From ART AISNER and LAURA HOUSER
Love the thrill and excitement of competitive squash? You’re in luck as some of the world’s best squash players will again descend on the Bloomfield area this month for the 14th annual Motor City Open.
The tournament — running Jan. 24-29 at the Birmingham Athletic Club (BAC) — features 26 of the world’s top-ranked players in the sport, including two former players ranked No. 1 in the world. The event is the fourth-largest professional squash tournament in the USA.
Top four seeds are Egyptians Mohamed El Shorbagy, Karim Dawish, Omar Mosaad and Amr Shabana.
In total, four the world’s top 10 professional squash players and 12 of the top 25 players will compete in the five-day tournament, which will award the winner with a $70,000 purse, a Rolex watch from Birmingham’s Greenstone and a spot on the Motor City Open trophy.
According to the Birmingham Athletic Club’s Robert Moll and the BAC’s squash director, Julien Wellings, the Motor City Open is the second-longest professional squash tournament in the US and the largest in the midwest.
Nearly 25 million play squash all over the globe in 185 countries, with an estimated 1.2 million players in the United States.
“(Squash) requires more movement and offers less time for the player to react,” Wellings told Patch in 2011. “And it requires a lot more running because of that. It requires fast hands and is very challenging.”
Squash is a racquet sport played by two players in a four-walled court with a small, hollow, rubber ball. Points are earned after each rally. The first player to earn 11 points (or win by two points after reaching an 10-all score) wins. A player must win three of five games to win a match.
Many of those new squash players, in fact, are being trained right here in Birmingham, Wellings said. The BAC has the midwest’s largest junior squash program with several BAC junior players nationally ranked.
In November 2011, Birmingham’s Caroline Claar and Bloomfield Village’s Tatayanna Dadabbo took home first place wins their respective divisions at the DeRoy Junior Open at the BAC while several young BAC squash players took home big wins at the same tournament in 2010.
“I guess you could say we’ve been the state’s slice of squash for some time,” the BAC’s chair of its squash program, Mike Bearuregard, told Patch.
To cater to the younger squash crowd, this year’s Motor City Open will also feature the annual Junior Clinic, sponsored by the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation. During the clinic, professionals from the tournament will coach junior squash players from Detroit, Windsor as well as junior players enrolled in Racquet up Detroit.
Also this year, the tournament will include a silent auction benefiting the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Racquet Up Detroit. During its 14-year history, the Motor City Open has raised more than $120,000 for local charities.
If you go, the first round of qualifications begin at 4 p.m. Jan. 24. The finals will be held from 6:30-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or by contacting Wellings at [email protected]. The Birmingham Athletic Club is located at 4033 W. Maple Rd. in Bloomfield Hills.