By Geoff Robinson
Bloomfield Hills, Mich – It was a wild night at The Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. The world’s top-ranked player, Mohamed ElShorbagy, bid a quick adieu to the tournament after falling to Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in the Round of 16.
That wasn’t all the night had in store for the capacity crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club, as a five-game match ended in thrilling fashion, and another grueling matchup ended on a somber note.
Salazar put the two-time MCO Champion on notice early on when he took the first game in dominating fashion, 11-2. ElShorbagy bounced back from a 3-0 deficit in the second game to earn two game balls, but Salazar wasn’t having it. He hit a pair of winners and stole the second game, 13-11.
After ElShorbagy cruised to an 11-6 third-game win, it looked as though he had found his form and may take control of the match. The #26 player in the world had other plans, however, going toe-to-toe with his opponent and earning a 12-10 win after El Shorbagy hit the tin.
Salazar was visibly emotional after the victory.
“My best win ever, for sure,” he said. “I tried to stay very focused and play long rallies because he loves to play quick points. My strategy was perfect in the first two games.
He played better in the third, but in the fourth, I kept fighting, he made some mistakes, and I tried to push him knowing I had a chance.”
Salazar moves on to face Stephen Coppinger in the Quarterfinals after the South African pulled off an impressive comeback against 2009 MCO Champion Borja Golan.
Golan got off to a 2-0 lead over Coppinger and looked like he was ready to seal the deal with a 9-7 advantage in the third.
That’s when things took a turn.
Coppinger caught Golan in the nose on his backswing and bloodied the Spaniard, causing a delay that lasted nearly half an hour. Upon his return, Golan earned a match ball at 10-9, but Coppinger found a way to steal the game, 12-10.
Golan wouldn’t recover.
Coppinger got off to a 5-1 start in the fourth game and was able to use that to power his way to an 11-7 win. In the fifth, the two went back-and-forth as Golan regained a bit of his earlier form. With the game tied at 8-8, Coppinger hit a masterful drop shot to get back out in front. The world’s 24th-ranked player would earn two game balls, using the second one to finish the deal, 11-9.
“The first two (games) I tried to play really controlled, but I wasn’t letting myself go,” Coppinger said. “He was able to do that better than me. I got fired up after the interval, though.
I was staring down the barrel of the gun, but I’m really happy how I was able to come through in those last games.”
While Coppinger and Golan had the longest match of the night, it may not have been the most entertaining battle, as 2015 MCO Champion Miguel Angel Rodriguez duked it out with Egypt’s Zahed Mohamed in a back-and-forth affair that captured the attention of everyone in attendance.
Despite dropping the first game, 13-11, Rodriguez would emerge victorious in four games after Mohamed cramped up in the fourth and was forced to retire.
Rodriguez took the second game, 11-9, before fighting off a game point in the third and pulling off a 13-11 escape act. The two competitors really put on a show for the crowd, with long rallies and impressive winners becoming the norm by the time the fourth game rolled around.
In the fourth, it was neck-and-neck. With the game tied at 8-8, Mohamed’s leg tightened up, but he still managed to hit a beautiful drop shot to take a 9-8 lead. That would be his last point, however, as he was on the ground writhing in pain following the point. When he stood and tried to move around, it became evident that he wouldn’t be able to play through and had to retire.
“That’s not the best way to win,” Rodriguez said. “These kinds of matches are pretty intense. He’s a tough player. He was giving it his best and I had to play my best to beat him.
All the credit to him for playing so hard, but I think he just ran out of fuel.”
Rodriguez moves on to the Quarterfinals where he will meet Ali Farag in a matchup of the last two champions at the MCO.
Farag dismantled Gregoire Marche of France in three games: 12-10, 11-6, 11-7.
In the night’s first match, fourth-seeded Omar Mosaad bounced back from a first game defeat at the hands of Abdullah Al Tamimi. Mosaad would cruise through the final three games en route to a 12-14, 11-2, 11-3, 11-9 win.
Mosaad will meet Ryan Cuskelly of Australia in the Quarterfinals.
Cuskelly took care of business against Campbell Grayson: 11-8, 11-6, 11-6.
Diego Elias and Marwan ElShorbagy also reeled off three-game victories to set up a showdown in the Quarterfinals.
Elias defeated Raphael Kandra of Germany: 12-10, 11-7, 11-2.
The younger ElShorbagy cruised in 25 minutes to a win over Ivan Yuen: 11-8, 11-3, 11-3.
Cesar Salazar (Mexico) def (1) Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egypt) 11-2, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10
Stephen Coppinger (South Africa) def (6) Borja Golan (Spain) 8-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9
(7) Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) def Campbell Grayson (New Zealand) 11-8, 11-6, 11-6.
(4) Omar Mosaad (Egypt) def Abdullah Al Tamimi (Qatar) 12-14, 11-2, 11-3, 11-9
(3) Ali Farag (Egypt) def Gregoire Marche (France) 12-10, 11-6, 11-7
(5) Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Columbia) def Zahed Mohamed (Egypt) 11-13, 11-9, 13-11, 8-9 (ret)
(8) Diego Elias (Peru) def Raphael Kandra (Germany) 12-10, 11-7, 11-2
(2) Marwan ElShorbagy (Egypt) def Ivan Yuen (Malaysia) 11-8, 11-3, 11-3
FRIDAY’S MATCHES, QUARTERFINALS
Salazar vs. Coppinger
Cuskelly vs. Mosaad
Farag vs. Rodriguez
Elias vs. ElShorbagy