Volvo Motor City Open 2004
07-10 Oct, Detroit, USA, $32k

09-Oct, Semi-Finals:

[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Olli Tuominen (Fin)
     11/4, 11/10 (2-0), 3/11, 11/3

Gaultier Stops Olli's
Run In Detroit

Henry Payne reports from Detroit

French speedster Gregory Gaultier is the 2004 Volvo Motor City Open champion, defeating Finland’s Olli Tuominen before a sold out crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club Sunday. Hitting his strokes with consistent depth, and using his quickness to chase down Tuominen’s attacking shots, Gaultier earned his first PSA title of 2004 and eighth career win. For his efforts, the fourth-seeded Gaultier takes home first prize from the $30,000 tourney: a cheque for $5,225 and a new Rolex Explorer II watch from sponsor Greenstone Jewellers.

The 21-year old Gaultier had not been tested in the quarters and semis, as both his opponents – Mohammed Abbas and Jonathon Power – had retired early with injuries. Nevertheless, the Frenchman came out sharper than his Finnish opponent, jumping to a 7-2 lead on a series of errors by Tuominen, and quickly closing out the first game, 11-4.

But losing game one had been Tuominen’s pattern all week, a week in which he had set down three straight seeds to reach the final: #7 Mark Chaloner, #2 Amr Shabana, and #3 Karim Darwish. True to form, he came out ablaze in game two, seizing an 8-4 lead as his game steadied and Gaultier made some uncharacteristic errors. A perfect, wall-hugging, forehand drive and a brilliant reverse boast brought Olli to game ball at 10-7. Facing three game points, Gaultier dug in.

“I tried to slow down my game,” said Gaultier later, “and make him hit some more balls.” Two errors by the Finn, a beautifully-disguised Gaultier cross-court forehand, and a front-court nick suddenly brought the Frenchman to game ball. Another Tuominen error, and the game was Gaultier’s: 11-10 (2-0).

“There are many points I wish I could have back, but that second game especially,” Tuominen would sigh afterwards. “But I was still playing well, so I thought I could still come back.”

Indeed, the third game was all Tuominen. Forcing the pace and nailing his shots, Tuominen took a 3-1 lead with a cross-court forehand winner, a 5-1 lead on a reverse backhand kill, and a 7-2 stranglehold on the game with another crosscourt drive. A combination Tuominen forehand drop and drive deep into the right corner gave him the fourth, 11-3.

Still leading 2-1 in games, Gaultier really found his form in game four. Accelerating to a quick 4-0 lead, Gaultier won a series of long rallies, including a 75-shot marathon to give him an insurmountable 8-1 advantage. “I bad a bad start with a couple of errors,” said the Finn, “and he was pretty patient, didn’t make any errors, and then managed his lead very well.”

After 50 minutes of hard-fought squash, a Tuominen forehand error handed Gaultier his first MCO title. “It was a pretty hard match,” said the gracious winner afterwards. “It seemed a little hot today, the ball was bouncy, and a little harder to control. After I took a quick lead in game four, he never gave up. I just had to keep working hard to the end.”

The loss was bittersweet for Tuominen, who took home $3,575. His three upsets – including two players in the world’s Top Ten – had made him the talk of the tournament, but against the world #11, he had come up just short.
  

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Gaultier wins - photo courtesy Birmingham Athletic Club

 


Motor City Champion

 

 

 

 

Volvo Motor City Open 2004
1st Round
Thu 7th
Quarters
Fri 8th
Semis
Sat
9th
Final
S
un 10th
[1] Jonathon Power (Can)
11/8, 11/7, 11/9
Dan Jenson (Aus)
Jonathon Power
11/7, 11/7, 11/1
Alex Gough
Jonathon Power

10/9 rtd

Gregory Gaultier

Gregory Gaultier


11/4, 11/10 (2-0), 3/11, 11/3
 

Olli Tuominen

[8] Paul Price (Aus)
10/11(1-3), 11-10(4-2), 11/9, 11/3
Alex Gough (Wal)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
11/7, 11/7, 11/5
Viktor Berg (Can)
Gregory Gaultier
9/11, 11/1, 11/5, 4-0 (rtd)
Mohammed Abbas
[5] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
11/6, 11/6, 8/11, 11/7
[Q] Gavin Jones (Wal)
[Q] Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
11/6, 11/10(5-3), 11/7
[6] Graham Ryding (Can)
Graham Ryding
11/10 (2-0), 11/8, 11/4
Karim Darwish
Karim Darwish

6/11, 11/10(2-0), 11/5, 11/6

Olli Tuominen

[Q] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/6, 11/7, 9/11, 11/6
[3] Karim Darwish (Egy)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
10/11(2-4), 11/7, 11/7, 11/6
[7] Mark Chaloner (Eng)
Olli Tuominen
3/11, 11/8, 11/3, 1/0 (rtd)
Amr Shabana
[Q] Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11/9, 11-10(4-2), 11/9
[2] Amr Shabana (Egy)


Qualifying Finals:
Davide Bianchetti (Ita) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-7
Jonathon Kemp (Eng) bt Shahier Razik (Can) 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-5
Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 11-6, 11-9, 11-6
Gavin Jones (Wal) by Lee Drew (Eng) 5-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-8, 12-10

Qualifying First Round:
Davide Bianchetti (Ita) Bye
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt Beau River (Usa)  3/0
Jonathan Kemp (Eng) bt Rob McFadzean (Usa)  3/0
Shahier Razik (Can) bt Matt Jensen (Usa)  3/0
Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Sam Miller (Usa)  3/0
Cameron Pilley (Aus) bt Ben Gould (Usa)  3/0
Gavin Jones (Wal) bt Ian Power (Can)  3/0
Lee Drew (Eng) bt Rodney Durbach (Rsa)  3/2

 
Reports

09-Oct, Semi-Finals:

[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [1] Jonathon Power (Can)  10-9 rtd
Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)   6/11, 11/10(2-0), 11/5, 11/6

Power backs out as
Olli shocks Darwish

Henry Payne reports from Detroit

Olli Tuominen continued his torrid march through the 2004 Volvo Motor City Open draw with a semifinal upset of third seed Karim Darwish on Saturday. In the other semifinal, injury claimed yet another late-round victim as top-seed Jonathon Power was overcome by back spasms in the first game of his match against France’s fourth seed Gregory Gaultier.

Tuominen takes another scalp
After dispatching seventh seed Mark Chaloner of England in the opening round and second seed Amr Shabana in the quarters, Tuominen looked at the top of his game for the semi-final matchup at the host Birmingham Athletic Club. But Darwish, displaying the touch and range that won him the St. Louis Open crown a week ago, jumped out to a quick 9-5 lead in the first game with a beautiful reverse drop across the front of the tin. Two points later, the same shot gave him the game, 11-6.

The second game would be the swing game, and one of the best of the tournament. Undeterred by the Egyptian’s early magic, Tuominen jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead, hitting deep then taking his opportunities up front. Darwish quickly came back with a dizzying display of shot-making, tying the score at 8-all. From there, it was a battle, both players getting physical, provoking a string of lets. The Finn earned a game point at 10-9, but Darwish struck right back, burying an aggressive service return for a winner. In the tie-break, Tuominen turned his game up, hitting two consecutive brilliantly disguised drop shots in the front court, catching Darwish on his heels to take it 11-10 (2-0).

Game three would be all Tuominen. After Darwish broke to a 2-0 lead, Olli made few mistakes. He went up 3-2 on a beautiful winner from the back wall, then 5-2 after a pair of loose shots from Darwish. Taking the match’s momentum, Tuominen then sliced two winners for 8-4 before running out the game, 11-5.

“I thought he was getting tired,” said Olli afterwards. “But I’ve learned that you have to keep your head against him, because he’s so talented in the front of the court.”

Darwish, looking the wearier of the pair, gave one last run in the fourth game. At 4-4, he brought a one-two punch with a reverse corner backhand followed by a down-the-line winner, but that would be his last success. Playing with confidence and patience, Tuominen put together a string of controlled points, taking the lead and never looking back. He closed out the match, 11-6.

“That was my best game of the week,” said the elated Finn, currently number 25 in the world, but sure to close in on the Top 20 with his performance here. “I’ve been slowly getting better all year, and this match is really good for me. I’ve been trying to avoid going for too much too early, being patient, and trying to create situations for myself.”

Power backs out
The second semifinal looked to be a struggle, featuring the creative shot-making of world no 9 Jonathon Power against the steady backcourt play of Gregory Gaultier, ranked 11 in the world. Power, however, had looked physically uncomfortable at times in his quarterfinal win over Alex Gough on Friday, and by match-time on Saturday, there were questions as to whether Power would be able to go the distance. After a gruelling autumn schedule, injuries had already claimed Alex Gough and Mohammed Abbas in the MCO quarters.

They started conservatively, having played each other only once before. A series of long rallies (61 shots, 67 shots, 40, and 40) brought the score to 5-5. After that the pace of the match started to pick up, with Power dishing a pair of stunning backhand kills, and Gaultier hitting with consistent depth.

Then, at 8-8, Power began to wince with pain. Struggling around the court to 9-10, he suddenly collapsed in a heap while chasing a deep Gaultier drive into the forehand corner. Power’s day – and the match – were done.

So Sunday’s final will feature two youngsters, both playing in their first MCO final: the 21-year old Gaultier versus the 25-year old Tuominen. The two have only met once before, in January 2003. Then, Tuominen won in a five-set thriller: 11-15, 15-9, 13-15, 15-6, and 15-14.

These are the new faces of pro squash, and this should be a good one.


08-Oct, Quarter-Finals:

[1] Jonathon Power (Can) bt Alex Gough (Wal)  11-7, 11-7, 11-1
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [5] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)   9-11, 11-1, 11-5, 4-0 (rtd)
[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [6] Graham Ryding (Can)  11-10 (2-0), 11-8, 11-4
Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt [2] Amr Shabana (Egy)  3-11, 11-8, 11-3, 1-0 (rtd)

Power Motors on as
injuries take their toll

Henry Payne reports from Detroit

Friday night’s Volvo Motor City Open quarterfinals were evidence of the physical and mental strain that professional squash puts on its players. Top-seed Jonathon Power, third seed Karim Darwish, fourth seed Gregory Gaultier, and the night’s big upset winner, Ollie Tuominen, all advanced to Saturday’s semis at the Birmingham Athletic Club. But only Darwish’s opponent, Canadian Graham Ryding, hadn’t retired or pulled up lame by the end of their matches.

Olli takes advantage
Finland’s Tuominen, ranked world no 25, started slowly against second seed Amr Shabana of Egypt. More precisely, Shabana started very fast. “He can be so good like that,” said Olli afterwards. “He can be so strong and so accurate, and there’s nothing you can do.”

Game two was a different story, as Shabana’s level dropped and Tuominen picked up the pace. Said the Finn: “I got back into the match and started to move him around. I hit closer to the wall and could see his shots better.”

In game three, it all came apart for the gifted Egyptian. Tuominen kept up the pressure, accelerating to a 7-3 lead, at which point Shabana, clutching his brow in apparent mental exhaustion, threw away the last four points. When he returned for game four, he quickly threw in the towel, retiring after the first point.

Was this the Finn’s most memorable victory against world champion Shabana? “Actually,” said Tuominen, “I remember playing him in the British Open Juniors when we were just 14 in a really tough match. We go way back, and that’s the one I really remember.”

Gough backs out
The Motor City Open, presented by Suburban Volvo, is played on the harder wood of The Birmingham Athletic Club’s courts, and the surface seemed to take its toll on Power and his opponent Alex Gough. From the start, their rallies were long, corner-to-corner affairs, some lasting as many as 75 shots. The exertion seemed to take its toll on both players’ backs. By the third game, Gough was done, his back causing too much discomfort. Power, dictating play and finishing rallies with brilliantly disguised shots, took the victory, 11-7, 11-7, 11 -1.

Said the MCO defending champion Power: “That one was tough. Fifty minutes is a long game for such an easy score.” Power, 30, will play the 21-year old Gaultier next. The pair have met only once – in New York in February, 2003. Power dominated that outing: 15-7, 15-11, 15-5.

Gaultier eases past Abbas
Gaultier, too, was the recipient of an early victory when his opponent, Egypt’s Mohammed Abbas, retired with a foot injury.

“From the first, I could tell he wasn’t feeling just right,” reflected world no 11 Gaultier afterwards. “But in the first game he was going for his shots and making winners.” Indeed Abbas was, taking game one, 11-9. But thereafter, the fast Frenchman wore down his increasingly hobbled opponent, 11-1 in the second, then 11-5 in the third. At 4-0 in the fourth, Abbas had had enough.

No repeat for Ryding
One week ago in St. Louis, no 6 seed Graham Ryding gave eventual champion Karim Darwish all he could handle before eventually succumbing 2/3 in their quarterfinal meeting. Tonight they were back in the quarters again, but this time, it would be all Darwish.

Ryding had his best chance to take the momentum of the match when he held game point at 10-9 in the first. But a drop into the tin squandered the opportunity, and Darwish took the next three points and the game in overtime, 11-10 (2-0). After that, the fluid Egyptian found his rhythm and dispatched the determined Canadian, 11-8 in the third, and 11-4 in the fourth, setting up a semi-final duel against Olli Tuominen.


08-Oct, Round One:
Power Motors on as
Price and Chaloner fall

Henry Payne reports from Detroit

Alex Gough and Olli Tuominen opened the 2004 Volvo Motor City Open with first-round upsets at the Birmingham Athletic Club on Thursday, while top seeds Jonathon Power and Amr Shabana were tested, if unscathed. Gregory Gaultier, Karim Darwish, Mohammed Abbas, and Graham Ryding rounded out the evening’s winners, all advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals.

Gough, a Motor City runner-up in 2000, returned to Birmingham’s hardwood to score a thrilling victory over eighth seed Paul Price of Australia. The first two games featured nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat stuff as each game went into overtime. Price took the first, 13-11, then Gough rallied for the second, 14-12. Game three would be the deciding game, as Gough doggedly pursued his strategy to keep Price off-rhythm, moving his opponent side-to-side and corner-to-corner, so as not to allow the big Aussie his favoured volleys and kill shots.

Gough gained the third, 11-9, and with it, the momentum. A frustrated Price seemed spent in the fourth, surrendering 11-3 for the match.

Tuominen had already tasted success this year against seventh seed Mark Chaloner, defeating him in a five-game thriller in Chicago's Windy City Open. This time, he needed one less game to beat the experienced Englishman. Though just 25, Tuominen is no stranger to the game himself. He has been on the pro tour since he was 18, though finding players in Finland to practice against can be difficult. Olli is currently the only Finn on the PSA tour.

“I had a slow start this year, losing to some players ranked below me,” he explained. “I am still not my sharpest but I had a good summer and am getting better.” He will face Amr Shabana of Egypt in the quarters Friday.

Shabana ran into a Jonathon Kemp buzz-saw in the early going of his match. After a gruelling five-game win against Canada’s Shahier Razik on Wednesday to qualify for the main draw, Kemp seemed determined to take the game right to his Egyptian opponent so as not to get into a rally marathon. A series of hard-hit nick winners had the crowd gasping, and Kemp stretched Shabana to 11-9 in the first game. Game two and three were just as close, with the sharp-shooting Kemp coming up just short in both, 14-12 and 11-9 for a closer-than-it-appeared 3-0 loss.

Top seed Power and Australia’s Dan Jensen, ranked world no 20, were matched up in the MCO first round for the second year in a row. And for the second year in row, Power prevailed in three tense sets. The Canadian showman looked on form despite playing in only his second tournament since sustaining injury in Hong Kong in late August.

“I feel okay,” said Canada’s no 1. “Last week in St. Louis was a good warm-up. Dan played well tonight, and I think the score doesn’t indicate how close the match was.”

Also in the top half of the draw with Power and Gough is fourth seed Gregory Gaultier, the French speedster making his first entry in the MCO. He won easily over Canada’s Viktor Berg, 11-7, 11-7, and 11-5.

Gaultier will face smooth Egyptian Mohammed Abbas who put an end to qualifier Gavin Jones' solid week. “He is very fast, so I have to plan a good point,” said Abbas afterwards. “I tried to hit the ball hard, keep him back, then cut off anything short. He won the third game, but I felt him getting a little tired around 5-4 in the fourth.” Abbas closed out the valiant Jones, 11-7 in the fourth.

In the bottom half of the draw, Karim Darwish, last week’s winner in St. Louis, dispatched countryman Wael El Hindi in four games. He will face Graham Ryding of Canada next. Ryding won an entertaining match against qualifier Davide Bianchetti in three games, the first time the two had ever met.

Midway through the third, Bianchetti suddenly collapsed on the court, clutching his foot. With wide-eyed bewilderment, he then proceeded to pull a severed shoe-lace from his shoe. “That’s a five-minute break for broken equipment,” courtside spectator and rule czar Jonathon Power announced to chuckles from the gallery. Bianchetti didn’t need that long to recover a new shoe-lace, and the match was soon underway once more.

07-Oct, Qualifying Finals:
Long night in Detroit


With three of the four qualifying finals going the distance, it was a long night in Detroit, but Davide Bianchetti, Gavin Jones, Jonathan Kemp and Wael El Hindi all won through to the main draw of the Motor City Open.

Welshman Jones, who beat top seed Rodney Durbach in the first round, came from 2-0 down to beat England's Lee Drew. "In the first two games he was just unbeatable,” Jones said. "So I just tried to contain him, hit the ball straighter, and slow the rallies down."  The tactic worked, but Drew wasn't finished, and took it to 10-all in the first.

"When it got to 10-all I thought: 'Oh, hell!'" said a relieved Jones afterwards. "But I felt alright and put two solid rallies together to win the match."

Italy's Davide Bianchetti also needed five games to get past Laurens Jan Anjema. "In the matches I’ve played against Laurens before, I’ve always won,” said Bianchetti, "but this was the hardest one yet. He’s young and getting much better."

The third five-game winner was England's Jonathan Kemp, who outlasted Shahier Razik, while Wael El Hindi enjoyed a straight games victory over Aussie Cameron Pilley, to set up a first round meeting with fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish, winner in St Louis last week.

06-Oct:

Parke sits out Detroit


Qualifying action in Detroit for the Motor City Open was missing one star name, as Simon Parke withdrew with fatigue. Parke has been enjoying a sensational run of form, but being forced to qualify for every tournament this season has taken its toll.

Top of the qualifying draw was Davide Bianchetti, who received a bye, but second seed Rodney Durbach was on the wrong end of a 95-minute defeat by Lee Drew.

Local hopefuls Rob McFadzean and Matt Jensen bowed out at the hands of Jonathan Kemp and Shahir Razik, respectively, and Canada's Ian Power, with brother Jonathon, the top seed, looking on, couldn't get past Welshman Gavin Jones.

Preview:
Power's Detroit Return

Having been forced to sit out the US Open through injury, Jonathon Power will be keen to defend his Motor City Open in Detroit to kick-start his intended surge back to the top of the world rankings.

Power beat France's Thierry Lincou in last year's final, and this time is seeded to face world champion Amr Shabana in the final at the Birmingham Athletic Club.

With ten of the world's top twenty in attendance, however, neither of the top seeds can take a final place for granted. Power faces a tricky first round tie against Dan Jenson, who took out John White in the US Open, with France's Gregory Gaultier his likely semi-final opponent. Shabana too faces a tough passage to the final, with Mark Chaloner and Karim Darwish his seeded opponents after facing a qualifier in the first round.

The event is usually held in September, but was delayed this year due to Golf's Ryder Cup utilising the club's facilities.

 alanbrz@yahoo.com