Saturday, September 23, 2023

Lee leads the way in Detroit

Top qualifying seeds avoid upsets at Motor City Open
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Chief Reporter

Hong Kong number one Max Lee battled back from losing a mammoth first game tie-break to oust home favourite Christopher Gordon in four games and advance into the qualifying finals at the Motor City Open in Detroit.

Lee, world ranked 32, dropped the opening game against Gordon following a gruelling 24-minute tussle in which he fought off three game balls.

However, the 26-year-old scraped the second game to level the scores before easing through the next two to secure a 15-17, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 victory in 61 minutes.

“It was a very tough first game and the rallies were long, but I started getting my shots going and had a few lucky ones in the second,” said Lee (pictured above).

“I thought it was going to be a 50-50 match, so I just wanted to focus every point, hit shots and try to stay positive.”

Gordon commented: “Max is a good player and he played consistently the whole time. I used a lot of energy in the first game and just never got a second wind.

“I wasn’t able to keep the pace and I thought especially in the third and fourth (games) I was playing catch up a lot of the time.”

Top seed in the qualifiers Marwan Elshorbagy overcame a second game wobble to triumph 11-3, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 over world number 57 and Motor City debutant Eddie Charlton.

The Egyptian, who won the Edmonton Open last month, capitalised on a sluggish start from Charlton to cruise through the opening game by dropping just three points.

And although the 25-year-old from Nottingham fought back to level the scores in a ferocious second game, Elshorbagy justified his superior world ranking by dominating the third and fourth games to secure victory in just under an hour.

“It was a tough draw but there’s no easy draws in this tournament,” said Charlton. “I didn’t feel like I played great today and I wasn’t moving too well. I felt that (Marwan) was always one step ahead and played more aggressively.”

Cuskelly and RaziekIn a rematch of their 128 minute marathon in last year’s qualifying finals, Aussie Ryan Cuskelly needed nearly half that time to beat Canadian Shahier Razik (pictured right) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9.

Despite winning the first game, Cuskelly trailed the world number 60 by four points midway through the second game before rattling off eight straight points to earn four game balls en route to a commanding two-game advantage.

“The first game was quite hard and it took me a while to get into it in the second,” Cuskelly admitted afterwards.

“At 6-2 down I said I didn’t want to play again for two hours so I better win this one or it’ll go on forever. I looked at my racquet and told myself to concentrate, play smart points and wait for the right opportunities and before I knew it was game ball.”

The third game followed a similar pattern and although Razik threatened to force a decider, Cuskelly clinched victory in 54 minutes.

In contrast, world number 30 Omar Abdel Meguid of Egypt raced through a competitive yet error-strewn encounter with Indian Supreet Singh to win 12-10, 11-2, 11-8 in just 23 minutes.

Finland’s Henrik Mustonen also recorded a straight game victory, defeating Muhd Asyraf Azan of Malaysia 11-9, 11-5, 11-5.

The world number 37 will now meet Elshorbagy on Friday evening, who he defeated in their first-ever meeting at the Swedish Open almost 12 months ago.

Elsewhere, world number 26 Chris Simpson of England, Finland’s Olli Tuominen and Gregoire Marche of France all received byes into the next round after top-ranked American Julian Illingworth and New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson withdrew due to injuries and a third player was forced to cancel due to travel complications caused by cold weather gripping the East Coast.

First Qualifying Round Results:

Chris Simpson (ENG) v Bye
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0 Supreet Singh (IND) 12-10, 11-2, 11-8 (23m)
Max Lee (HKG) 3-1 Christopher Gordon (USA) 15-17, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 (61m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Bye
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) 3-1 Eddie Charlton (ENG) 11-3, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 (52m)
Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 3-0 Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 (30m)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Bye
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0 Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (54m)

Qualifying Finals Draw:

Chris Simpson (ENG) vs Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY)
Max Lee (HKG) vs Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Henrik Mustonen (FIN) vs Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) vs Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)

Pictures courtesy of Steve Cubbins (SquashSite) and Motor City Open website

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