Motor City Open
No. 4 seed ends unseeded Tuominen's string of upsets in four-game final
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 #4 seed Gaultier takes home first prize from the $30,000 tourney: a check for $5,225 and a new Rolex Explorer II watch from sponsor Greenstone Jewelers.
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 game one, 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 rail 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, game three 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 from the $30,000 tournament presented by Suburban Volvo. His three upsets - including two players in the world's Top 10 - had made him the talk of the tournament, but against the world #11, he had come up just short.
#4 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) d Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-4, 11-10 (2-0), 3-11, 11-3
Gaultier d #1 Jonathon Power (CAN) 10-9 (ret.)
Tuominen d #3 Karim Darwish (EGY) (6), 11-10 (2-0), 5, 6
Power d Alex Gough (WAL) 7, 7, 1
Gaultier d #5 Mohammed Abbas (EGY) (9), 1, 5, 4-0 (ret.)
Darwish d #6 Graham Ryding (CAN) 11-10 (2-0), 8, 4
Tuominen d #2 Amr Shabana (EGY) (3), 8, 3, 1-0 (ret.)