging an epic of their own. Castagnet came back from a 1-2 game deficit, dominating Game Five (11-2) to set up a semifinal showdown with Farag.
“I was a bit nervous,” Castagnet said. “I couldn’t clear my head and it was really difficult today. The fourth game was crucial, and when he came back on the court he was really tired, so he couldn’t give anymore.”
Cuskelly took advantage of a frustrated Castagnet in Games Two and Three, as the Frenchman had a running dialogue with the umpire. Castagnet dialed it in for the fourth and fifth games when it really mattered.
Number-two seed Matthew provided the capacity crowd with a much more dominant performance in his quarterfinal – defeating fellow Englishman Chris Simpson in straight games. After the second seed’s dramatic, five-game triumph in Round One, Matthew was dialed in from start to finish against Simpson.
The final match of the night showcased the 2009 MCO Champion, Golan, who hasn’t broken a sweat through his first two matches. He took out Hong Kong’s Leo Au – the last remaining qualifier was playing in his fourth match in four days – in straight games. The match lasted just 35 minutes.
(7) Ali Farag d. (1) Mohamed El Shorbagy 6-11, 11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6
(3) Mathieu Castagnet d. (5) Ryan Cuskelly 11-9, 7-11, 5-11, 11-9
(6) Borja Golan d. Leo Au 11-4, 11-2, 11-5
(2) Nick Matthew d. Chris Simpson 11-6, 11-6, 11-7
Farag v. Castagnet (4:30 PM)
Golan v. Matthew (5:30 PM)