Betts and Hewitt Storm to NYC Open Title
By Rob Dinerman
Dateline November 23rd —- Caught at 13-all in the first game in what proved to be the only true crossroads moment of the night, Dana Betts and Steph Hewitt took the next two points and never looked back, surging to a thoroughly decisive 15-13, 15-9, 15-5 victory over the top-seeded sister team of Narelle Krizek and Tarsh McElhinny Monday evening in the final round of the inaugural $17,500 New York City Open before a small but enthusiastic audience at the University Club of New York in mid-town Manhattan. In so doing, Betts and Hewitt took their third WSDA ranking tournament in the past 13 months (previously the Cincinnati Open early last November and the St. Louis Open in late February, in each case also via final-round victories over Krizek/McElhinny) and consolidated their landmark four-game triumph over Natalie Grainger and Suzie PierrepontSunday afternoon in the semis.
The opening frame was tight and a bit spasmodic, alternating tins and winners and with neither team able to establish a consistent rhythm as the score seesawed evenly along. Trailing 13-11, the sisters grabbed the next two points, but at 13-all Krizek just caught the top of the tin with a bold inside-out forehand roll-corner from the back wall, the kind of nervy and sharply-angled thrust that makes her game so special but that this time boomeranged, giving her opponents a game-ball that they immediately converted when Betts buried a forehand reverse-corner. Liberated by having come away with a game during much of which they had failed to play their best squash, Betts and Hewitt immediately shot off to a 4-0 (and 6-1) lead in the second that forced Krizek and McElhinny to spend the rest of the game having to try to fight through an imposing deficit.
They courageously crept to 7-10, then 8-10 when Krizek nailed a forehand reverse three-wall and pumped her fist at having drawn within striking distance of rescuing the game. But the rally screeched to a halt when McElhinny, who spent much of the match defensively fending off Betts’s forehand cross-court blasts, tinned a cross-drop, launching a game-ending 5-1 spurt that Betts and Hewitt extended to 11-1 by taking the first six points of the third game as well. Betts was scoring with her power along with a host of nick-finding shallow drives, while Hewitt nailed a series of tight reverse-corner winners and kept at least a half-dozen points alive by gliding to the front-left or covering behind Betts when the situation called for her to do so. In addition to both Betts and Hewitt playing individually at a very high level, they worked together seamlessly, eroding their opponents’ morale by causing a number of points that seemed destined to go against them to instead land in their column.
By contrast, the top seeds, perhaps affected by the dispiriting manner in which the first game had slipped from their grasp, were too out of sync (and out of sorts) to mount a serious comeback during the last two games. Krizek committed more tins in each of those games than she had in the entire semifinal match a day earlier, and McElhinny was unable to get the height and angle on her lobs and skid-boasts that had played so important a role in that straight-set semis win over Tina Rix and Fernanda Rocha. Several times they appeared possibly ready to rally, as when they strung together three impressive points that brought them to 5-9, but each time their run would be derailed. A Betts reverse-corner winner on a set-up restored her team’s momentum and jump-started a six-point run to the tape (duplicating the way that game began) that concluded the match less than 45 minutes after it started. The tour now moves on to the early-December Briggs Cup, which will be hosted by the Apawamis Club in Rye, to finish off the autumn portion of the 2015-16 season.
Finals Recap: Dana Betts/Steph Hewitt d. Narelle Krizek/Tarsh McElhinny, 15-13, 15-9, 15-5
Betts/Hewitt Shock Grainger/Pierrepont, Will Face Tippett Sisters In NYC Open Final Tonight
by Rob Dinerman
Dateline November 22nd — Trailing 13-9 in the opening game against their heavily-favored first-time-partnering opponents, Dana Betts and Steph Hewitt staged a 6-1 run to win that game and then even more surprisingly dominated the single-figure third and close-out fourth to score an eyebrow-raising but decisive 15-14, 9-15, 15-8, 15-8 victory over Natalie Grainger and Suzie Pierrepont this afternoon in the semifinal round of the inaugural $17,500 New York City Open before an enthralled gallery at the University Club of New York. Betts and Hewitt, winners of the Cincinnati Open and St. Louis Open last season, will face the top-seeded Tippett sisters, Narelle Krizek and Tarsh McElhinny, who similarly pulled off a rally (from 12-13 to 15-13) late in the first game and never looked back in rolling to a downhill 15-13, 15-7, 15-5 win over Tina Rix and Fernanda Rocha in the other semi, in a Monday evening final.
Hewitt and McElhinny both were solid, virtually error-free and wonderful both defensively and in the depth they achieved — but the day really belonged to the on-fire left-wallers Betts and Krizek, both of whom amassed a slew of front-court untouchables that accounted for a vast majority of their respective teams’ points. The left-handed Betts was blasting her forehand rail, keeping the ball so low that Grainger was having to try, too often unsuccessfully, to dig it out of the splinters of the newly-re-floored court of the host venue, which also raised the ceiling considerably. One additional aspect of the substantial renovation that the court underwent this past summer is that the front wall appears to be “slower” than in the past, which took some of the edge off Pierrepont’s power and gave Betts, as well as Hewitt (who slipped in a number of tight forehand reverse-corner winners as the match progressed) more room and time to operate.
After faltering the way they did in letting their late lead and double-game-ball opportunity slip away at the end of the first game (on a shallow Hewitt straight drop, followed by a Betts cross-court that handcuffed Pierrepont), Grainger and Pierrepont appeared to assert themselves in handily winning the second, which was the one game in which both Betts and Hewitt committed a number of tins. But Betts hit a trio of winners out of the gate in the third and her hot streak never slackened in that game or the fourth, while Grainger and Pierrepont increasingly seemed out of answers and, much earlier than anyone expected, out of the match, which ended on a despairing backhand reverse-corner mid-tin by Grainger followed by the last of a host of nick-finding salvos off Betts’s hot racquet on match-ball.
As sharp as Betts had been in the first match, and as in-sync as she was with her partner Hewitt, Krizek was at least as lethal in the second match, due both to her own precise and multi-front shot production and to the manner in which McElhinny’s wonderfully-placed lobs intermixed with un-volleyable skid-boasts consistently chased Rix to the deep recesses and opened up the court for Krizek to attack. The sisters have frequently alternated court positions but for this event have settled for an alignment in which Krizek is on the left wall and in this match she got to roam behind her older sister and hit plenty of forehands, often with better shot-making angles than would have been afforded her had she been on the right.
The fact that Rix and Rocha’s had endured by far the most grueling quarterfinal (a four-gamer with Tara Mullins and Tehani Guruge featuring a great left-wall battle between Mullins and Rix in which the Rix/Rocha pairing had fended off double-game-ball-against in two of the games they won) may have played a role in the course of this semifinal as well. In any event, after seeing their 13-12 first-game lead give way to a trio of game-clinching Krizek winners, Rix and Rocha fell well behind early in the second and never were able to mount a comeback bid. Krizek then hit winners, all of them on different shots, on each of the third game’s first five points, including a spectacular play in which she tracked down a well-hit Rocha Philadelphia boast and cracked an on-the-run forehand three-wall that dead-rolled out of the left wall nick. Krizek hit eight winners that game, which, however, ended on a forehand three-wall nick by McElhinny that ended the day on a dramatic note and set the stage for what should be an excellent Monday-evening final.
Quarterfinals: Narelle Krizek/Tarsh McElhinny d. Nabilla Ariffin/Joyce Davenport, 3-0; Tina Rix/Fernanda Rocha d. Tara Mullins/Tehani Guruge, 3-1; Natalie Grainger/Suzie Pierrepont d Nikole Garon/Vic Simmonds, 3-0; Dana Betts/Steph Hewitt d. Seanna Keating/Nikki Todd, 3-0.
Semis: Krizek/McElhinny d. Rix/Rocha, 3-0; Betts/Hewitt d. Grainger/Pierrepont, 3-1.