The 2013-2014 Squash Doubles Association season comes to an end with the conclusion of the Racquet & Tennis Challenger in New York City, which included a record fifteen teams vying for only two qualifying positions and this season’s emerging partnership, Mike Ferreira & Baset Chaudhry, winning their first professional titles as teammates.
Play began on Thursday evening with qualifying draws of eight and seven. World No. 24 Graham Bassett teamed with recently-crowned national co-champion Steve Scharff to claim the eight-team qualifying draw position with three wins culminating in a four-game victory over Matt Domenick & Todd Ruth.
Defending nine-time U.S. softball singles champion and U.S. hardball singles champion Julian Illingworth partnered with fellow Professional Squash Association player Zac Alexander who recently won his first PSA title in Rochester since returning from a seven-month hiatus due to injury. Illingworth & Alexander claimed a spot in the qualifying final on simultaneous match ball against Addison West & Peter Kelly. World No. 29 and 50 Illingworth & Alexander then upset world No. 31 and 26 Josh Schwartz and Hamed Anvari in a four-game final. Having already played three matches, the eight-team main draw was fruitless for both qualifiers as both sides exited the tournament in four games.
After both semifinals in the top half of the draw advanced against qualifiers, top-seeded Ferreira & Chaudhry commandingly defeated Carl Baglio & Jacques Swanepoel 15-5, 15-8, 15-7. After a close, 15-13, 15-14, 15-12, first-round win over Greenwich-based Phil Barker & Greg McArthur, Graham Company Challenger co-champion Jonny Smith and former PSA world No. 1 John White earned a spot in defeating James Stout & Raj Nanda 15-7, 8-15, 15-13, 15-10.
Tied at thirteen-all in the fifth game of the final, Smith fired a tight rail down the left wall on Ferreira’s back hand, forcing an error and handing Smith and partner John White match ball at 14-13. Smith then clipped the tin creating the match’s third simultaneous game—now match ball, after which Ferreira and partner Baset Chaudhry laughed at each other knowing the fortuitous error instilled renewed hope of winning their first title as teammates in a final that stood on a knife’s edge.
A long rally ensued between the three Trinity alumni and White until a reverse corner clinched the match and title for Ferreira & Chaudhry with a 15-14, 14-15, 12-15, 15-13, 15-14 score line. Incredibly, each team won exactly seventy-one points.
For top-seeded Ferreira & Chaudhry, winning the R & T Challenger title on their home court was the perfect end to their first seasons on the SDA Pro Tour.
“It was really awesome to play at our home court against good friend Jonny Smith and John White, who we have a great deal of respect for,” Ferreira said afterwards. “We were definitely very excited and prepared mentally to have a tough game. Jonny Smith is very steady, although getting back to full fitness, and John White is fit, quick and has some impressive shot-making skills. The match was definitely fast-paced and as the score line reads, with three tie-breaker games, it could really have gone either way. Needless to say we were pumped and it rounded off a good season for us.”
Ferreira & Chaudhry’s meteoric rise in the rankings to world No. 15 and 13 respectively in April has mostly taken place in 2014. Up until their first partnership in January’s North American Open, Chaudhry represented Pakistan with world No. 11 Imran Khan in last April’s World Doubles Championships, won his first SDA main draw match as a qualifier with Illingworth in November’s Big Apple Open, qualified for December’s Briggs Cup main draw with Chris Callis, lost in the first round of the Putnam Pro Am with Shaun Johnstone, and won his first title—the Pittsburgh Challenger—with Raj Nanda the week before the NAO. Ferreira, however, had only qualified for the Briggs Cup main draw with Dylan Patterson before losing to eventual champions Paul Price & Clive Leach.
After qualifying for the NAO main draw, Ferreira & Chaudhry shocked world No. 5 and 6 Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan in three games before losing in a five-game semifinal. Ferreira & Chaudhry reached their second semifinal in a full-ranking tournament during the Baltimore Cup, in which they were eliminated by joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould.
In March, playing on the R & T doubles court, Ferreira reached the national doubles Open final with Whitten Morris, the same partner with whom Ferreira reached the semifinals of the David Johnson as qualifiers.
Ferreira, a member of four Trinity College national championship teams from 2000-2004, and Chaudhry, also a member of four Trinity College national championships teams from 2006-2010 as well as a collegiate individual champion in 2008 and 2009, plan to continue their partnership while juggling their day jobs in what is shaping up to be their first complete season next year.
“Baset and I plan to team up again next season and we’re looking forward to trying to play a full season.” Ferreira revealed. “I moved back officially from Hong Kong in January after spending four and a half years working out there in finance. I will hopefully get a job back in the financial services industry, and Baset is also in finance, so juggling that will be tough but hopefully doable. We complement each other well on court and are both competitive and want to win. It’s been great fun playing with Baset this season, a big thanks to the SDA for running a great season.”
“I think we complement each other pretty well with our different styles of play” Chaudhry said. “I would say Mike is more of a shot maker, whereas I try to generate pace and create openings.
“This was my first season playing on the tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love competing so it’s nice to get out there again. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season by winning the last tournament at our home club. Hopefully we will be able to play more tournaments next year, but it all depends on work as we both have day jobs. Our goal is to take down Mudge & Gould!
“I think doubles is such a great spectator sport and I can only see it growing from here. Thanks to the SDA and everyone involved for running such a nice tour.”