Bloomfield Hills, Mich– The 2017 Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection has its finalists after Ali Farag and Ryan Cuskelly each staged tantalizing comeback victories in their semifinal matches Sunday at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
Farag will look to become the first-ever back-to-back champion in the 18-year history of the MCO, while Cuskelly will look to etch his name in the record books and complete his magical run in his ninth year participating in the event.
Farag’s route to the final was on cruise control over his first two days of match play, as he breezed by opponents in six straight games to set up his semifinal with Diego Elias, a young Peruvian player who proved he belonged on the big stage this week.
Farag outlasted his opponent in a tightly contested match: 15-13, 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7.
The first game was a sign of things to come, as the players traded jabs and appeared intent on grabbing the crucial first game. Farag was able to earn four game balls, but he couldn’t close Elias out until he hit back-to-back winners to get out in front.
Elias (World #23) would have his say in the proceedings before the night was done.
The 20-year-old stormed back to take the second game. In the third, he hit a beautiful boast on game point to go up 2-1.
World #7 Farag wasn’t about to give away his crown without a fight, however. He played like a man possessed in the fourth to set up one game for a spot in the final.
“I didn’t panic for a second,” Farag said. “The third didn’t go my way, but I knew if I went into the fourth with the right game plan, I could run away with that one.”
The fifth game was neck-and-neck for the first half, but Farag really put the hammer down at 4-4 when he took six of the next seven points to give himself five game balls. Elias was able to fight off two of them, but Farag proved too much to handle. He delivered the winner to send him through to the final after a 77-minute battle.
“He’s such an unbelievable player,” Farag said of Elias. “It’s very hard to get him off balance. He’s got the maturity of a 30-year-old.
I’ve got a lot of things to do to recover for tomorrow.”
In the night’s first semifinal, longtime MCO favorite Cuskelly was making his first appearance in the tournament’s final four. He’ll look to carry his momentum to a championship Monday night after outlasting Stephen Coppinger of South Africa: 5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-4.
Coppinger really dominated the first game. Cuskelly couldn’t get into a rhythm and Coppinger was hitting winner after winner as he got out in front of his Australian opponent.
“I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Cuskelly said of the first game. “After the first, I got him moving and started opening things up.”
Cuskelly really turned it on in the second game, using his speed to his advantage and digging balls out despite Coppinger’s well-struck shots. As Cuskelly ran everything down, he was able to move his bigger opponent around and take the second game.
The two would stage a back-and-forth affair in the third, with Coppinger dialing up the intensity and earning two game balls that Cuskelly valiantly fought off. The 29-year-old got the 32-year-old on the move again, bringing him in close and forcing Coppinger into two tins that ended the game.
“I was down in the third and told myself that I had to win this game or he’s going to get more confident,” Cuskelly said.
In the fourth, Cuskelly cruised. At one point, he reeled off six straight points to go up 8-2 before finally climbing the mountain and earning a spot in Monday’s final.
“I’ve been here nine years and this is such an awesome club,” Cuskelly said. “This isn’t like any other tournament. I know all the members and I’ve got a lot of friends here. It feels like I’m playing at home.”
Cuskelly will be looking to win his first tournament championship since the 2015 Welaptega Bluenose Squash Classic, an International 35 tournament held in Halifax, Canada.
The last time Farag and Cuskelly squared off, Cuskelly walked away with a 3-0 victory in September of 2015.
(3) Ali Farag (Egypt) def (8) Diego Elias (Peru) 15-13, 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7
(7) Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) def Stephen Coppinger (South Africa) 5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-4
MONDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
(3) Ali Farag vs. (7) Ryan Cuskelly