Jonny Smith and Raj Nanda have won the inaugural Charlottesville Challenger $15,000, their first SDA title since pairing up to claim the 2010 Pittsburgh Cup as the Squash Doubles Association welcomed two new doubles courts to the professional circuit during the McArthur Squash Center Grand Opening Festival of Squash at Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Smith and Nanda, world No. 13 and 21, entered the draw as three seeds and defeated first round opponents Graham Bassett and Ian Power in four games 15-11, 15-10, 10-15, 15-9 to set up a semifinal match against Chris Walker and Hamed Anvari who upset two seeds former PSA world No. 1 John White and world No. 12 John Russell in a five game, quarterfinal match 15-13, 13-15, 14-15, 15-13, 15-11.
Despite dropping the first game 15-10, Smith and Nanda recovered to win the next three games 15-10, 15-10, 15-14 to book a spot in the finals against one seeds and shared world No. 9 James Stout and Greg McArthur. Stout and McArthur were in form having won both matches up to the final without dropping a game including a semifinal win over four seeds and former Trinity teammates Shaun Johnstone and Jacques Swanepoel.
Ultimately form wasn’t enough for the top seeds in the final. The first two games split with Smith and Nanda taking the first 15-8, then Stout and McArthur edging out the second 15-14. Smith and Nanda pressed on to win the third and final games 15-11, 15-11 to clinch the SDA season opener, and the inaugural edition of the Charlottesville Challenger.
“For me, winning this event with Jonny is the best start to the season I could hope for.” Nanda said.
“I haven’t been able to get many tournaments in the past 12 months so the ranking has dropped. This should give me a big boost heading into what looks to be the most successful season that Pro Squash Doubles has seen.
“Our partnership this week was solid. We had a concise strategy for each opponent. We stuck together in the matches we weren’t playing at our best. Lifting each other’s level when we needed to at the right times.”
“It is a very satisfying and rewarding feeling to win in a strong Challenger field. Our communication was very good and we were disciplined enough to stick to our strategy so it was a great way to start the season.” Smith said.
“It was nice to be a part of such a ground-breaking weekend at UVA, and a huge breakthrough for squash in the south. It was a great feeling to play in the final of the opening weekend of such a world class facility, especially as we weren’t seeded to reach the finals.”