• Motor City Open Notes

    Darwish and Tuominen back in 2004's Motor City Open. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)Darwish and Tuominen back in 2004’s Motor City Open. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)

    Welcome back, Karim

    The last time Karim Darwish came to the Motor City Open it was 2004, he was a rising star at 23, #9 in the world, and the three- seed. And he was an upset victim – losing to Olli Tuominen in the semis. Olli, who was unseeded in 2004, was 25-years old and World #25. Fast forward six years, and Darwish has met expectations. He dominated the PSA tour in 2009, reigning atop the rankings all year until a back injury sidelined him in December.

    Flying Finn

    Of course, Olli hasn’t done too badly either. A Motor City regular, he lost to Greg Gaultier in that 2004 final, achieved his highest world ranking of #13 in 2006, then won the MCO in 2008. Now 31 years old, the Flying Finn was #4 seed this year as World #23.

    It’s tough getting old

    Squash is no friend to age. Finalist Iskandar – 27-years young –  wore down 33-year old Thierry Lincou, the #2 seed (and World #1 in 2004), in Sunday’s semi, making Lincou look every bit his age by Game 5. But on Monday, Azlan met the world’s best player – in his prime. Darwish is just a year Iskandar’s senior at 28, and moves like a cat.

    Speedster-friendly

    “I think Iskandar has a chance. These courts favor him,” said Olli before Iskandar’s upset of Lincou Sunday. The Finn should know. He too has benefited over the years by the BAC’s springy courts, which, like clay in tennis, favors speedsters. Unlike temporary glass courts at events like last week’s Tournament of Champions in New York Grand Central Station, the ball stays up longer on club courts.

    American boy

    The MCO faithful had hoped to get a good look this week at America’s highest-ranked player ever, Julian Illingworth. Alas, the #32-ranked player in the world was upset in the first round by Chris Ryder of England.

    Alpena reunion

    On Wednesday, qualifier Edward Marks had his own cheering section all the way from Alpena, Michigan. Spectators Darin Emery, Brent Evans and Alex Howison traveled five hours from Up North to cheer on their friend and former co-worker.

    “He moved back to Connecticut and is always all over the place, so we thought this would be the only chance we’d ever get to see him again,” Emery said of Marks, who met the trio when he interned at an Alpena TV news station.

    The group arrived without any knowledge of squash. “We always worked out together, and we wanted to play racquetball with him one time, thought we could beat him pretty bad,” Emery recalled. “He would skunk us four or five games in a row. And he says, ‘I play squash.’ No idea what he’s talking about. I thought he grew vegetables.”

    So with the MCO in town, Marks invited his buddies to see how the game was really played. “About a week ago he called me,” Emery said. “He said, ‘I’m flying into Detroit. You guys gotta get down here and watch me play squash, so you can understand what it is.’”

    Marks (ranked #263 in the world) was overmatched against Yasir Butt (World #55) and lost: 8-11, 3-11, 8-11, but was thrilled to see his friends in attendance. “It was awesome,” Marks said of the experience. “They got the whole crowd behind me. They’re some of my best friends.”

    Thanks

    Hats off to Suburban Volvo, Greenstone Jewelers and all our sponsors for a great tournament. And thanks to MCO co-chairs Mike Beauregard and Peter Schmidt and the entire Motor City Open committee for making the trains run on time.

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