Defending champ Beng Hee survives
By James Hawkins
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — Four former Motor City Open champions. A pair of former World #1s. Twelve of the world’s Top 25 squash players. Four of them in the Top 10. A historic field took to the courts Saturday in the First Round of the Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection. They didn’t disappoint.
In the day’s opening match at the host Birmingham Athletic Club, 2012 MCO winner Ong Beng Hee’s title defense looked to be in jeopardy as qualifier Ryan Cuskelly of Australia took Game One and was on the verge of commanding 2-0 lead in Game Two. But World #20 Beng Hee fought off four game balls and evened the match at 1-1. He took Game Three, then fended off three more game balls against to win Game Four and the match: 6-11, 14-12, 11-7, 12-10.
“Winning the second game changed the whole match,” Beng Hee said after the match. “I’m a little bit tense because it’s the first match of a very big tournament and I won it last year so the pressure is on. Ryan actually played really well and didn’t make many mistakes. It was just maybe my day today.”
In other matches, all four seeded Egyptians won convincingly in straight games. Top seed and 2011 MCO winner Mohamed El Shorbagy needed just 30 minutes to defeat qualifier and World #41 Abdullah Al Muzayen of Kuwait, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5.
Then in a battle of former MCO champions, 2010 winner and former World #1 Karim Darwish looked in top form as he dominated 2007 winner Olli Tuominen of Finland, 11-2, 11-3, 11-7.
Qualifier Marwan El Shorbagy – Moahamed’s younger brother – lost to fellow Egyptian and third-seed Omar Mosaad, 15-13, 11-3, 11-7. And former World #1 and fourth-seeded Amr Shabana buried drop shot after drop shot against World # 21 Nicolas Muller of Switzerland en route to a 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 win.
“Karim, Omar, and Amr are all great players and I’ve learned a lot from them. They’re like big brothers for me and they’ve helped me all through my career,” Mohamed El Shorbagy said after his match. “To be able to compete with them and try to beat them is an honor for me. Hopefully we all reach the semifinals together and it’ll be like an All-Egyptian tournament.”
In the last match of the day, World #23 Stephen Coppinger of South Africa met World #19 Hisham Mohd Ashour of Egypt in a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s four-game semifinal match – won by Ashour. This time Ashour struggled with his consistency and Coppinger rolled : 11-3, 11-7, 11-2.
“The score line is convincing but I never felt comfortable,” Coppinger said afterwards. ” Hisham’s always got something different to hit you with, but I felt like it was all up to him whether he’d hit a winner or give me a free point.”
Also advancing to the quarterfinals is World #25 Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia and World #22 Saurav Ghosal of India. Quarterfinals will begin Sunday at 4 p.m.
Saturday’s Main Draw Round 1 results:
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) def. [Q] Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) 11-9, 11-6, 11-5
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) def. [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 6-11, 14-12, 11-7, 12-10
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) def. [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 12-14, 11-0, 11-6, 14-12
 Amr Shabana (EGY) def. Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 11-9, 11-8, 11-7
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) def. [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) 15-13, 11-3, 11-7
Saurav Ghosal (IND) def. Alan Clyne (SCO) 6-11, 11-7, 11-2, 11-3
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) def. Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) 11-3, 11-7, 11-2
 Karim Darwish (EGY) def. Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-3, 11-3, 11-7
 Mohamed El Shorbagy vs. Ong Beng Hee
 Amr Shabana vs. Miguel Angel Rodriguez
 Omar Mosaad vs. Saurav Ghosal
 Karim Darwish vs. Stephen Coppinger