By Matt Schoch
The Motor City Open
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Two seeds fell in upsets and three former champions moved on in Round of 16 squash action at the Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.
Adrian Waller of England and Zahed Salem of Egypt topped seeded opponents and will play in Thursday’s quarterfinals, seeking their third win in as many days at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
Waller pulled the biggest upset of the night, knocking off sixth-seeded Raphael Kandra of Germany, World #!7, in a five-game, 70-minute thriller.
“That was a tough match,” said Waller, who is ranked 39th, as he rode a stationary bike for a 20-minute session after the match. “Both of us really put everything on the line.”
Waller was down 4-6 in the fifth, but won six of the final seven points to close out Kandra. It was the third straight match between the pair that has gone five games.
“I think both of us knew what to expect, and we both knew we were going to have to push hard again, and we did,” added the sturdy, 6’3” Englishman. “It just shows how close it is out there.”
Salem closed the night with a five-game victory against eighth-seed Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland.
Mueller, a semifinalist here last year, dominated early with an 11-3 win in the opening game, but Salem then won two tight ones before World #20 Mueller forced the decisive fifth game.
Salem took an 8-1 lead and held on for the 11-5 win. The Egyptian is coming back from a hamstring injury that put him out of action for a month last year.
“In the fifth, I told myself I’m here to win,” Salem said. “After the injury, I lost some confidence and I wasn’t playing that well. But I’m looking for more and more.”
Four of the eight quarterfinalists are from Egypt, the country that has won six of the past nine MCO titles. The top-five seeds, including three former MCO champions, will headline the quarters.
Top-seeded Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt, the defending MCO champion and World #5, won in four games against countryman Mazen Hesham.
“Mazen is a tricky player,” El Shorbagy said. “It’s always good to come back here, also as defending champion. I’m really excited for the rest of the week. It was good to get my name on the wall with those great players, and if I can do it again, that would be great. That’s the aim.”
Second-seeded Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia, the 2015 MCO champion and sixth-ranked player in the world, dropped the first stanza to Mathieu Castagnet of France, but recovered to take three straight.
Fifth-seed and 2017 champion Ryan Cuskelly of Australia cruised in three games over Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu, who had played a marathon 95-minute match the day before.
“I think he was a bit tired from the match (Tuesday), so he sort of wasn’t running for some balls. It was hard, but then he really started trying in the second and third,” Cuskelly said. “It was a bit scrappy in the end. I haven’t played many matches, so it was good to get a win under my belt.”
World #14 Cuskelly has had tough draws of late and has not won many matches since October.
“I’ve played top four in the world every tournament in the last three tournaments,” Cuskelly said. “I’m just looking forward to playing and getting some matches.”
Chris Hanson of New York and Todd Harrity of Bryn Mawr, Pa., became the first two Americans to earn main draw victories in MCO history on Tuesday. Both fell on Wednesday despite good showings.
Harrity went four games with third-seed Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt, but fell 12-10 in the final game.
Hanson, the lowest-ranked player in the field and a late entry, opened Wednesday with a five-game, 72-minute loss to seventh-seeded Omar Mossad of Egypt. The 6’3” Mossad, who carries the nickname “Hammer of Thor,” won the deciding game 11-9 in a rematch from last week’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York City.
“He hits the ball hard and you have to be on your game from the start,” Hanson said. “It’s hard not to be disappointed when there’s the opportunity to win, but obviously happy with the way I’m playing. I lost to him three-love 10 days ago (in New York), so to be a couple points from winning today is good progress. I just have to push that forward.”
The MCO is the second-longest running pro squash tourney in the US. In addition to his take of the $75,000 total purse, the champion will take home a Longines watch from Greenstone’s Jewelers.
A charity auction will be held in conjunction with the MCO with proceeds to benefit Racquet Up Detroit, a youth development program that combines squash, mentoring, and community service. Racquet Up juniors will be among those participating in the MCO’s Junior Clinic where tourney pros coach young players from the greater-Detroit area and Windsor.
1. Marwan El Shorbagy (Egypt) def. Mazen Hesham (Egypt), 11-4, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7
7. Omar Mossad (Egypt) def. Chris Hanson (United States), 11-4, 7-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-9
5. Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) def. Iker Pajares Bernabeu (Spain), 11-2, 11-8, 11-8
4. Diego Elias (Peru) def. Cesar Salazar (Mexico), 7-11, 11-7, 3-1 (retired)
3. Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt) def. Todd Harrity (United States), 11-7, 11-6, 11-13, 12-10
Adrian Waller (England) def. 6. Raphael Kandra (Germany), 9-11, 12-10, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7
Zahed Salem (Egypt) def. 8. Nicolas Mueller (Switzerland), 3-11, 13-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5
2. Miguel Rodriguez (Colombia) def. Mathieu Castagnet (France), 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5
1. Marwan El Shorbagy (Egypt) vs. 7. Omar Mossad (Egypt), 6:30 p.m., Court 2
5. Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) vs. 4. Diego Elias (Peru), 6:30 p.m., Court 3
3. Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt) vs. Adrian Waller (England), 7:30 p.m., Court 2
Zahed Salem (Egypt) vs. 2. Miguel Rodriguez (Colombia), 7:30 p.m., Court 2
Quarterfinals: Thursday, Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m.
Semifinals: Friday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m.
Finals: Saturday, Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Athletic Club
4033 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI
FOR TICKETS AND INFORMATION CONTACT: Julian Wellings, MCO Squash Director, 248.646.5050, email@example.com