Beng Hee battles to major career title in Detroit

After a difficult 2011 that brought him to the brink of retirement, a rejuvenated Ong Beng Hee completed back-to-back upsets of the two top seeds to win The 2012 Motor City Open, presented by The Suburban Collection. The Malaysian’s shocking finals victory Monday night was his first major pro squash tour championship since 2008.

In front of a sold-out Birmingham Athletic Club crowd, the unseeded Beng Hee completed a wild four days by sweeping #2 seed and World #14 Hisham Ashour, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7. The win netted the veteran a Rolex Explorer II watch, courtesy of sponsor Greenstone Jewelers, a first place check of $8,000, and a standing ovation from the packed house.

“After I won the last point, I was very emotional,” said the 31-year-old who in December contemplated retirement following first-round exits in 10 of his 13 tournament appearances in 2011. “It’s been a very long road up to here.”

The road to the championship was an exhausting one for the World # 34. Beng Hee survived five-game marathons against Gregoire Marche and Cameron Pilley in the first two rounds before sweeping defending champion and World # 6, Mohamed El Shorbagy, in the semifinals. Executing a flawless game plan against the talented Ashour, Beng Hee capped his week with another three-game sweep.

“For me, this tournament has been everything and luck,” Beng Hee said. “Managing to beat Cameron Pilley in five while having cramps – and Cameron cramping as well – that’s never happened before. And to be able to beat Shorbagy yesterday and then back it up to beat Hisham today. . . . Luck played a big part.”

The Egyptian Ashour, famed for his deft racket and crafty shots, struggled with the bouncy club court – often forcing shots out of frustration. In the first game alone, he made nine unforced errors.

“The (expletive) ball was bouncing like a like a tennis ball,” the colorful Ashour said afterwards. “I couldn’t put it anywhere. Every time I was putting it somewhere it was popping up again, so I couldn’t make him do the work. It was all in his favor. He controlled the whole situation. I’m a bit disappointed. I feel pain. But I’ll live.”

For Beng Hee, who as a 19-year old advanced to the 2000 MCO semifinals and a World #7 ranking, it’s now about returning to form and ending his career on a high note.

“It took me a long time and I wanted to justify my retirement. I’m going to retire as high as I can,” he said. “I’ve given myself another year, hopefully two. And to be able to win this tournament – what a feeling.”

“After I won the last point, I was very emotional,” said the 31-year-old who in December contemplated retirement following first round exits in 10 of his 14 tournament appearances in 2011. “It’s been a very long road up to here.”

A.J. Hakim

Final:

Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt [2] Hisham Ashour (EGY) 11-8, 11-9, 11-7

 

 

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