Pilley powers past Darwish to reach Motor City Open semi-finals
By JAMES HAWKINS – Squash Mad Reporter
Australian Cameron Pilley celebrated his tenth PSA World Tour meeting with Karim Darwish since 2006 by beating the former world number one from Egypt for the first time in the quarter-finals of the Motor City Open, the PSA International 70 squash event at Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, USA.
It was the pair’s first Tour meeting for more than three years – and the eighth-seeded 31-year-old from New South Wales said he planned to jump out to quick leads in each game.
“I’m so happy to get that one next to my name – it’s huge,” said Pilley after his breakthrough 11-3, 14-16, 12-10, 11-6 triumph in 75 minutes over the number two seed, ranked six in the world, who won the Detroit title in 2010.
“Mentally for both of us it was a big game,” continued the Netherlands-based World No.18 (pictured above, right, with Darwish). “For me to take a 2-0 lead would’ve been huge and he knew that. We both gave it everything in that second game.
“But I knew he wasn’t as fit as he has been in the past so I knew if I could get off to a good start in the third game and just try and make it really tough, I might get a few cheap points at some stage.”
Pilley had two game balls at 10-8 in the third game, but the 32-year-old from Cairo fought back to force a tie-break.
“Darwish made two unbelievable shots to go from 10-8 to 10-all,” Pilley said. “I knew I had to tighten up, go straight down the walls and not give him any angles because when Darwish has an angle to work with, it can be brutal.”
Pilley will now face England’s Peter Barker for a place in the final. The third seed from London battled for 71 minutes to overcome the pink-shirted Miguel Angel Rodriguez (pictured right), the number seven seed from Colombia, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7.
The other semi, between top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy and No.4 seed Amr Shabana, will guarantee Egyptian interest in the final for the fifth year in a row.
The clash will be a repeat of the 2013 semi won by Shabana on the way to his maiden title triumph in Detroit.
World number four Elshorbagy, the 2011 champion, made the semi-finals for the fourth year in a row after despatching Finnish qualifier Olli Tuominen 11-9, 11-8, 11-7.
Shabana, the 34-year-old four-time World Champion who is at the top of his game after winning last week’s Tournament of Champions in New York, extended his winning run in Michigan by defeating fellow countryman Omar Mosaad, the fifth seed, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10.
“I didn’t get the easiest draw coming to Detroit but sometimes you get the easiest draw and you blow it,” explained Shabana later. “You just have to keep your head down and dig and that’s what I did today.
“I’m lucky that Omar had a 90-minute match against (Ong) Beng Hee that went to five yesterday, so Beng Hee softened him up a bit and I took full advantage of that.
“Mohamed is the world number four so I’ve got to play my best tomorrow,” continued the former world number one, currently ranked nine in the world. “He’s had one more day of rest than me, but you throw all this out the window as soon as you step in the court. We’ll see how it goes!”
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Amr Shabana (EGY)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Peter Barker (ENG)
Quarter Final Results:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) 3-0 [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-9, 11-8, 11-7 (42m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) 3-0  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 11-7, 11-9, 12-10 (53m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) 3-1  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7 (71m)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-1  Karim Darwish (EGY) 11-3, 14-16, 12-10, 11-6 (75m)
Pictures courtesy of tournament website: themotorcityopen.com