US SQUASH

Al Tamimi Dethrones Motor City Open Defending Champion Abouelghar

Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi got upset at times – but he upset No. 3 seed Mohamed Abouelghar in second round action. (MCO Photo)

Report courtesy of Matt Schoch

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Three former champions moved on to the quarterfinals of the The Motor City Open presented by Sturbridge Capital on Thursday. But not the defending champion.

Third-seed Mohamed Abouelghar was upset by Qatar’s Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi 9-11, 13-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7 score at the Birmingham Athletic Club. The Egyptian was one of three seeded players to go down in Round Two play.

Al Tamimi, who missed five months of action last season after compartment syndrome surgery in both his legs, said taking down World No. 9 Abouelghar was one of the biggest wins of his career.

“I have massive, massive respect for this guy,” Al Tamimi said. “He’s one of the nicest guys on tour and most skillful, so I always like to play those people. It’s always fair and he’s one of my favorite players on tour.”

Al Tamimi, who came into the tournament ranked #39, said he’s been training in Greenwich, Connecticut with coach Rodney Martin to get back in form and prepare for a Detroit run.

Al Tamimi came from behind in each of the three games he won – including taking six of the final seven points in the second game – and dropped to his knees after sealing the win.

“I think the hard work paid off,” Al Tamimi said. “And I kept pushing and pushing until the fifth.”

Upsets were also pulled off by Benjamin Aubert of France, who downed sixth-seeded Zahed Salem of Egypt, and Mohamed ElSherbini of Egypt, who took down fifth-seeded Gregoire Marche of France.

The event’s two other former champs – second-seeded Marwan ElShorbagy of Egypt and fourth-seeded Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia – advanced. Top seed Diego Elias of Peru, a finalist last year, was taken to the limit by Nathan Lake.

Elias alternating games with the Englishman, who won the E.M. Noll Classic in Philadelphia on Sunday. Elias lost to Abouelghar in last year’s MCO finals and has competed in metro Detroit a handful of times.

“I’ve done well most of the time,” Elias said. “The people here are great, and I’m really happy to be here again. There are some good players in the tournament, so I have to stay at my best to try to win.”

El Shorbagy, the 2018 MCO winner, downed England’s 6-foot-1 George Parker in four tense games to close the night.

“The first match of the tournament is always one of the toughest,” ElShorbagy said. “George is a great player, it wasn’t really easy playing him. He’s a big guy and you have to find a way to move around.”

Rodriguez, the 2015 champion, also had a big opponent in England’s 6-foot-2 Richie Fallows. He won the final three games after dropping the first. It’s the Cooumbian’s first event of the year after missing time with knee tendonitis.

“This is a test for me,” Rodriguez said. “I’m glad I was able to play without pain. It was a great performance, and I’m very happy to be back on tour.”

It was a battle of great showmen. Fallows hit one shot between his legs, delighting the crowd, while Rodriguez jumped over a ball on another point.

Mexico’s Cesar Salazar needed five games to take out France’s Sebastien Bonmalais. The dramatic, 72-minute match ended with Salazar winning the fifth game 12-10. Bonmalais threw his racquet then gave his conqueror a hug.

Hong Kong’s Leo Au, seeded seventh, topped India’s Vikram Malhotra in three.

Quarterfinal play begins at 6 p.m. Friday with a pair of matches before the nightcaps begin at 7 p.m. Elias will meet Salazar, and Aubert faces Al Tamimi in the early matches, with Rodriguez facing ElSherbini and Au meeting ElShorbagy later.

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