by Nolan Bianchi
The Motor City Open
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan — After day two at the Motor City Open Presented by Sturbridge Capital, Diego Elias’ hope of repeating as champion is still alive.
In his opening match World #6 Elias of Peru held off England’s World #38 Nathan Lake Thursday night. Elias took the first game 11-9, Lake the second at 12-10, then Elias cruised through final two games, 11-6 and 11-5.
“It’s my first tournament in a couple months,” said the Peruvian. “It’s always hard to play in a tournament. Sometimes you’re a bit nervous, but I felt pretty good and I’m happy with the win.”
Elias’ third seeding earned him a bye to play Lake in the Round of 16, setting up a rematch of their 2020 MCO matchup which Elias also won. After securing victory, Elias felt good about playing a tightly-contested match to start his title defense.
“Sometimes playing tough matches at the start helps. You get used to playing crucial points,” Elias said.“I was playing way too fast at the start. Then in the last two games, I started playing a bit better and thinking. You have to get used to playing a tournament again. Nathan is a very good player and, if you give him any opportunity, he’s going to take it. I had to focus a lot more.”
Elias faces a tough road ahead – the 2022 toruney features eight of the world’s Top 20 – before he can think about a repeat. But the 2020 Motor City Open champion says it feels good to be back.
“I always have good memories from this court, this club,” Elias said. “I love being here and I’m going to enjoy every minute.”
Preceding Elias/Lake on Court 3, top seed Paul Coll dipped his toe in the water and found things to be just fine. The New Zealander’s fitness has earned him the nickname “Superman,” and that fitness should serve him will on the bouncy Birmingham Athletic Club courts that reward fitness. He also received a bye through the first round, but, unlike Elias, he had smooth sailing in defeating Mexico’s Cesar Salazar: 11-4, 11-4, 11-5.
The pressure of being the tournament’s top dog didn’t seem to phase him.
“It’s a different sort of pressure,” Coll said. “You’re the one to beat – instead of chasing someone. It’s nice to be in that spot and be able to enjoy that pressure. I’m having a good week so far.”
Coll, who is projected to be the world’s #1 player when the latest rankings come out in March, knows that thriving at the top is a whole different story. Which is why he’s refusing to get ahead of himself before Friday’s quarter-final round.
“It’s a strong draw, so there’s going to be tough matches,” Coll said. “I think you’ve just got to play the matches ahead of you and not get too wrapped up in the tournament.”
In a generational battle, Maylasia’s 24-year old Eian Yow Ng took down 39-year old Borja Golan of Spain in three games. Golan won the MCO in 2009.
Countrymen Fares Dessouky of Egypt and big Omar Mosaad had a spirited battle. After winning just 10 points in the first two stanzas, Mosaad imposed his game to take the third, 8-11. His glory was short-lived, however, as the cat-quick Dessouky ran through game four, 11-3.
Quarterfinal action starts Thursday at 6 PM at the Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills.
Paul Coll (New Zealand) def. Cesar Salazar (Mexico), 11-4, 11-4, 11-5
Eian Yow Ng (Malaysia) def. Borja Golan (Spain), 11-9, 11-5, 11-9
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egypt) def. George Parker (England), 15-3, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7
Diego Elias (Peru) def. Nathan Lake (England), 11-9, 10-12, 11-6, 11-5
Marwan ElShorbagy (Egypt) def. Adrian Waller (England), 14-12, 11-7, 11-3
Fares Dessouky (Egypt) def. Omar Mosaad (Egypt), 11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-3
Mazen Hesham (Egypt) def. Nicolas Mueller (Switzerland), 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6
Tarek Momen (Egypt) def. Sebastian Bonmalais (France), 11-7, 11-6, 11-4
Friday’s round of 8
1) Paul Coll (New Zealand) vs. 8) Eain Yow Ng (Malaysia), 6 p.m., Court 3
3) Diego Elias (Peru) vs. 6) Karim Abdel Gawad (Egypt), 6 p.m., Court 2
4) Marwan ElShorbagy (Egypt) vs. 5) Fares Dessouky (Egypt), 7 p.m., Court 3
2) Tarek Momen (Egypt) vs. 7) Mazen Hesham (Egypt), 7 p.m., Court 2