Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – David Palmer. Jonathon Power. Gregory Gaultier. That’s the short list of talent that went on to World #1 after winning a Motor City Open trophy. Current World #9, Mohamed El Shorbagy, may soon join them. The talented, 20-year-old Egyptian demonstrated on his run to this year’s title that he has the stuff to compete at the world’s highest level.
After downing Aussie legend Palmer in the semis, Shorbagy dispatched countryman and World #15 Omar Mosaad 3-1 (8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5) Monday night to win the 12th annual Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. With the win, Shorbagy pocketed the top prize: a $8,200 paycheck and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.
“I’m just over the moon at the moment, just so happy right now,” Shorbagy said of winning the second tournament of his young career. “This is a very, very special tournament to win. I won my last tournament in last April. This time I’m getting a Rolex watch, and it’s like: ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m really wearing a Rolex watch!’”
Egyptians currently hold six of the top 15 spots in the world rankings, making for competitive, constructive training sessions back home. It also means the inevitable final between friends who know one another’s games all too well.
“This match today is different because I play against an Egyptian,” Mosaad said. “I play with him all the time in training, so he knows all my strong points and weak points.”
Shorbagy entered the match – the pair had split two previous meetings – with a plan to work the long game, to exhaust the 6’3” “Tower of Power” and – once fatigued – to close him out with the short game.
“The match was very, very tough,” Shorbagy said. “I wasn’t too sad when I lost the first game because I knew it was a long game, and it took lots of energy out of him. He’s a big guy, and I’m just trying to make the rallies long, long, long. And once I felt he’s tired, I started taking him short. I could see he was tired and couldn’t concentrate that much.”
The pace of Game One was indeed torrid with both players firing hard rails mixed with daring drops. But Shorbagy’s speed, fitness, and exquisite racquet control began to take its toll. By Game 4, the personable Egyptian was joking with the referee, his confidence swelling as the finish line loomed.
Monday’s victory capped a tough week for Shorbagy. The final featuring two Egyptians was an impressive feat at a time when the Egyptian players – there were five in the MCO field – were worried about family members back home in a chaotic Egypt. Title sponsor and Suburban Collection CEO David Fisher praised the players for their concentration in the trophy ceremony.
And then there was the draw itself – made tougher by new PSA rules that only seeded four players. Shorbagy entered the tournament as the two-seed, and drew Borja Golan — 2009 MCO champion and former world #10 — in the first round. Waiting in the quarters was another Egyptian, the swift Tarek Momen, who had been a giant-killer in last year’s MCO. Then came ex-Motor City champ Palmer – on the downside at 34 of an extraordinary career – but still dangerous and eager to add a second MCO crown to his stuffed trophy case. Shorbagy was up to each challenge.
“I had quite possibly one of the toughest roads of the tournament,” Shorbagy said afterwards. “I was really unlucky to get (Golan) in the first round. He runs a lot and that took me a lot of energy to beat him. (Tarek) was another tough match for me mentally because he’s another Egyptian player.”
“And then the semifinal against Palmer,” he continued. “That was a very tough match for me mentally because it was the very first time I play him. So, I think to win this tournament, when you have such a tough road as this, it’s just something to give you really big confidence.”
Defeating Golan, Momen, Palmer and Mosaad in a single tournament. Winning an International 50 event at just 20 years-old. What’s next?
“I’m just happy to be with all these names up there,” the Egyptian said pointing to the banner on the Birmingham Athletic Club wall of previous tourney winners. “They are all really big names. Gaultier, Palmer, Power, John White, Darwish. So, just to win a tournament like that is something to make me proud.”