Walker and Beng Hee survive five-set marathons
Walker was stretched by Khan, but prevailed in 5 tough games. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — Defending champion and top seed Mohamed El Shorbagy cruised as expected, but qualifier Max Lee shook up the 2012 Motor City Open, presented by The Suburban Collection, with the lone upset in Round One Friday night.
Hisham Mohd Ashour, Cameron Pilley, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Stephen Coppinger, Alister Walker, and Ong Beng Hee also advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals – with Walker and Beng Hee both winning in grueling five-game matches.
Qualifier Lee continued to be the talk of the tourney as the World #39 from Hong Kong upset World #32 Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan in three straight (11-7, 12-10, 11-5) – also his first career victory over the Malaysian.
“Same court, same time,” Lee said jokingly about his lucky Court #2 where he has won all his matches this week. “This is just a really great start for me. The first time getting to [Tournament of Champions] last week and now this tournament, getting into into the second round.”
El Shorbagy cruising as Castagnet hustles. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Lee, who trains with Adnan in London, England, said his friend wasn’t playing at his usual level. “He made too many unforced errors. I just keep it simple, and when the space came, I take it in.”
World #6 Shorbagy appeared in top form against feisty qualifier Mathieu Castagnet of France. The Egyptian swept (11-4, 11-9, 11-9) the World #46 in a tight, often testy match. A determined ball hound, Castagnet lunged and dived at every possible return, even after suffering a hamstring injury midway through Game Two.
“I’m really happy I won today,” Shorbagy said. “I wanted to win 3-0 and I did. Normally, it’s 3-1, 3-2. I mean, you saw the way he was in the second and third games – he was almost killing himself.”
Despite the injury, Castagnet acknowledged, Shorbagy’s skills were too much. “I’m disappointed in my hamstring,” he said. “It was difficult for me to push off on my forehand. But if I was in good shape, it still would’ve been difficult for me. He was better than me today.”
Khan threw everything at Walker. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Gregoire Marche nor Aamir Atlas Khan nearly pulled off Day One upsets, as both were within a few points of victory against Beng Hee and Walker, respectively.
World #34 Beng Hee jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the final game before narrowly escaping defeat, beating his French opponent, 3-2 (10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8). Khan has had past victories against World #1s like Gregory Gaultier (current World #3) and Nick Matthew (soon to recapture World #1), and gave Walker a battle. The dreadlock-sporting star from Botswana eked out a 3-2 (8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8) victory.
“The depth in squash at the moment is really, really something special,” Walker said afterwards. “I don’t think there’s ever been as much quality and depth as there is now. Aamir – he’s ranked between 20 and 30, but he’s beaten everyone. I didn’t play that well in New York last week, so this is a bit of a relief.”
“I just had to be consistent in trying to keep the ball straight because he’s very good with the angles,” he continued. “When you sort of think he’s getting a bit dejected, suddenly he goes for a few shots and rolls a few, gets some winners and suddenly he’s back in it. It’s just about mentally being steady, but I managed in the end.”
Quarterfinals start at 4 p.m. Saturday, January 28.
- Mohamed El Shorbagy def. Mathieu Castagnet 11-4, 11-9, 11-9
-  Miguel Angel Rodriguez def.  Alan Clyne 11-8, 11-6, 11-5
- Ong Beng Hee def. Gregoire Marche 10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8
-  Cameron Pilley def.  Shahier Razik 11-6, 11-3, 11-9
- Alister Walker def. Aamir Atlas Khan 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8
-  Stephen Coppinger def.  Mohammed Abbas 11-5, 11-13, 13-11, 11-5
- Max Lee def. Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan 11-7, 12-10, 11-5
-  Hisham Mohd Ashour def.  Adrian Grant 11-6, 11-4, 4-11, 11-5
Saturday’s Quarterfinal matches:
- Shorbagy v. Rodriguez
- Beng Hee v. Pilley
- Walker v. Coppinger
- Lee v. Ashour