Max Lee not able to compete in final after Macau win over Marwan
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Play moved to the glass court erected by the Macau Tower today. Both the men’s top seeds were upstaged by their lower seeded opponents in the Macau Open semi-finals, while the women’s top seeds won comfortably.
Max Lee of Hong Kong, winner of last year’s event, once again defied his seeding to take out top seeded Egyptian Marwan Elshorbagy in a match that lasted 68 minutes.
The Egyptian started way better of the two when he raced to a 5-1 lead very quickly, and then 6-2. At this point, Lee then manages to find his range and a lengthy rally ensued. Though he lost that rally, it was certainly the turning point of the game as rallies were far more competitive from hereon. Elshorbagy got to 9-6, but Lee orchestrated his way back with some masterful performance to take 5 points in a row to take the lead 11-9
In the second, Lee continued to dominate the rallies, always staying ahead by a point or two until he raced to 9-4 and then 10-5. Lee was now in overdrive and looked very comfortable on this court. Two game points were saved before a low forehand kill would end the game 11-7, and Lee was 2-up.
The third saw Elshorbagy coming in a different player, playing a far more aggressive style to unsettle Lee, which worked as he got from 5-4 to 9-4 in a very quick time, attacking every opportunity that he had. An unfortunate stroke from a ball that hit Lee from an unnecessary shot unsettled the defending champion further, which was then cautioned by the referee. Elshorbagy hung on to take it 11-5 and into a fourth game.
Elshorbagy continued his momentum from where he left off, making Lee chase down every corner that tired him out. At 5-3, Lee found the tin and started crouching and gasping for air after each rally from here onwards. It’s certainly not a normal sight of this physical machine that Lee is. It’s no secret that at the end of the game, Lee was struggling as he did not walk to his corner but merely sat on the steps of the side door. 11-8 to Elshorbagy and we have a decider on hand that surely only looked to go Elshorbagy’s way given the condition Lee was in.
Elshorbagy raced to 6-3, capitalising on Lee’s exhaustion, who was also seen limping. Lee was just returning the ball without much purpose but each time he had an opening, tried to finish it in the corners. It paid well, as he manages to close the gap to 6-5, and again at 7-6 from points in the front. He then took 4 points in a row to go 10-7 match ball up.
Elshorbagy catches up to 10-10, the last rally which sent Lee onto the ground where court services was required to dry the surface. This gave Lee some desperately needed time to recoup. The next rally was finished off with a forehand kill from the back and the next point went Lee’s way as well to everyone’s disbelief. Max Lee was in his second successive Macau Open final.
“I took a while to get started in the first game. Then when I was 2-up, the change from day to night unsettled me quite a bit, the ball got softer and I couldn’t adapt quick enough. Marwan also came in with a much more physical game as you can see, a lot of body contact, which I found hard to get used to. In the fourth, I was totally gone, I couldn’t think. I was just hitting the ball and chasing the next. My mind was blank and I had no idea how I won it,” said Max Lee, who was still struggling for his breath.
In the latest update on 18 September 2016 (10.30am local time), Max Lee has pulled out of today’s final as he is unable to recover in time. Below is an excerpt from the media release from the organisers :
“It is unfortunate that Max Lee is unable to recover in time to be match for tonight’s final against England’s Daryl Selby and will concede a walkover.
We wish Max a speedy recovery and by default, congratulations to the 2016 Macau Squash Open champion Daryl Selby.”
In the second men’s semis, Daryl Selby maintained his 100% record against Saurav Ghosal after he won 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-0 in 64 minutes. Selby has now won all 6 of their meetings and maintains that none of their matches has gone below the hour. While it is an upset on paper, it is the Englishman who is ranked higher than Ghosal in the current world rankings.
The first game was long as both players seem a little cautious, never attacking much. It was Ghosal who got ahead first, going from 6-4 to 9-4, but Selby fought back to 9-7 before tinning the next rally to go game ball down. He saves one but would tin the next in a backhand drop attempt to go a game down.
Selby started attacking a lot more in the next and was rewarded with the game, in which he led from the first point and was never behind, winning 11-7 eventually. The pace was also higher by now and there were quite a few traffic problems especially on the mid-length of the right side. There were some decisions which both players would not agree with the referees.
The traffic problems continued into the next game and here was easily another 10 let appeals from both players. So much, it may even have confused the referees who got the score wrong at one point. Selby started this game well, racing to a 5-1 lead and never looked back again, winning the game with a drive that died at the back of the court.
In the fourth, it was a one way traffic. Ghosal seem to have had it with the refereeing and was clearly not playing his usual self. At 5-0, Selby played through interference and caught Ghosal in the eye, to which a 3-minute injury break was taken. It didn’t change anything when game resumed as Selby won all the 5 remaining rallies to close out 11-0, with a forehand cross court volley into the nick.
“Game down again! I have to stop this habit but again, it’s not done me any harm here so far. This is one of the matches where I tried very hard to control the T because Saurav is very good with his hands from the middle. That’s also probably why there are more decisions than usual. I hit way better than before (in this tournament). I took the ball to the front much better. I feel physically very good given the conditions in there. It’s really, really hot.
I feel really sorry for Max. It’s the loudest scream I’ve heard. He did brilliantly today to hang in. I just hope he’s alright.”
Women’s top seeds to contest final
In the women’s the top seeds justified their seedings when Joelle King beat Delia Arnold for the third time in three months and Annie Au gave a masterclass performance to dispatch a helpless Emily Whitlock.
Joelle King started off her match effectively, leading from 2-0 to 5-1. Arnold was playing rather passively and only when she started attacking did she get her act together to close in 5-4. The backhand boast won her the point, and another 2 in this game. A no let to Arnold and 2 consecutive tins would give King the game 11-6 and the lead.
The backhand boast continues to trouble Arnold in the next game, and so did the backhand front corner. King led for most of the game except at 6-7, which she quickly drew level to 7-7. A pair of no lets against Arnold was next followed by a forehand winner to give King game ball, and yet another no let would give her a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Arnold started with a bang as a pair of winners would take her to 3-1. Her mistakes crept back in and she trailed once again at 4-6 before her attacking play get her level to 7-7. A few more winners and a tin from King gave the Malaysian a game and a chance to force a decider.
However, King regrouped very well in the fourth and eliminated all attacking opportunities she presented Arnold with in the third. She took it in an emphatic fashion, taking a 5-0 lead before dropping her first point. Then raced onto the next 4 points to 9-1 before Arnold got a winner, but that is all the Malaysia managed, as King wraps up the game 11-2 and checks into the final after a quarter of an hour.
“Apart from the third game where I allowed her back into the game, I think I did very well. Given the conditions in there, I’m very happy with how I did. It’s so hot in there, it’s a game you want to play smart and I’m trying to think more. In the fourth, I got a good lead and I never looked back.
Whoever I play tomorrow, I have to do the same thing. It’s still going to be a hot court, so I have to play smart again. I’ve never played Emily before but I’ve been playing Annie since I was a junior. Whoever it is, I hope they have a tough match now.”
Joelle King’s wish for a tough match certainly did not come true as Annie Au produced her best performance of the tournament tonight. In the first game, it surely did not look like semi-final, as Au dictated the rallies so well, and was hitting her lengths so tight, it was easy for her to finish the ball. Whitlock took the first point, but then lost 11 points in a row.
The second started in a similar fashion, with Au continuing to dominate, going to 4-0 and then 7-2 before things took a turn. At 7-2 down, Whitlock gave a loud shout to herself, asking “what’s going on” which seemed to work, as she won rally after rally and got as close as 8-7 down. She let out a big “come on” then, but fell just short, losing 11-9.
The third was also Annie Au all the way. She seem to play with the confidence she had in the first game once again and punished everything that came short or loose. There was simply nothing Whitlock could do and it must have been downright frustrating for the 22 year old Englishwoman, who’s doing all the work but had nothing to show. Au won the game 11-3 and sets a final date with Joelle King tomorrow.
“I started off unbelievably well in the first 2 games. I was especially sharper than I thought and I was able to dictate the rallies. I came into this match well prepared so I knew I had to play well, which I did. It’s probably easier than I expected, I certainly did not expect straight games. But the second was crucial. She came back strongly and thankfully I managed to win that, which helped with my confidence coming into the third.”
Results – Macau Open 2016, semi-finals:
Max Lee (Hkg) bt Marwan Elshorbagy (Egy) 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 8-11, 12-10 (68m)
Daryl Selby (Eng) bt Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-0 (64m)
Joelle King (Nzl) bt Delia Arnold (Mas) 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-2 (45m)
Annie Au (Hkg) bt Emily Whitlock (Eng) 11-1, 11-9, 11-3 (31m)
Pictures by Macau Squash Association