New Champions predicted at 2017 World Hardball Doubles Championships

Courtesy of WSF

The three World Hardball Doubles Squash Championships titles will change hands according to the seedings and draws revealed today for the 2017 event which will be held in St Louis, in the US state of Missouri, from 21-24 September.

The 12th edition of the biennial championships, featuring Men’s, Women’s and Mixed events and organised by the Squash Doubles Association (SDA) and Women’s Squash Doubles Association (WSDA) Pro Tours under the auspices of the WSF will take place at the Racquet Club of St Louis and Missouri Athletic Club.

Englishmen Michael Ferreira & Jonny Smith are seeded to win the men’s title for the first time – yet keep the trophy in English hands, after the 2015 success by Clive Leach & John Russell. The pair is expected to line up against sixth-seeded Canadians Viktor Berg & Justin Todd in the quarter-finals, en-route to a final clash with Indians Manek Mathur & Parth Sharma, the second seeds.

Meanwhile, No.5 seeds Leach and Russell – finalists in 2009, 2011 and 2013 before winning the title for the first time in 2015 – are expected to do battle with home pair Christopher Callis & Greg Park, the fourth seeds, for a place in the semi-finals.

Natarsha McElhinny is expected to provide Australian success in both the Women’s and Mixed championships. The former Natarsha Tippett pairs up with her younger sister Narelle Krizek in the women’s event where the 2011 runners-up are predicted to face England’s Suzie Pierrepont & Tina Rix in the final. Pierrepont won the 2015 title with compatriot Carrie Hastings (pictured below during the 2015 final).


Natarsha partners Scott Arnold in the mixed event where the Australians are expected to emulate the success of compatriots Narelle Krizek & Paul Price in the 2013 championships.

But it is Narelle’s sister Narelle who is expected to be on the other side of the court in the mixed final where she and Matt Jenson are the No.2 seeds. The reigning champions from Canada, Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg, are third seeds in St Louis.

Predicted quarter-final line-ups, according to the draws and seedings:

[1] Michael Ferreira & Jonny Smith (ENG) v [6] Viktor Berg & Justin Todd (CAN)
[3] Scott Arnold & Matt Jenson (AUS) v [7] Will Mariani & Freddie Reid (CAN)
[4] Christopher Callis & Greg Park (USA) v [5] Clive Leach & John Russell (ENG)
[2] Manek Mathur & Parth Sharma (IND) v [8] Imran Khan & Aaron Luque (USA)

[1] Natarsha McElhinny & Scott Arnold (AUS) v [7] Tina Rix & John Russell (ENG)
[4] Victoria Simmonds & Michael Ferreira (ENG) v [6] Natalie Grainger & Christopher Callis (USA)
[3] Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg (CAN) v [8] Seanna Keating & Thomas Brinkman (CAN)
[2] Narelle Krizek & Matt Jenson (AUS) v [5] Suzie Pierrepont & James Stout (ENG)

Women’s 1st round:
[1] Narelle Krizek & Natarsha McElhinny (AUS) bye
[3] Stephanie Hewitt & Seanna Keating (CAN) v [7] Alexia Echeverria & Andrea Echeverria (ESA)
[4] Tina Rix & Victoria Simmonds (ENG) v [6] Elani Landman & Lume Landman (RSA)
[2] Suzie Pierrepont & Tina Rix (ENG) v [5] Natalie Grainger & Kayley Leonard (USA)

The prize fund is more than $70,000 – with parity offered in the men’s and women’s draws.

Hardball is a variation of squash developed in North America and played on a larger court with a harder ball.

Letter to Players from SDA Board Chair Kevin Luzak

DATE:             August 17, 2017
TO:                  SDA Players and Supporters
FROM:            Kevin Luzak, Chair
RE:                  2016-17 Season Recap; 2017-18 Intro

I hope everybody is enjoying the final weeks of summer.  It’s time to start gearing up for the 2017-18 season, which begins on a high note with the Worlds in St. Louis on September 21.

We held our yearend board meeting in mid-July and are finalizing the 2017-18 budget this week.  The 2016-17 season was very successful, as the following metrics and initiatives demonstrate:

  • Tour value was $628,000, comprised of the total purse ($470,000), the pro-am fees ($88,000) and the hotel stipend ($70,000). Adjusted for the purse and pro-am impact of the rotation from the Briggs last year to the Kellner this year, this value level is roughly equivalent to the $707,000 total for the 2015-16 season.
  • We added an event in Buffalo, saw the return of the Creek and Tomkins events, and increased the purse at the Bentley and the Graham Cup. On the negative side, The Toronto Cricket Club did not come back for a second year.
  • Membership now stands at 115, up from 32 at the launch of the SDA. We continue to focus on increasing the size and quality of the professional player pool.  We held our first SDA Combine at the Apawamis Club in June where we introduced 12 elite singles players to the game with the help of four of our experienced doubles pros.  The Combine model proved to be very successful and we intend to repeat it at least once every year.
  • We streamed all but one event live which helped to drive more than 280,000 page views to the SDA website. We began adding commentary at several events this past season and plan to push it out to more events going forward.
  • The SDA continues to maintain its financial strength. Our organization-wide revenues of $136,000 were used to pay for refs, video equipment and streaming, the Combine, support for the now full-ranking Graham Company Cup, bookkeeping and management of the player payroll, and staffing and management fees to US SQUASH.  We retained $8,800 in profit after these expenses.
  • Johnnie-O, a clothing company with which many of you are probably familiar, has joined the tour as a sponsor. We will share the details of this new relationship once we have ironed out the details.  We have also established a partnership with Western Union that will reduce the cost of getting funds wired to players.

This progress and momentum should continue into the 2017-18 season.

  • We are adding a platinum event at Westchester Country Club which will help to offset the temporary hiatus of the Maryland Club during their renovation project and the St. Louis Events who are skipping a year to host the Worlds. We are budgeting a total purse of $525,000 and total tour value of $600,000, which are in line with the previous Briggs season in 2015-16.
  • All events will be streamed, and we have budgeted $3,000 toward enhanced commentary.
  • Working with both Harrow and Johnnie-O, we are developing an online merchandise platform through which we will sell on-court and off-court SDA gear to our supporters.
  • We actively courting two new Canadian sites (Burlington, ON and Vancouver) as well as new leads in San Francisco.
  • In addition to another annual Combine, we hope to put together a Bentley-style invitation event that would pair PSA singles players with SDA doubles players to further develop the pipeline of new talent.

We received the results of the player and sponsor surveys that were distributed at the end of last season.  The feedback is very helpful, and we are going to supplement the surveys and the player calls with a secure online “suggestion box” that will allow much more continuous communication of issues between players and the board.   Please don’t hesitate to use this resource to inform us about any issue, positive or negative, that you feel is important.  We work for you, and we will drive better outcomes in your organization if we know more about what you want.

Thank you all for contributing to our successful past and our promising future.   As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss anything.

Kevin Luzak
SDA Board of Directors

July 2017 Rankings

1-Jul Name Country Tournaments Average 1-Jun
1 Damien Mudge Australia 10 4044.643 1
1 Manek Mathur India 10 4044.643 1
3 Mike Ferreira England 10 2914.286 3
3 Yvain Badan Switzerland 11 2914.286 3
5 Chris Callis U.S.A. 9 2535.417 5
6 John Russell England 11 2466.071 6
7 Scott Arnold Australia 9 2400.000 7
8 Jonny Smith England 10 2221.429 8
9 Viktor Berg Canada 8 2208.333 9
10 Matt Jenson Australia 10 2126.786 10
11 Bernardo Samper Colombia 11 1791.071 11
12 Baset Chaudhry Pakistan 10 1642.857 12
13 Raj Nanda Australia 12 1635.156 13
14 Will Mariani Canada 6 1452.500 14
15 Imran Khan U.S.A. 11 1428.571 15
16 Clive Leach England 9 1370.833 16
17 Greg Park U.S.A. 12 1356.250 17
18 Freddie Reid Canada 14 1280.556 18
19 Graham Bassett U.S.A. 15 1180.313 19
20 Bobby Burns U.S.A. 9 1150.521 20


Complete Ranking List

Inaugural SDA Combine Attracts Top Prospects to Pro Tour

(Back row, l-r): Clive Leach, Rob Hong, Alex Grayson, Ryan Mullaney, Julian Kirby, Hameed Ahmed, Omar El Kashef, Travis Judson Manek Mathur (Front row, l-r): Graham Bassett, Andrew McGuinness, Le Roy Leong, Yasser El Halaby, Adam Perkiomaki, Omar Sobhy, Duncan Maxwell

A dozen top college graduates and singles professionals convened at the Apawamis Club to take part in the inaugural SDA Pro Tour combine, Saturday June 10, in Rye, New York.

The first event of its kind aimed to expose experienced singles players to professional-level hardball doubles in hopes of attracting future competitors to the SDA Pro Tour.

“The SDA Board of Directors realized how difficult it is for newcomers to join the tour,” said Graham Bassett, SDA Pro Tour Director. “The purpose of the SDA Combine is to remove some of the roadblocks from joining. Participants are given a chance to earn SDA points, receive coaching from the game’s best, and play some high quality matches. They are also introduced to a pool of prospective partners in the same position as themselves and given a feel for the comradery of the tour. This year’s pool was exceptional. They were all enthusiastic and there was some terrific talent. The future of the tour looks bright!”

World No. 1 Manek Mathur, defending world champion Clive Leach and Travis Judson coached the assigned teams as they competed in three matches over the course of the day.

“The energy and enthusiasm at Apawamis was contagious,” Mathur said. “It was great to see such powerful singles resumes battle it out and be so receptive to advice and constructive criticism. I think this was a great idea for the growth of the SDA and the tour is headed in the right direction. The level of potential was extremely high for all the guys that played. If all these guys go back to the drawing board and spend some time on court this summer, we might see some new names in the top rankings next season.”

Leach, a veteran of both the ISDA and SDA eras for more than a decade, praised the format and goal of attracting new players to the tour.

“The players really responded well to our coaching and advice, and I felt there was really good intensity from all players,” Leach said. “Some had more experience than others, but overall they really did try and execute what we were asking of them. This format worked really well and I hope to see this type of event again soon. This is definitely the way forward to attracting and encouraging more players to this great game. Personally, I enjoyed the day sharing my knowledge to the next generation of players.”

Heights Casino professional and first place finisher Omar El Kashef said his doubles game improved over the course of the day thanks to the professional coaching exposure.

“One of the amazing things about squash doubles is that every time I play with or against someone new, there is a different perspective that I wasn’t even considering,” El Kashef said. ” I spoke to my partner Julian a lot before and during the match. We worked together on finding the harmony we aimed for. Also, Manek and Travis were watching every single point. They made sure they talked to us between games and matches. It was very good to hear their constructive feedback on how to adjust our game to hardball doubles instead of playing ‘singles in the doubles court.'”

“I would like to thank Graham and the SDA for this tremendous idea,” Mathur added. “I want to encourage all prospective players to mark the next SDA combine on their calendars as it was a great opportunity for all those that attended.”

For all results visit the SDA Combine page. View images on the SDA SmugMug page.

Results and Teams:
1st – Julian Kirby (USA, Harvard)/Omar El Kashef (EGY)
2nd – Adam Perkiomaki (USA, Rochester)/Duncan Maxwell (CAN, St. Lawrence)
3rd – Omar Sobhy (USA, George Washington)/Hameed Ahmed (FIN, Rochester)
4th – Leroy Leong (Malaysia)/Ryan Mullaney (USA, F&M)
5th – Rob Hong (CAN)/Andrew McGuinness (USA, Navy)
6th – Yasser El Halaby (EGY, Princeton)/Alex Grayson (NZL)