The seventeenth biennial J.P. Morgan & Trunk Club World Squash Doubles Championships concluded in dramatic fashion Sunday night as England’s John Russell & Clive Leach pulled off the upset of the tournament over Australia’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould, clinching England’s second gold medal of the tournament, adding to Suzie Pierrepont & Carrie Hastings’ women’s open title at Onwenstia Club in Chicago, Illinois.
The men’s and women’s finals were preceded by the mixed final, which saw Team USA’s Amanda Sobhy & Chris Callis, who upset England’s top seeds in the semifinals, pitted against Team Canada’s two seeds, Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg.
Hewitt & Berg created a 2-0 advantage, and held match ball on a simultaneous game ball in the third, but Sobhy & Callis forced a fourth game 15-14. The Canadian veterans then pulled away once again to win the fourth 15-6, and claim gold medals for Canada.
“Stephanie played amazing and it was a treat to play with her, we both played great all weekend,” Berg said. “Amanda and Chris are exceptional athletes and a great team, so it was nice to have won a gold medal for Canada. We kept the pressure on in the finals and never let up.”
“It was a pretty exciting match given we were up 2-0, then lost the third 15-14,” Hewitt said. “Viktor covers a lot of the court and plays a lot of balls. It makes it tough for the opponent, especially for mixed, because you never really know where he’s going to be on the court. Seanna and I lost yesterday after being up 2-1, then losing in the fifth was tough. Viktor and I also lost to Preston and Natalie in the semis two years ago, so to come back this year and beat them, then win the title was awesome.”
Their mixed world title is Berg’s second, adding to his 2006 run with Jessie Chai. Hewitt marks her first mixed world title, which adds to her three consecutive women’s world titles from 2006-2011.
“It’s hard to compare the women’s titles with the mixed. The mixed matches are that much tougher, at least for the women. They’re really physically demanding, so every mixed match I played this weekend was really tough and exhausting. This title is right up there with the women’s. It was a great mother’s day gift winning gold!”
“I really like playing mixed doubles as it brings out the best in me,” Berg continued. “It’s kind of like a cross between singles and men’s doubles. I get to be more creative than usual.
“I would like to thank the sponsors, club, patrons, club pros, volunteers, players, US Squash, the SDA tour, and everyone else that made the event such a success. It was truly amazing to be a part of it all.”
England were guaranteed a gold medal and first-time winner going into the match between top-seeded Suzie Pierrepont & Carrie Hastings and second-seeded Georgina Stoker & Victoria Simmonds.
The top seeds showed no signs of fatigue following their grueling five-game semifinal Saturday, powering to a three-game victory 15-10, 15-13, 15-10.
Suzie Pierrepont & Carrie Hastings are 2015 World Champions! pic.twitter.com/4nyQoZEceH
— SDA Pro Tour (@SDAProTour) May 10, 2015
“I felt very calm going into the final,” Hastings said. “The courts here are so nice to play on, and I wanted to leave it all on the court being that it’s my last tournament before moving back to England. Both Vic and Georgia were so strong in the semis that we knew we had to be ready for a battle.”
Pierrepont and Hastings have both been major figures on the WDSA tour in recent years, but hadn’t partnered before this weekend. For Philadelphia-based Hastings, the worlds mark her final doubles tournament before returning to England.
“The keys for me were playing with a very good friend that I have a huge amount of respect for on and off the court,” Hastings continued. “I was honored to be asked by Suzie to play, and my role was to try my best to stick to the game plan and stay steady.
“Thank you Narelle for putting together such an amazing tour, which has given me many great friendships and wonderful memories. Thanks to Tina Rix for being my partner from day one, and Suzie for giving me the opportunity to be a world champion. The WDSA girls love coming to Chicago, the events that Aidan Harrison, Dan Dolan and Peter Dunne put together are second to none. The support that we have received from the members at Onwentsia was unbelievable, can’t thank them enough.”
The men’s final concluded the tournament in appropriate fashion with an over two and a half hour showdown between two of the top SDA teams on tour, Australians Damien Mudge & Ben Gould, and Englishmen John Russell & Clive Leach. Prior to Sunday’s match, world No. 1’s Mudge & Gould has only lost two games this SDA season, one of which was the Big Apple Open semifinal against Russell & Leach.
The final didn’t disappoint with both teams going game for game, all within four points of each other, until a decisive fifth game. At 9-5 up with two hours and twenty minutes played, Leach alarmingly pulled up with a muscle cramp. After regaining his composure, the game continued with both sides displaying remarkable shot-making. A visibly-hampered Leach continued to close out points despite his discomfort, and with match ball at 14-11, shot a winning reverse to win the Englishmen’s first world title.
John Russell and Clive Leach are World Champions!!!! pic.twitter.com/GqxpIKltVS
— SDA Pro Tour (@SDAProTour) May 11, 2015
“Clive got a couple of winners there at the end, and was shooting so well. Every game was tight and long,” Russell said. “I think we played them five times this season now, and we had only won once. They gave us two pretty good hammerings in Boston and Baltimore, but we had a pretty close match in the Kellner two weeks ago.
“It feels great to win a world title. I was on the English team and won the world juniors, and that was all the way back in 1996. It’s been a while, but it’s for England and the same idea so it feels good.
The 2015 World Doubles were the first edition of the tournament since 2007 to include amateur and age division draws alongside the professional open draws.
“The tournament chairs did a great job, there were a lot of moving parts,” Russell continued. “It was great to see the age groups back and running. It’s been a while since I’ve been at a worlds where they’ve had the age divisions, but it was great to have more people at the event, and good to see people playing because they love the game. Obviously thanks to J.P. Morgan and Trunk Club for supporting the tournament.”
“The age groups were an added benefit in having more players at the event,” Hewitt said of the age divisions. “The worlds will be back in Toronto in two years, and I think having the age groups again will really be nice. The worlds used to have these categories and the opens, having those back is a huge bonus for doubles, and brings back a lot to the game.”
All age division results and live stream replays are available on www.worlddoubles.com.