Local favorite Joint thrills before succumbing
Birmingham, Mich. – With the main draw set to begin Friday, the Tenth Annual Motor City Open, presented by the Suburban collection, kicked off Wednesday with a series of qualifying matches. The eclectic mix of players – from rising stars to American hopefuls to local favorites – gave fans at the Birmingham Athletic Club a glimpse at the excitement and competition in store for them over the next few days.
No player received more applause than hometown boy Mick Joint – resident pro at the Detroit Athletic Club. Joint, a native Aussie, thrilled the crowd during his match against world #76, Martin Knight of New Zealand.
At 36, Joint stood his ground against an opponent nine years his junior, matching volleys and showing he was capable of sustaining extended rallies. A packed gallery cheered his every move. Ultimately, fatigue got the better of the determined downtown pro from Down Under and Joint fell to Knight in four, 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9.
Another intriguing pairing pitted world #66 Wade Johnstone of Australia against Canadian David Phillips, ranked #80.
What initially looked like an Aussie cakewalk turned into a barnburner once a string snapped from Johnstone’s racquet in Game Two, causing a stoppage in play and a momentum shift in Phillips’ favor. Trailing 6-11, 1-6, a recomposed Phillips ran off the next four points, and though he still lost the game, 11-7, that string of rallies gave him a newfound confidence as he opened Game Three with six straight points.
“I thought I played well through the first game,” Johnstone said afterwards, “but halfway through the second one I broke a string, and Dave did really well to come back. I was lucky I actually had a big lead in that second game, but then he came out real strong in the third.”
“I was playing a little too short,” he continued, “and letting him dictate the points on his volley and on his backhand, which is really strong.”
Having let Phillips back in the match, Johnstone relaxed his nerves in Game Four and worked himself back into form, maintaining a steady pace while attacking the volleys harder and concentrating on his counter-drops. He took the game to claim victory: 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9.
“Wade played well,” Phillips said. “He came out flying, and I got off to a slow start. I started to pick it up in the third, but it was too little too late.”
Australia’s Zac Alexander, world #102 and Pakistan’s 69th-ranked Khawaja Adil Maqbool opened the night, with upset-mided Alexander jumping out to a two-game lead, 11-7 and 11-6, before Maqbool retired.
In a match-up of the only two Americans in the tourney, U.S. #2 and world #76 Christopher Gordon met local player Benjamin Oliner, world #81. Gordon took command from the start, jumping out to an early 5-0 lead in the first set and never letting up, scoring an 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 victory.
In the night’s final match, New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson (world #65) competed against South Africa’s 90th-ranked Regardt Schonborn. Schonborn survived in four sets – 13-11, 11-8, 6-11, 12-10 – but it was Grayson’s courage that captivated the crowd.
Midway through the fourth set, Grayson and Schonborn locked legs, and Grayson fell to the ground with a rolled ankle. Following a brief delay, Grayson came back to win six of the next seven points, and remained competitive until the end.
Thursday’s second round of qualifying matches begins at 6:00 pm, with Egpyt’s Yasser El Halaby to play against Zac Alexander, Christopher Gordon versus Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly, Schonborn to play Knight, and Mohd. Nafzahizam Adnan matched with Johnstone.
Martin Knight (NZ) def. Mick Joint (AUS), 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9.
Wade Johnstone (AUS) def. David Phillips (CAN), 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9
Zac Alexander (AUS) def. Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK), 11-7, 11-6, ret.
Christopher Gordon (USA) def. Benjamin Oliner (USA), 11-6, 11-9, 11-7.
Regardt Schonborn (RSA) def. Campbell Grayson (NZ), 13-11, 11-8, 6-11, 12-10.