The Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection entered the Quarterfinals with three of the world’s top 10 players in the mix. It left with just one after Ryan Cuskelly and Diego Elias pulled off a pair of upset victories over Omar Mosaad and Marwan ElShorbagy.
That leaves defending MCO Champion Ali Farag (#7) as the lone semifinalist ranked inside the top 10 after he put together a dominant performance over 2015 winner Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Joining Cuskelly, Elias and Farag will be Stephen Coppengier of South Africa, who made quick work of Day 1 giant-killer Cesar Salazar.
Cuskelly’s game plan was obvious from the outset: Use his speed as a weapon to play longer points and move the much larger Mosaad around.
It worked beautifully.
Cuskelly got off to a fast start in the first game, going up 5-1 before holding on for an 11-8 win. The Australian’s style of play began to wear on Mosaad, as the “Hammer of Thor” became slow at getting to drop shots, resulting in a lot of tin hits. Cuskelly won games two and three with ease: 11-6, 11-6.
Cuskelly, who is making his ninth appearance at the MCO, is in the semifinals for the first time.
“I’m usually getting ready for the party upstairs right around now,” Cuskelly said. “I knew if I could just make it tough and move him around, he’d get tired eventually. I stayed strong and didn’t make many mistakes.
I didn’t think it would be 3-0, but I won’t complain.”
Elias had a much bigger hill to climb in his upset of world #6 ElShorbagy, dropping the first game 11-7 before taking the second by the same score. After ElShorbagy cruised to an 11-4 win in the third, it looked like Elias would come up short in his upset bid.
The young Peruvian wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. He was able to string together a couple of points and force a fifth game with an 11-8 win in the fourth.
It was a frustrating style of play for both players, as conversations with the referee were frequent and often confrontational. ElShorbagy’s frustration grew with every point, and it appeared to catch up with him late in the fifth. Tied 7-7, Elias was awarded a stroke to get out in front and that’s when he put the hammer down. Elias hit a beautiful rail shot to go up 9-7 before ElShorbagy hit the tin to bring about game point, where Elias’ masterful touch on a drop shot earned him the victory.
“I was feeling good, so I didn’t mind if it was a long match,” Elias said. “I was enjoying it.
We were both frustrated with the ref. It’s hard to get in a rhythm, but you have to concentrate and not lose your head.”
Elias will be matched up with Farag in the semifinal. The two met in last year’s Round of 16, where Farag won easily: 11-9, 11-4, 11-2. Both players have made steady gains in the world rankings since that match. Farag has skyrocketed from #22 to #7, while Elias has pushed all the way to #23 from #42 at the same time one year ago.
Speaking of Farag, the defending MCO Champion had little trouble in what many billed as the most anticipated match of the tournament. 2015 MCO Champion Rodriguez was just no match for Farag’s pinpoint accuracy and calm demeanor. Farag won in three games: 11-9, 11-5, 11-3.
“The first game was crucial for my confidence,” Farag said. “I took that momentum into the second and stayed focused.
He’s much more athletic than I am. I could never compete in that game, so I tried to control the pace and that made it difficult for him.”
Back on the other side of the draw, Coppinger will square off with Cuskelly for the right to play for the MCO crown on Monday night after taking down Salazar in three games.
Salazar, who had beaten world #1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the Round of 16, just wasn’t able to turn it on until it was too late. Coppinger won easily in the first two games: 11-4, 11-7. The two staged an epic third game. Coppinger fought off six game balls from Salazar before finally closing things out on his fourth game ball, 19-17.
(7) Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) def (4) Omar Mosaad (Egypt) 11-8, 11-6, 11-6
Stephen Coppinger (South Africa) def Cesar Salazar (Mexico) 11-4, 11-7, 19-17
(3) Ali Farag (Egypt) def (5) Miguel Angel Rodriguez 11-9, 11-5, 11-3
(8) Diego Elias (Peru) def (2) Marwan ElShorbagy (Egypt) 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-8, 11-7
Cuskelly vs. Coppinger
Farag vs. Elias