Final WDSA Season Under Narelle Krizek Leadership An Historic One By Rob Dinerman, Assisted By Joyce Davenport
Dateline August 24th — The low-key manner in which the 2014-15 WDSA women’s pro doubles schedule came to an end with a pair of invitational tournaments in Southampton and Nantucket belied an exciting season in which different pairings kept appearing in the winner’s circle, new names made a major impact and a recent organizational realignment occurred that seems to set the stage for a promising future.
Throughout the prior five years, the formidable Suzie Pierrepont/Narelle Krizek duo had dominated the tour, save for the 2011-12 year in which they were momentarily displaced by Steph Hewitt and Meredeth Quick before regaining their top perch the following season and winning the last 10 sanctioned ranking WDSA tournaments which they entered as a team. Pierrepont and Krizek did retain the prestigious Turner Cup this past January — their 14th title overall, a WDSA record by a substantial margin and more than double the total amassed by any other pairing — but the fact that Pierrepont spent the year earning a Masters degree in Business at Colorado University in Denver, combined with the cancellation of the early-December U. S. Open by U. S. Squash due to funding issues, as well as the severe heel injury that Krizek incurred in the Hashim Khan Open in late March, sidelining her for the remainder of the season, all conspired to make the Turner Cup the only event on the 2014-15 schedule in which Pierrepont and Krizek were able to team up.
As a result, and for the first time in the eight-year history of the Association, at no point this past season did a single team win two WDSA tournaments in a row. After Krizek and her sister Tarsh McElhinny captured the season-opening early-October Philadelphia Open with a four-game final-round win over Hewitt and Quick, they then lost the Cincinnati Open final five weeks later to Hewitt and Dana Betts, who conjured up two winners (on a shallow rail followed by a tight reverse-corner) on the last two points of the 15-14 first game and rifled a cross-court past Krizek at 14-13 in the second en route to a 3-0 victory. Characteristic of the a-different-hero-every-week ethos that defined the entire campaign, Betts and partner Latasha Khan were eliminated in the first round of the late-January Turner Cup at the hands of Vic Simmonds and WSA top-10 singles player Amanda Sobhy, who then lost to Pierrepont/Krizek, first-round winners over qualifiers and former WSA top-two ranked Jenny Duncalf and Rachael Grinham, a four-time British Open champion.
In the bottom half of the draw, former WSA No. 1 Natalie Grainger and Harvard-bound Greenwich Academy senior Kayley Leonard trailed Amy Gross and Fernanda Rocha 11-4 in the fifth game of a final-round qualifying match but erupted on a match-closing 11-2 run which they followed up with a 15-11 fifth-game quarterfinal victory over second seeds Hewitt and Quick and a 3-1 semi over McElhinny and Carrie Hastings that was keyed by the shallow winner that Grainger was able to summon up at 14-all in the pivotal third game. By the time Grainger and Leonard began the Sunday final against the two-time defending Turner Cup champs Pierrepont and Krizek, they had played a near-maximum 18 games in their four pre-final matches (Grainger had actually played 22, counting her highly-competitive four-game loss in the concomitant Greenwich Open singles tourney to just-crowned Tournament Of Champions winner Raneem El Welily), while their opponents had played the minimum six games in their two matches. Though this disparity likely played a role in the ensuing four-game final (especially in a match-ending 9-1 run in which Grainger and Leonard visibly sagged under the firepower that was levied at them), the outcome was more a matter of the best team in women’s pro doubles history asserting itself at crunch-time of the most significant event of the year.
In the months that followed, Cincinnati Open winners Hewitt and Betts were reunited in a victorious run through the St. Louis Open (again defeating Krizek and McElhinny in the airtight though straight-set 15-13, 14 and 13 final), following which Hewitt and Pierrepont captured their third-straight Hashim Khan Open with a final-round win over Gina Stoker and Alex Clark. In the John’s Island Open in Vero Beach, McElhinny and Betts survived an opening-round simultaneous-match-ball predicament against Gross and Clark when the latter mis-hit a reverse-corner, causing the ball to bound directly back at her and resulting in a stroke call. Thus reprieved, McElhinny and Betts then out-played Stoker and Simmonds to reach the final, which they won, 15-13 in the fourth, over Sobhy and Khan, semis winners over Duncalf/Grinham, who had enjoyed their Turner Cup foray enough to travel to Florida, where they shocked just-crowned Canadian National Doubles champs Hewitt and Seanna Keating in the quarterfinals.
The presence of Sobhy (WSA No. 10), Duncalf (16) and Grinham (14), along with Sarah-Jane Perry (12), who played in the Turner Cup at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, and Heba El Torky (23), who played in the Philadelphia Open, meant that no fewer than five top-25 WSA players competed on the WDSA tour at one time or another this season, an encouraging upward trend, as was the increased number of Canadian players, a list that included Hewitt, Keating, Karen Jerome, Hollie Naughton, Marci Sier and Tara Mullins.
Although Pierrepont won both ranking WDSA events in which she played (the Turner Cup and Hashim Khan Open), as well as the mid-May non-ranking but important biennial World Doubles in Chicago with her English compatriot Hastings (defeating Simmonds and Stoker in an all-British final), the fact that she only played in two ranking tournaments, in a system that uses a minimum of four events as the divisor, caused her to slip to No. 6, behind, in ascending order, No. 5 Simmonds, No. 4 Hewitt, No. 3 Betts (who, like Hewitt, won three WDSA events), No. 2 Krizek and No. 1 McElhinny, whose pair each of tournament wins (in Philadelphia and Florida) and runner-up finishes (in Cincinnati and St. Louis) gave her just enough points to edge her younger sibling for first place in what is believed to be the first time in the history of squash in which a pair of sisters have occupied the top two slots in the season-end rankings of a professional association.
On August 17th, Krizek, who along with her husband, Rob Krizek, had founded the WDSA in Autumn 2007, wrote an eloquent letter to the WDSA membership in which she announced that, after eight rewarding but exhausting years at the helm as Tour Director, she had decided to sell the WDSA to Pierrepont, whose recently acquired MBA and diverse squash experience as a top-30 WSA player, interim WSA Tour Director, teaching pro in Philadelphia and Rye, and coach of the perennial-champion Greenwich Academy varsity should leave her superbly positioned to assume her new responsibilities. Krizek will remain on the Board as a Player Representative to assist Pierrepont in transitioning the WDSA to a player-run Association and to make sure that the tour’s sponsors and tournament chairs are provided with everything they need to ensure the success of the events on the upcoming schedule. Certainly this change represents the end of a praiseworthy era — the sparse three-tournament northeastern-based 2007-08 schedule has metamorphosed into an 11-event circuit with stops all over the United States, with an additional inaugural tournament set to be held in Boston this winter — but the hope and the plan is that Pierrepont and her supporting cast can elevate the WDSA to an even higher level in 2015-16 and the years that follow.
Women’s Pro Doubles Association In Transition As Founder Narelle Krizek Sells WDSA Tour To Suzie Pierrepont by Rob Dinerman
Dateline August 20th —- This past Monday, Narelle Krizek, who along with her husband Rob founded the World Doubles Squash Association (WDSA) in 2007 to promote women’s doubles and give the sport’s top players a competitive forum and who has served as Tour Director throughout the eight-year span of its existence, sent a letter to all WDSA members announcing that she has sold the Association to Suzie Pierrepont. Krizek will become a Player’s Representative on the new Board and will help Pierrepont with the transition during the forthcoming season to ensure that the tournament directors have everything they need for their events to run smoothly throughout the 2015-16 campaign.
Pierrepont, who has been Krizek’s doubles partner for the past six seasons in a collaboration that has resulted in 14 WDSA ranking titles, a record by a wide margin, including victories in the last 10 events they have entered dating back to their last loss in May 2012, graduated this past spring with a Masters in Business at Colorado University and plans to remain in Denver and run the Tour from there, with a view towards turning the WDSA into a players-run association. A former top-30 player on the WSA pro singles circuit and later its Tour Director for several years, she has also served as a teaching pro at clubs in Philadelphia and Rye and more recently as a hugely successful coach at Greenwich Academy, whose teams she routinely led to victory in both the U. S. High School Championships and the New England Interscholastic tournament.
She and Krizek will still partner up for a few tournaments this coming season — but this move brings to an end a noteworthy era in women’s squash. Women’s pro doubles was virtually non-existent before the Krizeks acted upon the vision they had nearly a decade ago and created an increasingly praiseworthy tournament schedule almost from scratch, with an emphasis on pro-am events, which proved enormously popular and well-subscribed, attracting sponsors and designating charitable organizations to benefit from many of the tour stops. The sparse three-event northeastern-corridor schedule of the inaugural 2007-08 season has mushroomed into an 11-tournament circuit, with stops all over the United States, and dozens of players and teams who were nowhere on the radar screen when the WDSA made its debut at the Greenwich Open in November 2007 are now making an increasing impact on the competitive spectrum. Krizek has been an integral contributor to all of these advances — it would not be going too far to say that she has been the heart and soul of the WDSA — and the hope is that Pierrepont can and will build on this legacy and lead the WDSA Tour to an even higher level.
Historic Achievement As Tippett Sisters Top WDSA Pro Women’s Doubles Rankings
by Rob Dinerman
#2 Narelle Tippett Krizek (pink) #1 Tarsh Tippett McElhinny (black)
Dateline July 14th — For what is believed to be the first time in the history of squash, a pair of sisters occupy the top two spots in the season-end rankings of a professional association. Natarsha Tippett McElhinny, a former top-20 player on the women’s pro singles tour, and her younger sister Narelle Tippett Krizek are Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in the final Women’s Squash Doubles Association (WDSA) rankings for the 2014-15 season, which were published late last week. The Grinham sisters, four-time British Open champ Rachael and four-time World Open finalist Natalie, have been in the top THREE of the women’s pro singles rankings together but never in the top two. Following McElhinny and Krizek in the WDSA standings and rounding out the top 10 are, sequentially, Dana Betts, Steph Hewitt, Victoria Simmonds, Suzie Pierrepont, current women’s singles top-10 and U. S. National Champion Amanda Sohhy, Meredeth Quick, Latasha Khan and Carrie Hastings.
There were six sanctioned ranking events on this past season’s WDSA tournament schedule — namely the Philadelphia Open, Cincinnati Open, Turner Cup, St. Louis Open, Hashim Khan Open in Denver and John’s Island Open in Florida — and the rankings are calculated based on a player’s best four performances divided by four. Pierrepont, who during four of the past five years had combined with Krizek to form the tour’s No. 1 team, spent the year based in Denver pursuing a Business School degree, which limited her to just two ranking tournaments this past season (the Turner Cup and Hashim Khan Open, with Krizek and Hewitt as her respective partners), and although she won both of those as well as the non-ranking World Doubles with her British compatriot Hastings, the fact that her point total was divided by four rather than two caused her to slide just out of the top five for the time being. She and Krizek had been entered in both the U. S. Open and the John’s Island Open, but the former event got cancelled with very little notice by U. S. Squash due to organizational and funding issues, and a disabling late-season foot injury to Krizek occurred too late for Pierrepont to find a substitute partner for the John’s Island event.
McElhinny and Krizek, who prior to this past season had won WDSA tour stops in Denver and Los Angeles in 2012 and in St. Louis in 2014, as well as the U. S. National Doubles in 2011, partnered each other to the championship in the season-opening Philadelphia Open with a final-round victory over Quick and Hewitt, as well as to the final in Cincinnati, where they lost to Betts and Hewitt, and the semis in Denver, where they dropped a close five-gamer to Gina Stoker and Alex Clark. In addition to also joining forces with Hastings in a run to the semis of the Turner Cup, there to lose to Natalie Grainger and the Harvard-bound Greenwich Academy senior Kaylee Leonard, McElhinny also teamed up with Betts in a dramatic advance to the winner’s circle at Vero Beach, where they weathered a murderous 15-14 fifth-game quarterfinal with 2012 U. S. Open finalists Amy Gross and Alex Clark (on a stroke call against Clark on simultaneous-match-ball) and then beat Stoker/Simmonds and Sobhy/Khan in somewhat more routine though still highly competitive fashion.
At various times, McElhinny won late-round matches playing each wall (she and her sister occasionally switch walls during their matches when they feel that a favorable match-up against certain opponents can be obtained by their doing so), a remarkable display of versatility for someone who is currently based in Oklahoma City, where she has zero access to doubles courts and only plays singles once or twice per week on a court on the Oklahoma University campus. She and her fellow top-10 ranked players have been significant members of the WDSA tour in most cases since its inception in autumn 2007, but the surge into the late rounds of a number of the draws by young players such as Sobhy, Leonard, Clark, Gross, Tehani Guruge and Fernanda Rocha was one of the more noteworthy aspects of the 2014-15 campaign and should augur well for the tour in 2015-16 and beyond.
Suzie Pierrepont And Carrie Hastings Capture Women’s World Doubles Crown
by Rob Dinerman
Dateline May 10th — Top seeds Suzie Pierrepont and Carrie Hastings out-played their British compatriots Gina Stoker and Victoria Simmonds 15-10, 13 and 10 this afternoon in the final round of the biennial Women’s World Doubles, sponsored by J. P. Morgan and Trunk Club and hosted by the Onwentsia Club in suburban Chicago. Pierrepont and Hastings rode the momentum of their comeback five-game semifinal win over Canadians Seanna Keating and Steph Hewitt and carried on their impressive play throughout today’s final, while Stoker and Simmonds, straight-set winners over 2013 champs Natalie Grainger and Amanda Sobhy yesterday afternoon, seemed slightly drained by their semifinal performance and were playing from behind throughout most of the match. It was the best possible WDSA swan song for Hastings, a finalist with Ben Howell in the 2011 U. S. Mixed Doubles, who for years has been based in Philadelphia, most recently at the Merion Cricket Club, and who with husband Michael Bull is planning to return to their native England later this month.
Hewitt was able to rebound from Saturday’s loss in the women’s event by partnering Viktor Berg to victory in today’s final round of the Mixed Doubles competition, where they weathered the loss of a match-ball opportunity in the third game and reasserted themselves in the fourth to close out a 15-13, 15-7, 14-15, 15-6 triumph over Americans Sobhy and Chris Callis. The Men’s title was won by British stars Clive Leach and John Russell in five games over 2011 and 2013 champs Ben Gould and Damien Mudge of Australia. The tournament organizers were able to raise $400,000, with a significant donation from the proceeds to benefit METROsquash, the Chicago-based youth enrichment group. This World Doubles event was in lieu of the METROsquash Open, a fixture on the WDSA women’s pro doubles tour which will return to the schedule next season. There are still two more tour stops on the 2014-15 WDSA schedule, namely the Wilson Cup, which will be held in Southampton in July, and a new event, the Nantucket Invitational, set for August.
Women’s World Doubles Update: Pierrepont/Hastings To Meet Stoker/Simmonds In All-England Final by Rob Dinerman
Dateline May 9th — Trailing two games to one, top seeds Suzie Pierrepont and her British compatriot Carrie Hastings defeated Canadians Seanna Keating and Steph Hewitt 15-12 in both the fourth and fifth games Saturday afternoon to earn a spot in the final of the 2015 World Doubles, held at the Onwentsia Club in suburban Chicago. Keating and Hewitt, who notched the Canadian National Doubles title three weeks ago, won the 2011 edition of this biennial World Doubles event and reached the final in 2013, but on this occasion they faltered a bit down the stretch, and Hastings and Pierrepont seized the initiative and finished strong. They will oppose a pair of countrywomen in the final, namely Gina Stoker and Victoria Simmonds, who knocked off defending champions Natalie Grainger and Amanda Sobhy convincingly in three games in the bottom-half semi.
Both Sobhy and Hewitt did, however, qualify for the Mixed Doubles final, Sobhy by partnering Chris Callis to a treacherous five-game victory over Pierrepont and John Russell (saving match-ball against them in the fourth game), and Hewitt by teaming up with Viktor Berg to out-play 2013 World Mixed Doubles finalists Grainger and Preston Quick, 15-6 in the fourth. Ben Gould and Damien Mudge will oppose Russell and Clive Leach in the men’s final in a rematch of the 2011 final, in which Gould and Mudge rallied from two-one down to win in five games.
World Hardball Doubles Women’s Semifinal Results:
Pierrepont/Hastings d Keating/Hewitt 10-15 15-11 13-15 15-12 15-12
Stoker/Simmonds d Sobhy/Grainger 15-9 15-10 15-12
Dana Betts And Tarsh McElhinny Capture WDSA John’s Island Open
by Rob Dinerman
Dateline April 19th — In a match in which each pairing was seeking its first WDSA ranking tournament win — a rarity for a final-round encounter at this late stage of the eighth season in the tour’s history — top seeds Dana Betts and Tarsh McElhinny raised their level dramatically after an uneven opening game and defeated Latasha Khan and Amanda Sobhy 10-15, 15-10, 15-13, 15-11 this afternoon to annex the third annual John’s Island Open, sponsored by the John’s Island Real Estate Company, in Vero Beach. Khan and Sobhy had motored into the final without losing a game, while Betts and McElhinny had been forced to the very brink in their 15-14 fifth-game quarterfinal win on Friday over Amy Gross and Alex Clark, but, this divergent backdrop aside, Betts and McElhinny got progressively stronger as today’s match moved along and were able to close it out in convincing fashion.
Probably the key element in their victory lay in Betts’s ability to assert herself in her match-long cross-court exchanges with Khan, who was punishing her opponents by cutting the ball off in the first game before being increasingly pushed onto the defensive when Betts then improved both the angle and height of her salvos into the right side of the court. This adjustment both forced errors and loose balls out of Khan and/or drove her deep into the back, creating a court-positioning imbalance for the Betts/McElhinny duo to exploit and resulting in plenty of openings for McElhinny’s accurate front-court game. Throughout the last three games, the top seeds were ahead by small but definite margins, both statistically and territorially, and Sobhy, who was given very few open balls to attack, seemed a little slower and less in rhythm than usual, perhaps due to her heavy recent singles schedule, including winning the Texas Open just a few days prior to the start of this doubles tournament.
As is true every year with this event, the eighth and last regular ranking stop on the 2014-15 WDSA schedule, much of the credit for its success goes to the Pierce family and siblings Michael, Leo, Peter and Molly. Still remaining are the biennial World Doubles in Chicago next month and the season-ending Wilson Cup for top-ranked players in Southampton in July.
Dana Betts/Tarsh McElhinny d. Amanda Sobhy/Latasha Khan 10-15, 15-10, 15-13, 15-11
Amanda Sobhy And Latasha Khan Surge Into John’s Island Final, Will Face Dana Betts And Tarsh McElhinny by Rob Dinerman
Dateline April 18th — The unseeded but ascendant pairing of Amanda Sobhy and Latasha Khan charged into the final round of the third annual John’s Island Open this afternoon with a competitive but convincing straight-set win over likewise unseeded WSA singles standouts Rachael Grinham and Jenny Duncalf, while in the draw’s bottom half, top seeds Dana Betts and Tarsh McElhinny (who were originally seeded second until a significant foot injury to Narelle Krizek forced her and partner Suzie Pierrepont to withdraw) similarly won in three over third seeds Vic Simmonds and Gina Stoker. After a Friday filled with upsets and down-to-the-wire battles followed by a Saturday that went more according to form, anything can happen in Sunday’s final, which is scheduled at 11 AM.
As noted, the quarterfinals in the draw’s top half were not kind to the seeded teams. Khan and Sobhy overwhelmed Meredeth Quick (whose exceptional movement belied the fact that she is five months’ pregnant) and Karen Jerome with their power and athleticism, and Grinham and Duncalf, 15-13 in the fourth winners over Sarah West and Dawn Gray in the tourney’s only qualifying match Thursday night), split their first two games against just-crowned Canadian National Doubles champs Steph Hewitt and Seanna Keating and then asserted themselves with single-digit tallies in the third and fourth to advance to the semis. There they fell just short in dropping the first two games by 15-13 scores, following which Khan and Sobhy sprinted through the third and final game 15-6.
Simmonds and Stoker maintained control throughout their straight-game opening-round win over Tina Rix and Carrie Hastings, but the last quarterfinal match, between Betts/McElhinny and 2012 U. S. Open finalists Amy Gross and Alex Clark was by far the most competitive and memorable. McElhinny and Betts eked out a close first game and then dominated the 15-5 second. The match then took a full U-turn, with Gross and Clark becoming much more aggressive in compiling a 15-5 win of their own in the third game and fighting their way through the 15-13 fourth. The fifth was close all the way, and REALLY all the way, with all four players coming up with some of their best squash as the game seesawed along. Betts and McElhinny led 14-13, but Gross then conjured up a daring roll-corner winner from deep in the back-left part of the court, forcing a simultaneous-match-ball which was decided when Clark’s attempted reverse-corner winner hit the front wall first instead of the left wall, causing the ball to bound directly back to her, leading to a stroke call against her, an unfortunate way to end such a riveting match but undoubtedly the correct call. As noted, Betts and McElhinny responded to having dodged this bullet with a solid match-long performance this afternoon, and both final-round teams should be at full strength when they meet tomorrow morning in the final.
Amanda Sobhy/Latasha Khan d. Karen Jerome/Meredeth Quick, 3-0; Jenny Duncalf/Rachael Grinham d. Seanna Keating/Steph Hewitt, 3-1; Gina Stoker/Vic Simmonds d. Tina Rix/Carrie Hastings, 3-0; Dana Betts/Tarsh McElhinny d. Amy Gross/Alex Clark, 3-2.
Sobhy/Khan d Duncalf/Grinham, 3-0; Betts/McElhinny d. Stoker/Simmonds, 3-0
Turner Cup Finalist Kayley Leonard Wins Major Junior Award By Rob Dinerman
Dateline March 14th — At the 2015 U. S. Junior Squash Championships in Princeton earlier this month, the DeRoy Sportsmanship Award was given to Greenwich Academy senior Kayley Leonard, who teamed up with Natalie Grainger to reach the final round of the WDSA Turner Cup tournament in late January. Leonard and Grainger had won four airtight matches in achieving their Cinderella run to the Turner Cup final at the Westchester Country Club — 15-13 in the fourth over Aisling Blake and Joyce Davenport in their first-round qualifier, then an eleventh-hour charge after trailing 11-4 in the fifth game of their second-round qualifier against Fernanda Rocha and Amy Gross, then a five-game quarterfinal win over second seeds Meredeth Quick and Steph Hewitt, followed by a four-game semi over Tarsh McElhinny and Carrie Hastings in which Leonard/Grainger saved a double-game-point against them in the pivotal 15-14 third game — before finally succumbing tin four games o the top-seeded successfully defending champions Narelle Krizek and Suzie Pierrepont, and throughout their perilous path, Leonard demonstrated a level of both equanimity and wisdom well beyond her tender years.
The left-handed Leonard, who also partnered up with Pierrepont last March in a run to the semis of the 2014 U. S. National Doubles, has won seven Junior Championship Tour singles titles during the course of her junior career, displaying in the process the kind of commitment to sportsmanship and fair play that has earned her the admiration of her peers. She will conclude her junior career by representing the USA in the upcoming Junior World Team Championships in Egypt this summer before entering her freshman year at Harvard, the reigning national college team champion, in the fall.
WDSA Update: Dana Betts And Steph Hewitt Capture St. Louis Open By Rob Dinerman
Dateline March 1st — Second seeds Dana Betts and Steph Hewitt weathered a series of taut end-game action at the Missouri Athletic Club this morning en route to a 15-13,14 and 13 victory over Narelle Krizek and her sister Tarsh McElhinny in the final round of the St. Louis Open. In so doing, Betts and Hewitt duplicated their accomplishment in the Cincinnati Open in early November, where they had similarly out-played Krizek and McElhinny in that final. This rematch was largely defined by a seven-point Betts/Hewitt spurt midway through the first game (during which their opponents committed eight errors); the pair of game-ending tins (on a Krizek straight-drop with Betts and Hewitt out of position, followed by a McElhinny backhand reverse-corner that just tipped the tell-tale) that caused a 14-13 Krizek/McElhinny advantage to metamorphose into a demoralizing second-game setback (as had also happened in the opening game four months earlier in Ohio); and a gritty rally from 9-14 to 13-14 that the top-seeded sisters forged in the third game that fell one point short when McElhinny, who had scored well on shallow backhand cross-courts, tried one too many of them that ricocheted off the tin.
In fairness, it should be said that many of the costly Krizek/McElhinny errors at the end portions of those games were caused by the steadiness that the eventually champions presented and the offensive pressure they generated, especially in their frequent assaults on the left wall. Betts was nailing her shallow rails down that side, while Hewitt was excellent at lobbing McElhinny back, taking advantage of the host club’s high ceilings but still keeping her forays shallow enough to prevent the dangerous Krizek from circling behind and attacking from there.
This tournament is jump-starting a busy spring for the WDSA women’s pro doubles tour, with events to follow in Denver, Florida and Chicago during the next 10 weeks, leading up to the Wilson Cup in the Hamptons this July and finishing with a new season ending event in Nantucket. Krizek, whose weekend tournament schedule actually began this past Thursday evening at the Baltimore Country Club, where she and Ed Garno took a two-games-to-love lead over Josh Schwartz and Ian Power in the round-of-16 of the Baltimore Cup pro MEN’S doubles tour stop before losing in five, will be undergoing Mohs surgery early this coming week to remove a basal cell growth on her nose, but she will return to playing squash in time to compete in the Hashim Khan Invitational at the Denver Athletic Club three weeks hence. 2014 champs Hewitt and Suzie Pierrepont will be attempting to defend their title in Colorado, headlining a strong eight-team field.
Women’s Pro Doubles: Suzie Pierrepont And Narelle Krizek Capture 2015 Turner Cup By Rob Dinerman
Dateline January 25th — Faced with a surging Cinderella opponent midway through a fourth game that had grown very close and somewhat contentious, top seeds Suzie Pierrepont and Narelle Krizek responded to the exigencies of the moment like the champions they are by engineering an unstoppable 9-1 match-closing run to clinch a 15-11 10-15 15-10 15-8 victory over qualifiers Natalie Grainger and Kayley Leonard this afternoon in the final round of the $20,000 Turner Cup benefiting Squash Haven, held this year at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, NY. Pierrepont and Krizek thus won this title for the third time and second in a row, in the process extending their consecutive-tournaments-won streak to 10, their last loss having come 32 months ago at the hands of Steph Hewitt and Meredeth Quick in the final round of the 2012 edition of this championship.
Krizek and Pierrepont, who have played together for the past six years, had dominated their pair of pre-final opponents (namely qualifiers Jenny Duncalf and Rachael Grinham, followed by Vic Simmonds and Amanda Sobhy), while by contrast first-time partners Grainger, a Turner Cup winner with Sobhy in 2009 (when they straight-gamed Pierrepont/Krizek in the final) and 2013, and the Harvard-bound Greenwich Academy senior Leonard had weathered a pair of five-gamers (including their quarterfinal upset of Quick and Hewitt) on Friday as well as two other close 3-1 en route to this Sunday summit. These differing pathways aside, Grainger and her young southpaw teammate rebounded from an early 6-2 first-game deficit and crept to 11-12 before Krizek, courageously ignoring the three tins she had hit in the previous four points, successfully went for broke first on a forehand roll-corner from the back wall that Leonard wasn’t looking for, and then on a razor-sharp reverse-corner that made the score 14-11, following which an emboldened Pierrepont nestled a backhand drop shot from deep in the court that died in front of Leonard.
Undeterred by the disappointing ending to that game — as they had been all weekend whenever adversity confronted them — Grainger and Leonard responded with a much more efficient second game in which Grainger, looking much swifter than she had in the Saturday-afternoon four-game semi vs. Carrie Hastings and Tarsh McElhinny, made the most of her opportunities, Leonard got better width on her cross-courts and surprised Krizek several times (including at game-ball) with cross-drops into the front-right corner, and both of them benefited by a slight downturn in the Pierrepont/Krizek quality of play. Pierrepont is great at holding optimum position with her reach and power, but she sometimes lays back a bit, making her vulnerable to front-left salvos, especially when they are coming from someone as capable as Grainger, and Krizek clipped the top of the tin three times in the last eight points of that 15-10 equalizing game.
But in both the first half of the third game (when they charged from 0-2 to 7-3) and, as noted, the last half of the fourth, Krizek and Pierrepont simply imposed their superior firepower and teamwork to a degree that commandeered the on-court dynamics and enabled them to inexorably build up their advantage, both territorially and statistically. Though she coped remarkably well throughout the match and indeed throughout the weekend with the pressure that her two far-more-experienced opponents relentlessly exerted, Leonard increasingly found her self under siege and driven further and further back in the court (at least two-thirds of the Pierrepont/Krizek attack was directed her way during those last two games), leaving the front-left open for Krizek’s nick-finding three-walls and severe cross-drops, while Grainger, forced to “push the envelope,” committed a few errors and twice was driven so far into the middle that Krizek was thereby able to whistle forehand drives down the vacated right wall.
That the match’s fourth and final game was the 22nd of the tournament for Leonard and Grainger (actually, the 26th for Grainger, who had also played in the Greenwich Open singles, where she had lost in four hard-fought games to just-crowned Tournament of Champions winner Raneem El Welily) and only the 10th for Pierrepont/Krizek may have played a role as well. But ultimately the Pierrepont/Krizek sprint to the tape — which concluded with a scrambled point at the end of which Krizek, finding herself less than three feet from the front wall near the right corner with no one anywhere near her, nudged a little drop shot that neither Leonard nor Grainger even moved for — was more a matter of the best team in the WDSA field compellingly asserting itself at crunch-time over an opponent that nevertheless had a tremendously praiseworthy five-match performance in its own right and fully deserved the plaudits it received afterwards for making this tournament a truly memorable occasion.
Women’s Pro Doubles Recap: Steph Hewitt And Dana Betts Capture Cincinnati Open
By Rob Dinerman
Dateline November 9th — Dana Betts and Steph Hewitt stormed to victory in the second annual Cincinnati Open this weekend without the loss of a single game. After receiving a bye to the semifinal round of the six-team draw, Betts and Hewitt took three single-digit games over Vic Simmonds and Karen Jerome (straight-game quarterfinal winners over Tehani Guruge and Emily Lungstrum) to reach today’s final, where they defeated top seeds Narelle Krizek and Tarsh McElhinny by scores of 15-14,13 and 8.
Krizek and McElhinny had won the inaugural event of the season, the Philadelphia Open, on the first weekend of October with a convincing four-game final-round victory over Hewitt and Meredeth Quick in which McElhinny’s superb front-court game had been a decisive factor. Wary of that outcome five weeks back, Hewitt (who had emerged relatively intact after incurring a broken nose late in the second game of the semis when it was struck by a drive off her own partner’s bat) made sure to cross-court lob McElhinny to the back left this time, reducing the latter’s opportunities to shoot and forcing her to deal with the left-handed Betts’s power-hitting and aggressive shot-making, both of which were operating at top level this afternoon, as witness the pair of winners she hit to rescue the first game from 13-14 (on a shallow rail followed by a tight reverse-corner) and the several times she passed Krizek with cross-court drives, including, most importantly, at 14-13 in the second that gave her team a two games to love lead.
McElhinny was under much more pressure than she had been either in the Philadelphia Open final or in Saturday’s semifinal three-love win over Dawn Gray and Amy Milanek (who had rallied from two games to one down to overtake Canadians Marci Sier and Tara Mullins, 15-12 in the fifth, in Friday’s other quarterfinal), and Krizek, rendered less able to influence the action than she had been in last month’s event, consequently tried to do a little too much with the opportunities that did come her way. By midway through the third and final game, Betts and Hewitt, buoyed by the pair of consecutive airtight tallies that by then had landed in their column, were in full control as they sprinted through the final stanza to the winner’s circle.
In the aftermath of the notification just a few weeks ago by U. S. Squash that it had decided to cancel the U. S. Open Doubles, which for months had been on the schedule in an early-December time slot, the calendar 2014 portion of the WDSA women’s pro doubles tour has now concluded. The tour will resume this winter and has a very heavy schedule planned both for that period and especially for the springtime months, with details due to be released in the next few weeks.
WDSA #1 SUZIE PIERREPONT SUPPORTING THE 2014 ANSCHUTZ-HUNT CUP
Alongside WDSA Board Member Christine DeRose, Suzie Pierrepont forgoes the Cincinnati Open, a sanctioned event to play in the 3rd Annual Anschutz-Hunt Cup. The Anschutz-Hunt Challenge Cup is a three-day squash/social event held at the Denver Athletic Club. 64 players (men and women / from novice to expert / from younger to older) split into 8 teams of 8 players to compete in doubles and singles, share stories, eat and drink, get reacquainted with old friends, make new friends, and learn about Mile High Squash. It is a wonderful weekend.
Suzie enjoyed taking on SDA #7 Preston Quick in a singles exhibition, while also playing several doubles matches for her team Grays Peak. The weekend was a huge success already raising over $175,000 for Mile High Squash. Congratulations to Mile High Squash’s Executive Director Eric Eiteljorg, his staff and all the participants for an amazing feet to help local urban squash players in Denver. If you wish to support this great cause visit – http://milehighsquash.org/anschutz_hunt.html
McElhinny and Krizek Surge to Philadelphia Open Crown By Rob Dinerman
October 5th — In a solid display of court positioning and execution, the Tippett sisters, Narelle Krizek and Tarsh McElhinny defeated Meredeth Quick and Steph Hewitt 15-9 15-10 13-15 15-9 this afternoon in the final round of the Philadelphia Open, held as always at the Philadelphia Country Club. McElhinny and Krizek had lost to Quick and Hewitt in the final of the 2012 U. S. National Doubles before beating them this past winter in St. Louis. But in that latter encounter, they had needed to climb out of a two-games-to-love hole, whereas in today’s match they would have won in straight games had they not let a 12-5 third-game lead get away before regaining control in the close-out fourth.
Krizek and McElhinny had swept into the final with a pair of 3-0 wins over first the veteran Philadelphia duo of Dawn Gray and Amy Milanek and then Dana Betts and Victoria Simmonds, while Quick and Hewitt, after straight-gaming Gina Stoker and Kelsey Engman, had won their semifinal 3-1 over qualifiers Amy Gross and Alex Clark, quarterfinal winners against Karen Jerome and Heidi Mather. In the early portion of the final, McElhinny, who received the brunt of the Quick/Hewitt attack, was able to score with shallow winners along the left wall and, more importantly, to lob Hewitt out of her comfort zone, chasing her to the back wall and depriving her of the room and time she needs to impose her formidable front-court game. The sisters, both of whom were making their opponents pay for every loose ball they offered up, seem to be at their best when McElhinny is looking to shoot, which was not the case in their close 15-13 first game Saturday against Betts/Simmonds, when she was tight at the outset of that match before loosening up later on. This time she was playing with confidence from the outset, and her effectiveness had a salutary effect on Krizek as well, freeing her to unleash her multi-dimensional arsenal of drives, nicks and lobs to telling effect, especially with her backhand on balls down the middle or when circling behind her sister to handle plays at the back wall
It is to the credit of the Quick/Hewitt duo that they were able to conjure up that 10-1 match-extending run and rescue the third game from such an imposing 5-12 deficit, with Hewitt finally getting —and taking advantage of — some chances to shoot, and Quick asserting herself with a series of reverse-corner winners to get to 14-13, at which juncture Krizek tried one of her patented low forehand kill drives from deep in the court and tinned it. But early on in the fourth, the eventual winners re-located their depth, which had abandoned them as part of their slump in the prior game, and raced off to a 7-2 advantage which was never seriously threatened thereafter. McElhinny was on fire with her short game and hitting three-wall skid-boasts that ricocheted too high off the right wall for Hewitt to volley, resulting in a back-wall scramble that gave the Tippett sisters favorable positioning and, frequently, opportunities to attack. It was a highly salutary way for Krizek and McElhinny to start the 2014-15 WDSA season, giving them some early momentum to attempt to build upon when they team up in the tour’s second stop, the Cincinnati Open, on the November 7-9 weekend.