Sunday, June 16, 2024

Shocks on day one of the Motor City Open

Ali Farag rocks Tom Richards, and Mahesh Mangaonkar goes through as Chris Simpson retires injured

MCO Qualifying, Day One: Mangaonkar, Farag score upsets
Past champ Ong Beng Hee out; Tuominen, Marche advance
By James Hawkins

Day one action at the Motor City Open in Detroit. Pictures by BRIAN MITCHELL
Day one action at the Motor City Open in Detroit. Pictures by BRIAN MITCHELL

Bloomfield Hills, Mich. — When India’s Mahesh Mangaonkar booked his airplane ticket to the 16th Motor City Open, presented by The Suburban Collection, he made plans to fly out on Friday.

Mangaonkar may have to change his reservation as he picked up his first career win over a Top-25 opponent with a 11-8, 7-3 (ret.) decision over England’s Chris Simpson in the first round of qualifying Thursday at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

World #22 Simpson had to bow out of last week’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York after he was bedridden with the flu – of which Mangaonkar was quite aware.

“I knew he had been sick for a week on tour now, so I had to prolong the match,” said Mangaonkar, who was playing a U.S. tournament for the first time. “The idea was to keep him on court as long as I could and in the end he will give up. It was nothing spectacular. Just hang in there, don’t make mistakes, and pick up every ball.”

Yet while signs of tiredness set in, Simpson was felled by a different ailment: The right adductor muscle that hampered him in last year’s qualifying final.

“It’s unbelievable. I never had it before coming here last year and hadn’t had it since,” Simpson said. “I come back here and it’s the same thing, but I think it has something to do being in bed for five days. . . . Detroit doesn’t seem to be my place.”

Although World #47 Mangaonkar wished for a complete match win over Simpson, it was still a satisfying and unexpected victory.

“Either way I’m really happy to reach the qualifying finals,” he said. “It’s a tough draw in the qualifying and I was expected to play any of the top four guys. I’m just glad that I won.”

Another newcomer who picked up an impressive win was Egypt’s Ali Farag, who rolled England’s Tom Richards in straight games, 11-6, 13-11, 11-7.

Playing in his first tournament in six months – and just his third tournament since graduating from Harvard last May with a mechanical engineering degree – Farag (World #88) did his homework on Richards (World #37) before their first head-to-head match. It paid off.

“I watched him play in last week’s ToC against Alister Walker. I knew he could cut the ball very well and wanted to stay away from his volleys,” said Farag, who won the 2012 and 2014 College Squash Association individual national championship.

“I think I was lucky the end of the second game when he had a lot of tins at some crucial times and I think that was the turning point of the match. At that point, it could’ve gone either way.”

The two wildest matches of the evening featured a pair of incredible comebacks as MCO regulars Alan Clyne of Scotland was pushed to the brink against World #54 Eddie Charlton. Clyne prevailed in five games: 10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3.

Meanwhile, Aussie Ryan Cuskelly upset 2012 MCO champ and World #31 Ong Beng Hee in a five-game thriller: 11-7, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7.

After dropping 1-2 in games and falling behind 5-8 in the fourth game, Clyne (World #38) was staring at an early exit. But was able to rattle off the next six points to keep his hopes alive. In the final game, Clyne assumed control with a 4-1 lead before closing out the match with seven straight points.

“We’ve played each other a lot and it’s usually a tough match,” Clyne said. “I expected him to play nice length, keep it tight and punish me if I open up too much and that’s what he did. He keeps it really tight to the walls and have to find ways to use my speed against him.”

Greg Marche sets up a big forehand against Diego Elias of Peru
Greg Marche sets up a big forehand against Diego Elias of Peru

Much like Clyne, Cuskelly (World #44) found himself down 2-1 in games and trailing 5-3 early in the fourth game. But Cuskelly recorded eight of the next 10 points to stay alive and took advantage of Beng Hee’s numerous mistakes in the deciding fifth game.

“When he was 2-1 up, I thought I was heading toward a loss,” Cuskelly said. “The first three games I was playing his game slow up the wall. I thought I’d change it up, hit it harder and keep him behind me . . . . He was getting too much time to set up for his shots in the first three games, so I tried to speed it and it worked in the end. He started making more mistakes and I started hitting the ball a bit better.”

Also moving on is Finland’s Olli Tuominen (World #29), France’s Gregoire Marche (World #28), Mexico’s Cesar Salazar (World #39) and India’s Saurav Ghosal (World #23). Tuominen, Marche and Salazar all won in four games, while Ghosal swept his opponent in straight games.

Marche halted the progress of world junior champion Diego Elias of Peru, winning 3-1 in 66 minutes. Elias is something of a danger man in his first full year on the PSA Tour,  and the Frenchman will be relieved to get through.

Qualifying finals start at 6 p.m. Friday.

Thursday’s first round qualifying results.

– Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) def. Chris Simpson (ENG) 11-8, 7-3 ret. (27m)

– Alan Clyne (SCO) def. Eddie Charlton (ENG) 10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3 (97m)

– Ali Farag (EGY) def. Tom Richards (ENG) 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 (36m)

– Olli Tuominen (FIN) def. Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 6-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 (44m)

– Gregoire Marche (FRA) def. Diego Elias (PER) 11-7, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9 (66m)

– Cesar Salazar (MEX) def. Arthur Gaskin (IRL) 11-8, 9-11, 11-2, 11-4 (54m)

– Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) def. Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-7, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (76m)

– Saurav Ghosal (IND) def. Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 (33m)

Friday’s qualifying finals:

– Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) vs Alan Clyne (SCO)

– Ali Farag (EGY) vs Olli Tuominen (FIN)

– Gregoire Marche (FRA) vs Cesar Salazar (MEX)

– Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) vs Saurav Ghosal (IND)

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