Birmingham, Mich. – Top seed and World #9 Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands leads nine of the world’s Top 25 in pursuit of a record purse at the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. Tournament qualifying begins Wednesday evening with the Main Draw final set for Monday, January 31 at Michigan’s premier squash facility, the Birmingham Athletic Club, north of Detroit.
Anjema will have stiff competition for the $50,000 in prize money – and a Rolex watch presented by Greenstone’s Jewelers. In addition to World #10 and second seed Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt, the draw sports former World #1 and 2000 MCO champion David Palmer of Australia and 2009 MCO finalist, Englishman Adrian Grant. Palmer and Grant are seeded #3 and 4, respectively.
Other top players include lanky World #11, Cameron Pilley of Australia, Egypt’s World #15 Omar Mosaad, England’s World #24 Jonathan Kemp, and yet another Egyptian, Mohd Ali Anwar Reda, World #25. World #18 Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia was slated to play but is a last minute scratch due to a back injury.
Palmer comes into the MCO in the twilight of his career at 34 years of age. Michigan squash fans last saw the Aussie superstar in 2000 when he defeated Alex Gough in an epic five-game final. A year later, Palmer was World #1, beginning a run of consistency that made him a Top Five mainstay for the better part of the decade – a run that brought him 26 tour titles in 53 finals.
Anjema, Grant and Pilley are also familiar faces having made multiple appearances in Detroit. Grant nearly added the MCO to his trophy case in 2009 when he reached the final as #1 seed. The fleet Englishman succumbed to Spain’s Borja Golan in a tough four-game finale.
Top seed Anjema will lead off the Main Draw First Round on Friday against Englishman Tom Richards. But the first round match to watch is a showdown between the two big Aussies, Palmer and Pilley – the World’s #16 and #11 players. Due to new Pro Squash Association rules, tournaments are limited to four seeds, making for intriguing first-round draws. Pilley has been playing some of the best squash of his career and has moved up four places in the world rankings while Palmer dropped five since the MCO tourney entry was closed. This one should be a dandy.
Other players to watch: Birmingham Athletic Club pro Julian Wellings will get a first round bid against one of the winners of the qualifier draw. Wellings is a former World #46 who is now one of the top junior teaching pros in the U.S.
In addition to the world’s top players, the Motor City Open offers kids clinics, sponsored by the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation, with guest appearances by the touring pros, and a pro-am doubles tournament. The MCO sponsors a charity auction benefiting The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Presented by the Suburban Collection, the Motor City Open is in its 12th year. The six-day tournament, Michigan’s only pro racquets sporting event, typically attracts more than 1,500 spectators. The winner earns a cash prize, a Rolex chronometer donated by Greenstone’s Fine Jewelry and a replica vintage steering wheel trophy.