First-time partners John Roberts & Colin West went the distance to win their first career SDA titles at the sixth Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger in Pennsylvania.
Roberts, a Yale graduate, and West, a Harvard graduate, had a difficult first match together on the SDA tour, defeating Western Ontario graduates Ryan Herden & Mark Porter 15-9 in the fifth.
“We had a hard first match against Ryan and Mark and managed to squeak it out in five,” Roberts said. “I guess it was the first time on court together so it always takes a little time to get comfortable enough to know which balls to leave and take. As the tournament progressed, the matches were still long and tough but we got a little more comfortable with the court and each other so everything became more fluid which helped a lot.”
Roberts & West then went on to upset both of the tournament’s top seeds. In the semifinals, Roberts & West took out two seeds Clinton Leeuw & Omar El Kashef 15-12, 9-15, 15-10, 15-11. Roberts & West then dethroned top seeds Graham Bassett & Adam Bews to clinch the title 15-10, 12-15, 15-8, 15-9.
The Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger was first held in 2014.
“It’s great to win our first tournament in Pittsburgh,” Roberts said. “This is always one of my favorite events and was one of the first I started playing every year. Jim, the members and the staff do an incredible job of making the pros feel so welcome at the club and ensuring we all have a fantastic weekend. I look forward to being back again next year.”
After competing on the SDA Pro Tour since its formation in 2012, world No. 17 Adam Bews and world No. 21 Graham Bassett made their first title break through at the 2018 Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger this weekend in western Pennsylvania.
Bassett & Bews entered the eight-team draw as the top seeds, and fulfilled their seeding without dropping a game on their way to a maiden title.
Elsewhere in the draw, there were a number of five-gamers. In an all-Canadian quarterfinal, Tyler Hamilton & Robert Nigro outlasted Strachan Jarvis & Mark Porter, 15-9, 9-15, 15-14, 12-15, 15-12.
Two seeds Clinton Leeuw & Omar El Kashef endured two five-gamers on their way to the final, first against Kyle Martino & Adam Perkiomaki, followed by coming back from 2-1 down against Travis Judson & Aaron Luque in the semis.
In the final, it was Bassett & Bews who came out on top in a close three games 15-14, 15-11, 15-12.
“I think we were fortunate to win the final in three games,” Bassett said. “Clinton and Omar are tremendous athletes and were working me into the ground. I’m not sure how much gas I had left in the tank had it gone more than three games.”
The Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger was only Bassett & Bews’ second appearance together this season following the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles in November.
“Being the top seed in the event was a different experience for us but I think it gave us more confidence,” Bews said. “It was one of those weekends where we were both seeing the ball really well and felt very comfortable on court. We played good steady doubles and didn’t make many errors all weekend.”
Last month, Bews reached the semifinals of the Briggs Cup with Will Hartigan. Bassett enjoyed a semifinal run last weekend in Delaware with Jordan Greenberg.
“We played really well together in the Westchester event earlier this season, and I feel like we continued that good chemistry in Pittsburgh,” Bassett said. “I think we were fortunate to face three teams that called for a similar game plan. Adam is a tough competitor, and has been having a great season on tour. He was steady the whole time and delivered some big winners at crucial times.”
Both players celebrate their first career SDA Tour title.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bews said. “It’s an awesome way to start 2018 and helps continue a good season for me personally, I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.”
“I have been working in some capacity with the SDA since we transitioned from the ISDA in 2012,” said Bassett, the SDA Tour Director. “I think my role as a player has always taken a backseat to the administrator role, and it’s been a struggle to balance the two. After attending so many events and working hard behind the scenes, it’s really special to finally win one. With the big Eagles win last night, I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday. I live in Boston, so I’ll be happily spending the next two weeks behind enemy lines.”
The Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger is in its fifth year since its founding in 2014.
“Pittsburgh is a phenomenal little event,” Bassett said. “It is a very warm and welcoming squash community. The players are looked after very well, and they pack the stands to the rafters. I’d like to thank Jim Shields, David Hillman and all the sponsors and patrons from the Pittsburgh Golf Club for their generous support year after year.”
“I always love going to Pittsburgh to play,” Bews said. “That was my third year in a row. The members are very welcoming, Jim does such a great job looking after the pros and organizing the event. Every year the crowd continues to grow and the pro am gets better and better. I am looking forward to coming back next season.”
The SDA Tour heats back up this weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut, with the final Diamond event of the season—the Chilton Investments North American Open, January 26-29.
World No. 16 Baset Chaudhry signed off his 2016-2017 SDA Pro tour campaign with his third title of the season, and second title at the $15,000 Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger with first-time partner Jonny Smith.
The Trinity graduates entered the main draw seeded second, and pulled off a perfect tournament without dropping a game, including a three-game victory against top seeds Raj Nanda & Greg Park in the final.
Chaudhry praised his first-time partner and world No. 10, Smith, for a strong performance over the weekend.
“This was our first SDA tournament together, I was finally able to persuade Jonny to partner up with me,” Chaudhry said of his partner, Smith. “I think the key over the weekend was that we kept our intensity up through every single point. We wanted to play aggressive steady squash and I think we were able to execute that quite nicely. Like any other sport, doubles squash is all about momentum and confidence. Our plan was to get to a solid start right from the beginning of the tournament and carry it through till the end of the weekend, and luckily we were able to achieve that.”
Pittsburgh marks Chaudhry’s final tournament of the season before the thirty-one-year-old returns to his native Pakistan, but revealed his desire to represent his home country in the recently-announced 2017 World Doubles this September in St. Louis.
“This was my last SDA tournament for the season,” Chaudhry said. “As many of you know, I’m heading back to Pakistan for a few months for personal reasons, but I will be back in the summer and would definitely like to compete in the world open later this year. We don’t have hardball there so will have to figure out a way to stay sharp. It’s remarkable to see the tour grow over the past few years. The addition of new events and live streaming has been very refreshing and I believe with continued support of the patrons, sponsors and the squash community, it will only get better.”
“It was great to play with Baset and even sweeter to win in his last tournament before he heads back to Pakistan, he will be missed in the U.S. SQUASH circles,” Smith said.
Chaudhry won his first Pittsburgh title in 2014 with Nanda, and adds Pittsburgh to his Missouri Athletic Club Open and Long Island Open titles this season.
“Pittsburgh has been really kind to me for sure,” Chaudhry said. “This was my second time here and both times I have been lucky enough to clinch the title. I guess I just need to keep coming back each year.”
“The Pittsburgh doubles community was very hospitable,” Chaudhry said of the hosts. “A lot of the members had offered their residences to the players and made sure we were well taken care of, so can’t thank them enough for their support. The crowd was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which makes it even more fun for the players. Thanks again to Jim Shields for running such an amazing event.”
Playing in just their second tournament together over the span of three years, Matt Jenson & Jacques Swanepoel dropped only one game on their way to the $15,000 2016 Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger title this weekend at the Pittsburgh Golf Club in western Pennsylvania.
Leading up to this weekend, Jenson, world No. 21, and Swanepoel, world No. 35, played in just one match together—a five-game first-round loss in the 2013 Maryland Club Open.
Their fortunes were much different in their second run together beginning with their opening three-game victory over Adam Bews & Jordan Greenberg.
Their only game lost came in the first against Canadians Fred Reid & Justin Todd, to which they responded by winning the match in four to reach the final.
Their five-game semifinal perhaps played a part in the final result, as Jenson & Swanepoel prevailed 15-12, 15-10, 15-10.
“Our teamwork, angles and communication helped us through the event,” Jenson said. “It’s a fast court out there, but it plays very true.”
The title is Jenson’s first since the 2014 Hashim Khan in his home base of Denver, and Swanepoel’ss first career full ranking title.
“Jacques is a quality squash player and a quality person so it makes for good team chemistry,” Jenson said of his partner. “I really thought we played as a strong, well-balanced team.”
Pittsburgh played host to the tournament for the third year, enjoying support from a growing base of doubles enthusiasts.
“The Pittsburgh Golf Club is very keen, they watched eagerly and asked a lot of question,” Jenson said of the hosts. “They’re a fun group of members. I would also like to say thanks and congratulations to Kristy and Jim for all their efforts. I know all the pros felt very welcomed and the club’s hospitality was second to none.”
Unseeded rookie partners Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold claimed their maiden Squash Doubles Association (SDA) title this weekend—the $15,000 Pittsburgh Challenger.
Playing in just their third SDA tournament, the Toronto-based tandem added the Challenger title—restricted to those ranked outside the top eight in a full eight-team main draw—to their 2014 Canadian National Doubles title at the Pittsburgh Golf Club in western Pennsylvania.
Clarke & Arnold were set to open their tournament against top-seeded Hamed Anvari & Viktor Berg, who won their first title together in St. Louis a few weeks ago, but Anvari fell ill with the flu the day before the tournament forcing the top seeds to withdraw. In their stead, locals David Edwards & Timothy Heneroty stepped in, but Clarke & Arnold comfortably quelled the natives 11-4, 11-4, 11-5.
Brothers John & Dan Roberts awaited Clark & Arnold in the semis following a four-game victory over Robert Burns & Jordan Greenberg, and took the only game off the eventual champions, falling 15-13, 8-15, 15-8, 15-9.
Following the semifinals Saturday night Clarke, former singles world No. 68, and Arnold, former singles world No. 54, played a singles exhibition for the enthusiastic Golf Club crowd. Adding to the entertainment, club juniors reffed and coached the players according to Tournament Director Jim Shields.
Trinity graduates Carl Baglio & Andres Vargas fulfilled their seeding to reach the final, eliminating John Rooney & Ryan Thompson and Graham Bassett & Matt Domenick in three games in the first round and semifinals respectively.
Baglio & Vargas’ luck ran out in the final, however, with a number of unforced errors providing Clarke & Arnold with the advantage and match 15-10, 15-9, 15-11.
For Clarke & Arnold, the title serves at the validation of a developing partnership over the past two years.
“This first season has been a lot of fun playing with Scott,” Clarke said of his partner. “We only decided at the last minute to play Canadian Nationals because we are good friends and thought it would be a fun experience. We never thought we would win the event but after the victory we decided that it would be a good idea to play a few doubles events when our schedule allowed it. We’ve enjoyed the tour so far and plan on playing a couple more events before the end of the season.”
Cambridge Club professional and doubles stalwart Jamie Bentley helped teach the Toronto-based team on their road to a national title.
“The transition from singles to doubles is not easy, but being from a singles background definitely helps,” Clarke continued. “The two sports are completely different and it takes a while to get used to the ball and movement that doubles presents. Working at The Toronto Cricket Club which is primarily a doubles club (and Scott at the Badminton and Racket) has helped and we’ve had a lot of help from those who have played more than us understand the game, especially Jamie Bentley who’s given us some of his time to help teach us.”
Clarke praised tournament director Jim Shields and the enthusiastic membership backing the tournament.
“The members of the club were very welcoming and friendly to chat and have conversations with,” Clarke said. “The club is beautiful, I love the old look and feel that the club has kept over the years, the character is still alive.”