Top seed Elias rises above Motor City mayhem
By MATT SCHOCH – Squash Mad Correspondent
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan – There will be a new champion at the 21st annual Motor City Open presented by Sturbridge Capital this weekend at Birmingham Athletic Club.
Two more former champs, #2 seed Marwan ElShorbagy and #4 seed Miguel Rodriguez, went down in upsets Friday courtesy of, respectively, #7 seed Leo Au and Mohamed ElSherbini. The latter will join France’s Benjamin Aubert as unseeded players in the final four Saturday. Meanwhile, top seed Diego Elias of Peru cruised.
The evening featured two epic matches and two quick dispatches – the latter pair ending in under 30 minutes.
There was little drama for World #6 Elias as he easily downed eight-seed Cesar Salazar of Mexico, 11-8, 11-2, 11-3 in 29 minutes.
“We’ve played so many times and I know he’s always a tough player, he had a tough match (Thursday),” said Elias, who is being coached this week by his father, Jose, and two-time MCO champion Jonathon Power. “I just wanted to play smart and with a lot of pace, and I think it worked.”
There was high drama elsewhere on the Birmingham Athletic Club courts as Benjamin Aubert of France and Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi of Qatar battled for five games and 100 minutes.
Aubert won the first two games 13-11 and 11-5 and fought off a game ball in the third in dramatic fashion – the Frenchman going behind the back to keep a ball alive while Al Tamimi pulled a full-length dive in a point that Aubert eventually won. Al Tamimi would take the game 14-12, then the next, 15-13, in another nailbiter.
Al Tamimi suffered an ankle injury in the fifth game. After play resumed, Aubert took control – finishing off his opponent 11-3 and falling to the ground in jubilation.
“I am very happy,” said Aubert, after making three calls home to France to his parents, grandparents, and girlfriend after the match. “I felt bad for him (after the injury).
“It was a very tough match. I’m shaking. We’re both athletic players, so I had to make him work harder physically. In the front, he was so talented … it worked at the end because I was more focused and more fresh physically.”
Unseeded ElSherbini of Egypt provided perhaps the tourney’s biggest surprise as he easily dispatched 2015 MCO champion and #4 seed Rodriguez of Colombia, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8.
Seven-seed Leo Au of Hong Kong took out the 2018 MCO champion ElShorbagy of Egypt in 86 minutes, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 7-11, 13-11.
“I think because I don’t have pressure because he’s the higher seed, I just relaxed and play,” Au said. “At the end it was 50-50. It was very close.”
In a tense game five, Au and world #8 ElShorbagy were tied, at 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, before Au earned the win. He said it was one of the best victories of his career.
“I’m really happy for my result,” Au said. “Now I have to get myself prepared, recover well, and stay focused.”
In Saturday’s semis, Elias will play Aubert, while ElSherbini takes on Au. Based on the way things have been going, it’s anyone’s guess who will claim the championship – although we know it’ll be a new man gaining first-time MCO glory.
“You never know, on the court it’s one man against one man,” Aubert said. “Everything can happen.”
PSA World Tour Silver $76,000 Men’s Motor City Open presented by Sturbridge Capital, Birmingham Athletic Club, Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, USA.
 Diego Elias (PER) beat  Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-8, 11-2, 11-3
Benjamin Aubert (FRA) beat [9/16] Abdulla Al-Tamimi (QAT) 13-11, 11-5, 14-12, 13-15, 11-3
[9/16] Mohamed Elsherbini (EGY) beat  Miguel Rodriguez (COL) 11-3, 11-4, 11-8
 Leo Au (HKG) beat  Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 7-11, 13-11
Saturday schedule, Semi-finals:
 Diego Elias (PER) v Benjamin Aubert (FRA) 5pm, Court 3
[9/16] Mohamed Elsherbini (EGY) v  Leo Au (HKG) 6pm, Court 3
Final: Sunday, 5:30pm
Pictures by HENRY PAYNE courtesy of MCO