• MCO Round One: Number four seed Pilley knocked out

    Adrian Grant and Julian WellingsLocal favorite, BAC pro Julian Wellings (L), stayed close to top seed Adrain Grant before succumbing in three games. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)

    Other seeds roll

    Birmingham, Mich. – Round One of the 2009 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection is in the books and, while most of the top seeds advanced with little trouble, there was one upset – young Tarek Momen, just 20 years old and already World #29, took down #4 seed Cameron Pilley of Australia

    It should come as no surprise, however, that Momen hails from Egypt. Egyptian squash has been resurgent in recent years and 2008 saw a first: The top three players in the world all came from Egypt. Their ranks are deep as well. Including Momen, eight Egyptians rank in the world’s Top 20 – more than any other nation.

    On Friday night, Tarek used his quickness and dazzling retrieval skills to oust World #17 Pilley. The pair had split their previous two encounters, and are familiar with one another’s style. But, as Pilley found out, familiarity doesn’t always breed success.

    “We know (our) strengths and weaknesses,” Pilley said afterward. “But it’s a different story to actually know how to play someone, and to get out there and put it into action.”

    The lanky Pilley struggled all night with the smaller Momen’s speed and relentless retrieving.

    “He’s so fast on the court, so fast,” added Pilley. “He hangs so far back on the court, you’ll play a drop shot, and because he’s so far back you think you can play another drop shot and he just gets up there ridiculously fast.”

    Unable to find a groove, Pilley quickly fell behind 6-1 in Game One, eventually losing, 11-7. And while Game Two went more promisingly – Pilley even had game ball at 11-10 – Momen scored on the next three rallies and stole the game, 13-11. From there, Pilley could do do little to stem the tide, falling in straight sets: 11-7, 13-11, 11-4.

    While Momen provided the only upset, the night’s best match belonged to Canada’s Shahier Razik, World #26, and World #42 Jan Koukal of the Czech Republic. Their extraordinary rallies – sometimes lasting longer than 100 shots – left the crowd in awe.

    Shahier Razik and Jan KoukalCanada’s Shahier Razik (L) was one step ahead of Czech Jan Koukal all night, winning the night’s best match. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)

    Both men prefer a slow-paced style, favoring lobs and touch shots over raw power. To keep his opponent off balance, however, Razik strayed from form by speeding things up with harder shots and less rail play.

    “I was trying to concentrate on breaking his rhythm,” Razik said. “I think I made him do a little more work, and it sort of showed in the last game. It’s not really the style I enjoy playing, but today I had to play like that.”

    The first two sets went into overtime and could’ve gone either way (Razik took both). But the Canadian dominated Game Three en route to a three-set victory: 13-11, 13-11, 11-4.

    Meanwhiile, last year’s runner-up and #5 seed Stewart Boswell, advanced past fellow Aussie, Ryan Cuskelly, in straight sets 11-4, 11-4, 11-4. Boswell proved too strong and skilled for Cuskelly.

    And the man Boswell fell to a year ago, Finland’s Olli Tuominen, overcame a slow start in his match-up against (yet another) Egyptian Amr Swelim. Olli is one step closer to defending his title after a 14-12, 11-5, 11-9 victory.

    One week ago at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York, Yasser El Halaby played brilliantly in advancing through the qualifying draw and into a first-round upset over Scotland’s John White. But the magic wasn’t there Friday night. Qualifier El Halaby had little answer to World #14 Borja Golan. Golan, the #2 seed, finished El Halaby in three sets: 11-5, 11-6, 11-3.

    Third-seeded Laurens Jan Anjema drew qualifier Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan. The big Dutchman jumped out to 5-1 leads in both the first and second games and cruised to a 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 decision.

    Known on the squash circuit for his sense of humor, World #23 Hisham Mohd Ashour was all business during his match against Martin Knight. Ashour’s dizzying array of shots left Knight little room to counter and the Egyptian won in three: 11-7, 11-5, 11-7.

    Finally, before a boisterous local Birmingham Athletic Club crowd, BAC club pro Julian Wellings – oldest man in the draw at 36 – gamely tried to keep up with the top seed in Adrian Grant of England (World #11). Surfing on a swell of crowd support, Julian hung with the World’s 11th-ranked player for two games, but ultimately couldn’t sustain the high energy required. Grant took the match in three straight: 11-7, 11-6, 11-3.

    Results, Round One, Friday

    • Tarek Momen def. Cameron Pilley 11-9, 13-11, 11-4
    • Stewart Boswell def. Ryan Cuskelly 11-4, 11-4, 11-4
    • Adrian Grant def. Julian Wellings11-7, 11-6, 11-3
    • Shahier Razik def. Jan Koukal 13-11, 13-11, 11-6
    • Olli Tuominen def. Amr Swelim 14-12, 11-5, 11-9
    • Laurens Jan Anjema def. Mohd. Nafiizwan Adnan 11-6, 11-6, 11-7
    • Borja Golan def. Yasser El Halaby 11-5, 11-6, 11-3
    • Hisham Mohd Ashour def. Martin Knight 11-7, 11-5, 11-7

    Saturday Matchups

    • 4:00 PM COURT 3 – Adrian Grant v. Shahier Razik
    • 4:30PM COURT 2 – Stewart Boswell v. Tarek Momen
    • 5:00PM COURT 3 – Borja Golan v. Hisham Mohd Ashour
    • 5:30PM COURT 2 – Laurnes Jan Anjema v. Olli Tuominen

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