Lincou ends Qualifier Cuskelly’s run to set up semi against Iskander
With textbook form, Thierry Lincou proved too strong for Australian Ryan Cuskelly. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Birmingham, Mich. – Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz’ upset of #4 seed and 2008 Motor City Open champ Olli Tuominen highlighted quarterfinal play Saturday at the 2010 Motor City Open presented by Suburban Volvo. Aziz’s victory set up an all-Egyptian semifinal with his good friend Karim Darwish, the #1 seed. In the bottom half of the draw, #2 seed Thierry Lincou will meet Maylasia’s Mohd Azlan Iskandar in the semis after surviving the tourney’s Cinderella story, qualifier Ryan Cuskely, in four tough games.
The players are vying for a record $40, 000 tournament purse and Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers. Sunday’s semifinals at the Birmingham Athletic Club, Michigan’s premier squash venue, will begin at 4 PM.
Aziz considers his countryman, Darwish, an older brother. The duo train together while also maintaining a close relationship outside of squash. “I’m going to play my big brother, Karim,” Aziz said of his semifinal match. “And I want to play a good match.”
Omar Abdel Aziz watches as Finland’s Olli Tuominen tries in vain to seize control. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
That brotherhood paid dividends in Aziz’ quarterfinal bout against Tuominen. Darwish warned Aziz of Olli’s volleying skills and advised him to work the Finn’s backhand. The result: a 11-3, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6 victory.
“I had to bring it to the back because Olli likes to volley it. So Karim told me: ‘You have to push the ball to the back of the court, and his mistakes will start to appear,’” said Aziz of his strategy afterwards. “So, I put the ball a lot to the back corner – one time, two time, three time. After that I start to volley.”
A frustrated Tuominen struggled to find his shot, nicking the tin with too many errors.
As the Aziz-Tuominen match played out on Court Two, Darwish took care of business on Court Three, disposing of Mark Krajcsak in convincing fashion: 11-7, 11-3, 11-2.
“I think Mark was tired from his previous match,” Darwish said of his Hungarian adversary, whose match the previous night extended to five games and two hours. “I tried to move him around for the first game because I knew he wasn’t in his best shape today, and I think my shots were pretty good.”
Top seed Karim Darwish proved too strong for Mark Krajcsak. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Darwish started by knocking the ball wall-to-wall in an effort to wear out his opponent. After Game One, Krajcsak had little left to defend against the Egypt’s best player.
Qualifier Cuskelly’s spirited play this week had won over the sell-out crowd at the BAC. And he put together another gem Lincou who needed four games to defeat the Aussie: 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6. Game Three proved decisive after the pair split Games One and Two. Cuskelly held an 8-6 lead but failed to close it out.
“I’ve been playing pretty well, so I figured I could push him a bit,” said Cuskelly, who upset eight-seed Aaron Frankcomb the night before. “Just in the third, when I was up 8-6, I went for some stupid shots. I should’ve stuck to the game plan and, had I won that one, things could’ve been different.”
Feeling the momentum shift to his favor, Lincou cruised in the final stanza.
“He’s a strong player,” Lincou said of Cuskelly. “He’s really improved a lot. He gave me a hard time on the court, and it’s good I won in four. It’s pretty tough to play on these courts because it’s really bouncy. So it’s hard to be offensive too much, and you have to mix between patience and offense. You need to be precise, very accurate and save your energy as much as you can.”
If anyone has saved his energy, it’s Iskandar, who needed just three games to advance over Chris Ryder:11-4, 11-5, 11-1. “I had to slowball it and pick out my moments, really,” Iskandar said. “I found myself attacking and hitting really good lengths and picking my moment to inject the pace. It worked out quite well because I ended up breaking my opponent’s rhythm.”
- Karim Darwish def. Mark Krajcsak 11-7, 11-3, 11-2
- Omar Abdel Aziz def. Olli Tuominen 11-3, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6
- Thierry Lincou def. Ryan Cuskelly 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6
- Mohd Azlan Iskandar def. Chris Ryder 11-4, 11-5, 11-1
Sunday matches (4 PM start):
- Karim Darwish (1) v. Omar Abdel Aziz (7)
- Thierry Lincou (2) v. Mohd Azlan Iskandar (3)