The 2017 Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection has its finalists after Ali Farag and Ryan Cuskelly each staged stunning comeback victories in their semi-final matches last night at the Birmingham Athletic Club.
Farag, who defeated World No.4 Nick Matthew in last year's final, will look to become the first-ever back-to-back champion in the 18-year history of the tournament, while Cuskelly will look to etch his name in the record books and complete his magical run in his ninth year participating in the event.
Farag's route to the final was on cruise control over his first two days of match play, as he breezed by opponents in six straight games to set up his semi-final with Diego Elias, a the young Peruvian who sits on the cusp of the world's top 20.
The first game was a sign of things to come, as the players traded jabs and appeared intent on grabbing the crucial first game. Farag was able to earn four game balls, but he couldn't close Elias out until he hit back-to-back winners to get out in front.
World No.23 Elias would have his say in the proceedings before the night was done, and the 20-year-old stormed back to take the second game, before a beautiful boast on game point in the third put him 2-1 up.
World No.7 Farag wasn't about to give away his crown without a fight, however. He played like a man possessed in the fourth to set up one game for a spot in the final.
“I didn't panic for a second,” Farag said.
“The third didn't go my way, but I knew if I went into the fourth with the right game plan, I could run away with that one.”
The fifth game was neck-and-neck for the first half, but Farag really put the hammer down at 4-4 when he took six of the next seven points to give himself five game balls. Elias was able to fight off two of them, but Farag proved too much to handle. He delivered the winner to send him through to the final after a 77-minute battle.
“He's such an unbelievable player,” Farag said of Elias.
“It's very hard to get him off balance. He's got the maturity of a 30-year-old.
I've got a lot of things to do to recover for tomorrow.”
In the night's first semi-final, longtime Motor City Open favourite Cuskelly was making his first appearance in the tournament's final four. He'll look to carry his momentum to a championship Monday night after outlasting Stephen Coppinger of South Africa 5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-4.
The Australian No.2 couldn't get into a rhythm in the early stages, which enabled Coppinger to dominate the first game as he hit winner after winner to take the lead.
Cuskelly really turned it on in the second game, using his speed to his advantage and digging balls out despite Coppinger's well-struck shots. As Cuskelly ran everything down, he was able to move his bigger opponent around and take the second game.
The two would stage a back-and-forth affair in the third, with Coppinger dialling up the intensity and earning two game balls that Cuskelly valiantly fought off. 29-year-old Cuskelly got 32-year-old Coppinger on the move again, bringing him in close and forcing Coppinger into two tins that ended the game.
Cuskelly cruised to victory in the fourth, at one point reeling off six straight points to go 8-2 up, before finally sealing the win to earn a spot in Monday's final.
“I wasn't aggressive enough,” Cuskelly said.
“After the first, I got him moving and started opening things up.
“I was down in the third and told myself that I had to win this game or he's going to get more confident.
“I've been here nine years and this is such an awesome club. This isn't like any other tournament. I know all the members and I've got a lot of friends here. It feels like I'm playing at home.”
Cuskelly will be looking to win his first tournament championship since the 2015 Welaptega Bluenose Squash Classic, a PSA M35 tournament held in Halifax, Canada.
The last time Farag and Cuskelly squared off, Cuskelly walked away with a 3-0 victory in September of 2015.
Results – Semi-Finals: 2017 Suburban Collection Motor City Open
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-4
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Diego Elias (PER) 15-13, 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7
Draw – Final
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
By Geoff Robinson