Coppinger claims Northern Ontario Open Squash Tournament

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Apr 09, 2014 - 1:11 PM |
South African Stephen Coppinger defeated Egyptian Marwan El Shorbagy in the final to claim the Northern Ontario Open Squash Tournament. Photo by Randy Pascal.

South African Stephen Coppinger defeated Egyptian Marwan El Shorbagy in the final to claim the Northern Ontario Open Squash Tournament. Photo by Randy Pascal.

They travelled vastly different routes at the 2014 Northern Ontario Open Squash Tournament, and in the end, it showed.

Seeded No. 2 entering the Pro Squash Association Tour event, South African Stephen Coppinger looked every bit in control from start to finish of the week, dropping only one game in moving to the final with wins over Chris Gordon (USA), Diego Elias (Peru) and Joe Lee (England).

By contrast, defending champion Marwan El Shorbagy of Egypt was often pushed to the limit, taking out Canadian Shahier Razik in four games in round one, but needing a fifth game to eliminate both Campbell Grayson (New Zealand) and top-seeded Adrian Grant(England) in the quarter-finals and semifinals respectively.

Come Saturday afternoon, the extra hours spent on the court by El Shorbagy over the four previous days would take their toll. Coppinger closed out the Egyptian in Game 1 with a run of three, winning 11-6, and outlasted his opponent 13-11 in a back-and-forth affair in Game 2.

The final game was not nearly as close as Coppinger took a 5-4 lead and went the distance, capturing the top prize in style with an 11-4 victory.

"It felt like we had three different matches out there today," said Coppinger at the Sudbury YMCA on the weekend.

"Each game was completely different. The second game, he really slowed the pace down."

Coppinger held down the No. 24 ranking in the world before his trek to Sudbury.
"I really had to recalibrate and not try and force anything. That was the hardest single game of the tournament, mentally."

Up 2-0, Coppinger knew all too well the resiliency of El Shorbagy, fully evident when he stormed back from the exact same two-game deficit in beating Grant one night earlier.

"It was really important for me to get that good start and keep it (in Game 3), because the minute he thinks he can win, he's a dangerous player," said Coppinger.

The matchup also provided an interesting contrast in styles, with Coppinger more comfortable with the wide-open, aggressive game, while El Shorbagy does not shy away, in the least, from greater contact on the court.

Whereas the Coppinger/Lee battle on Friday might have featured a total of just four "lets," that same number was easily reached in Game 1 of the championship affair. Still, the eventual winner maintained that consistent ball striking was far more key than any ability to counter the physical nature of his opponent's game.

"A lot of players make it difficult for you when you play badly," said Coppinger. "He's no exception. If you put the ball in the middle of the court, it's a nightmare for you to get anything. The key for me today was to focus on me."

The 2014 championship was the fifth time that the PSA Tour has made a stop in Sudbury, with Razik winning in both 2010 and 2011, and American Jullian Illingsworth taking the honours in 2012.

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