By Matt Schoch
Motor City Open
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – There will be a new squash champion on Saturday at the Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection.
Four former MCO champions came to Detroit this week hoping to become the third two-time champion in the pro squash event’s 20 years. All of them fell throughout the week though, as Diego Elias of Peru and Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt assured there would be a first-time MCO champion.
The fourth-seeded Elias and third-seeded Abouelghar will vie for the title in a 6:30 p.m. match Saturday at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
Elias opened Friday’s semifinals with a dominating three-game victory against top-seeded Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt, 11-7, 11-4, 11-1, knocking off the defending champion in 30 minutes.
“I was moving really well and I’m happy with how I played,” said Elias, who has won four Professional Squash Association World Tour events. “I’m looking forward to the finals.”
The opening game was the only competitive one, but Elias won four out of the last five points, including a stroke awarded on game point after El Shorbagy interfered with Elias.
“The first game was really important,” Elias said. “I got the lead and I could finish the game. It was really mental, and I was mentally really strong today and felt really good.”
The 22-year-old Peruvian sprinted to a 6-1 lead in Game #2 and charged to an easy victory. El Shorbagy won the first point of the third game before Elias took 11 straight to win, with El Shorbagy accepting his fate and surrendering the last three.
“It just wasn’t my day,” said El Shorbagy, who said he did not suffer an injury or illness. “He played very well today, of course, all credit to him. I didn’t find my game today.”
The semifinal was a rematch of last week’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York City, with Elias winning that one in four games.
The finals competitors have met a handful of times before with Abouelghar winning each time.
In the nightcap, Abouelghar topped close friend and countryman Zahed Salem, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9.
The match ended in controversy. With the score knotted at 9-all in the fourth, the unseeded Salem thought an Abouelghar shot hit the tin. The official said no, the 25-year-old Abouelghar won the point and shortly after was on to the finals.
“It’s hard to play against a friend,” Abouelghar said. “I’m sure we’re going to have many more battles in the future, I’m just happy I got through this one. And hopefully next time we can have a great match also.”
Salem had gotten off to fast starts in the match, winning the first three points in the first game, going up 6-0 in his one victory in game two, winning the first point in game three, and then taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Abouelghar said his strategy was to make points go long, as Salem was playing his fourth match in as many days, while Abouelghar received a bye to Wednesday’s second round.
“I knew he had tough matches and it was probably getting to him,” Abouelghar said. “The way I dealt with it, I think was good. I didn’t panic in the end.”
The MCO is the second-longest running pro squash tourney in the US. In addition to his take of the $75,000 total purse, the champion will take home a Longines watch from Greenstone’s Jewelers.
A charity auction will be held in conjunction with the MCO with proceeds to benefit Racquet Up Detroit, a youth development program that combines squash, mentoring, and community service. Racquet Up juniors will be among those participating in the MCO’s Junior Clinic where tourney pros coach young players from the greater-Detroit area and Windsor.
Friday’s semifinal results
4. Diego Elias (Peru) def. 1. Marwan El Shorbagy (Egypt), 11-7, 11-4, 11-1
3. Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt) def. Zahed Salem (Egypt), 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9
4. Diego Elias (Peru) vs. 3. Mohamed Abouelghar (Egypt), 6:30 p.m., Court 3
Finals: Saturday, Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Athletic Club
4033 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI
FOR TICKETS AND INFORMATION CONTACT: Julian Wellings, MCO Squash Director, 248.646.5050, email@example.com