Cuskelly beats Razik in epic 5-gamer
By James Hawkins
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — Qualifiers Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt, France’s Mathieu Castagnet, and Kuwaiti Abdullah Al Muzayen all stamped their tickets into the Main Draw Friday night at the Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection. But none of the three won their qualifying final in dramatic fashion quite like Aussie Ryan Cuskelly.
After dropping the first two games to veteran Canadian Shahier Razik, Cuskelly mounted an extraordinary comeback taking the next three games and prevailing: 9-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-2. The draining, two-hour, eight minute match at the Birmingham Athletic Club seemed like it would never end.
“Playing a player like Razik, he just gets so many balls back that you have to hit four or five winners just to win a rally. That’s his goal. Just to make the game as long as possible and frustrate you,” 25-year-old Cuskelly said. “I got sucked into his game the first two games instead of playing my game of attacking and getting to the ball faster.”
Cuskelly switched tactics and began picking up the pace in Game 3. The game became chippy as let after let was called with Cuskelly even suffering an inadvertent racquet to the mouth. Then things took a turn for the worse early in Game 5 when Razik dropped to the floor in agonizing pain.
“I had a bruised toe and Ryan had a good step on it. It irritated and started swelling on me. I was struggling to get my shoe on,” Razik said afterwards. “After Game 2, it just turned into a physical match. We both got a little tired and we weren’t clearing as smoothly.”
For Cuskelly, the marathon win is one of his greatest memories in his many years at the MCO.
“It was the longest match of my career by far and it’s one of my best wins here, especially coming from down 2-0 against a player like Razik,” he said. “He’s pretty hard to beat on a traditional court.” Permanent club courts like the BAC’s tend to be livelier than temporary glass courts used in major tournaments like last week’s Tournament of Champions in New York’s Grand Central Station.
In the other qualifying finals, 19-year-old newcomer El Shorbagy dropped Game One to Frenchman Gregoire Marche before adjusting to the court and putting advice from his older brother, MCO Top Seed and World #5 Mohamed El Shorbagy, to good use. And in the end, El Shorbagy’s length and athleticism proved too much for Marche as he won in dominating fashion, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-1.
“In the first game I didn’t find my game. The court is very bouncy, which suits his game more than mine. I was just waiting for the opportunity to come so I could slow down the game and play at my pace,” said El Shorbagy, the 2012 PSA Young Player of the Year and two-time World Junior Champion. “I thought it was working well in the second and third game. I think I played the right game for this court against Marche.”
World #41 Al Muzayen, one of the speediest players on the PSA tour, frustrated his longer Indian opponent, Siddharth Suchde. After a furious comeback that fell short in Game One, the crafty Kuwaiti outlasted the World #48 in four: 11-13, 11-9, 12-10, 11-4.
World #34 Mathieu Castagnet pulled off the lone upset of the night, sweeping World # 30 Max Lee of Hong Kong, 11-6, 11-4, 11-2.
“I never played him before. I asked my friends who played him last week and I heard he has a really good forehand so I played the ball a lot to his backhand,” said Castagnet, who qualified for the MCO Main Draw for the second-straight year.
Lee seemed out of sorts throughout the match, committing numerous unforced errors.
“I think Lee was surprised because I was running a lot, playing many shots, and the rallies were really long,” Castagent said. “I don’t think he was really good today. I don’t know if he was tired, didn’t eat, or maybe he just didn’t want to play for two hours today.”
The first round of the Main Draw begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Friday’s qualifying final results:
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) def. Gregoire Marche (FRA) 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-1
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) def. Shahier Razik (CAN) 9-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-2
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) def. Max Lee (HKG) 11-6, 11-4, 11-2
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) def. Siddharth Suchde (IND) 11-13, 11-9, 12-10, 11-4
Saturday’s main draw round one matches:
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) vs. [Q] Abdullah Al Muzayen
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) vs. [Q] Ryan Cuskelly
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) vs. [Q] Mathieu Castagnet
 Amr Shabana (EGY) vs. Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) vs. [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy
Saurav Ghosal (IND) vs. Alister Walker (BOT)
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) vs. Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) vs. Olli Tuominen (FIN)