2015 Doubles Club Championships
The natural progression of more players is stronger and closer competition. I wouldn’t say the DAC doubles is experiencing a ‘boom’, but it is clearly becoming increasingly popular. Even though we had a record amount of entries this year in the doubles club championships (66) – something I can hardly complain about - I actually expected more. But, where there were a few familiar faces that were missing from the event, we had enough new-comers to make up for it and that’s a good trade off.
Typically our biggest bracket, and this was no exception. There were a full mix of very experienced teams and complete greenhorns making for interesting matches all the way through. The most ‘experienced’ pairing was that of Drew Creamer and Jim Thompson and hats off to them! They had 23 years of living over their first round opponents (who were no spring chickens themselves in fact!) and let’s bow down to respect our elders! Drew and Jim pulled off a 3-2 victory – proving they still ‘have it’ and you can’t underestimate the veterans.
Nor, as it turns out, can you underestimate the raw recruits at the other end of the age spectrum. Colin Bayer and JC Tibbitts are 81 years (combined) behind Jim and Drew. That’s a lot of knowledge catching up to do, but what they lack in comprehension, is made up for with brazen bulldogging. Although the doubles game is all about angles (and power), speed can be a formidable weapon if you can reach the short court and counter. Colin and JC took care of business 3-0 in round one and then 3-1 in the quarter finals over two-times Doubles C Club Champion Ken Katz and his partner Bruce Shaw. The Bayer / Tibbitts team then made quick work of Justin Winkelman and Steve Murphy in the semi 3-0 to reach the final.
Meeting them there was a combination pair of youth and experience. Patrick Petz teamed up with John Mann who up until the club championships, had never even stepped onto a doubles court before. Patrick and John almost failed to get out of their first round encounter where they squeaked by in 5 games and they repeated that tactic in the semis against Ward Detwiler and Chris Webber. Ward and Chris were leading 2 games to 1 and were only a few points from victory in the 4th but could not convert. Momentum lost, the 5th game was all Patrick and John.
And the final also turned out to be another epic 5-setter. John, JC and Colin are all very competitive with each other on the singles court and that rivalry may as well be transferred to the doubles arena. It was no doubt a spirited contest, and we must give out the ‘He-Man’ award to John Mann who in the 3rd game copped a racquet from Colin squarely on the top of his hand. Rubbing some dirt on it and sucking it up, even though it appeared broken, John played on and together with Patrick took the match all the way to a 5th game. But the dream finish for them was not to be, as Bayer / Tibbitts held off the attack and took the match. As it turned out, John’s hand is not broken… just sore and swollen. Good news.
A difficult draw to predict and as it turned out we did have a lot of close matches. Two-time doubles C champions Paul Flanagan and Andrew Spohn stepped up to the B’s this year – maybe a little reluctantly – but proved their worth. Once again, experience helped them as they have played together as a team often. Their first round was against two strong singles players but complete doubles novices. Chris Van Tol and Matt DiDio found out it takes a little time to translate. Chris and Matt were definitely competitive, but Andrew and Paul did take the win in 5 games. They lost their next match 3-1 to one of the lesser known couples in David Walker and Jason Currie. I say “lesser known” not because they are new members (they are not) and nor because they don’t play doubles often (they do). But because they aren’t in the doubles leagues and are on court at some ungodly hour of the morning, a time I am sure exists, just not in my world.
David and Jason came up against the interesting pairing of Manny Tancer and Sante Fratarcangeli in the semi. Sante is not overly familiar with doubles, but Manny is. I thought this match could go either way, in fact when I did the draw I was thinking to myself that Walker / Currie could go all the way. The report from the losers of this match was “this was one of the best doubles matches I have ever played”. Says a lot to the quality and evenness of the contest – and sportsmanship as well. The 15-13 in the 5th score line fell in favor of Sante and Manny, just a little luckier in the end than Jason and David and sometimes that’s all it takes.
To reach the final from the other half of the draw wasn’t an easy prospect either. Paul Ward teamed up with Bret Williams, a rookie to squash, but he picked up the ability to crank the ball hard enough to be considered a weapon of mass destruction. Their first match was against Andy Adamo and Bob Garvey and on paper I thought Andy and Bob would struggle. The match was a struggle, but in a good way. Paul and Bret were in for a fight as Andy and Bob put up plenty of resistance. And, were close to upsetting the apple cart. But the cookie didn’t crumble the right way for them and Ward / Williams escaped with a 3-2 victory.
In the semi, they met up with Rich Stimson and Kevin Kennedy. Rich and Kevin also had a battle on their hands just to reach that stage. Their first round was against the father and son team of Len and Tom MacEachern who pushed them all the way and definitely could have taken the match. But in the end it was Rich and Kevin who hustled their way to a 3-2 triumph. Against Paul and Bret, it was another match-up difficult to predict a winner… on paper anyway. In reality, I was a tad surprised at the result. 3-0. Paul and Bret must have found some strong form for the day and dispatched their opponents in a clean sweep. Again, though, it doesn’t take long for Bret to ‘get with the program’, so maybe he already started to pick up some strategy to go with the power? Could he carry that through the final?
|Bret Williams, Paul Ward, Sante Fratarcangeli, Manny Tancer|
With Sante and Manny’s win in the semi, I was predicting they would take the final as well, more adept at dealing with Bret’s atomic forehand. But generally, when I forecast a victor, I’ve hexed them. Initially, it didn’t look like my (unintended) witchcraft was very effective though. If every rally took as long as their opening one, they would still be playing now. The omen was set – the match would be come down to the wire. With a first game 15-14 win, Manny and Sante took the second game as well, albeit a little easier. A two games to love lead is – on one side – very difficult to overcome, but on the other side all too easy to give up. (Weird, huh?). Bret and Paul were on the verge of a 0-3 loss, but after taking the third game 15-13, poured it on for the fourth and pounded their way to 15-6, evening the contest and setting up the one-game-take-all fifth. As fate would have it (it was written in the stars), it would be a one-point-take-all sudden-death rally at 14-14. That last rally was not as long as the first, but the pressure was monumentally greater. Maybe some hocus-pocus did actually seep through, because an unforced error from the Sante / Manny team awarded the match to Paul and Bret! Fantastic effort fellas!
This was probably the most competitive A draw we have seen in recent memory. Kirk Haggarty and Mike Eugenio are still the team to beat, they have held this title since 2012 and in each of those 3 finals Peter Logan has been on the receiving end – each time with a different partner. For 2015, once again Peter would try his hand with a new team mate and this time it would be with Robin Basil. Robin is fairly new to doubles but being a racquetball guru has all the angles and is used to the pace. Would this be the combination that finally knocks over the reigning champs?
Before we answer that, we had some interesting results leading up to the final. Back by popular demand (??!!) were the dynamic duo “Blue Chips” team of John (JR) Rakolta and George Kordas. Certainly rusty from their hiatus – or were they secretly training in some underground cave…? – the Blue Chips almost had their historic comeback cut very short by Mike Skaff and Fred Fordon. I’m sure JR and George will tell you the result was never in doubt, but the 3-2 score line was anything but a sure thing.
I didn’t hold much hope for them in their next round as they had to tackle Kirk and Mike. But when talking about the Blue Chips, logic rarely applies. Not knowing you should lose is a good thing, one can relax and play more freely. They stepped their game up and took it to the favorites, dragging them all the way to an uncomfortable 5th do-or-die game. But that is as far as they would go. Kirk and Mike proved too strong in the final game and moved on to the final.
Meanwhile Peter and Robin were learning to play together. Robin, it appears is a reasonably proficient student. Playing Jamie Shea and Ryan Bendzinski in round 1, who are by no means a push over, they did struggle somewhat and almost bowed out early. But they got to live another day with a 3-2 win. They would have to play better in the semi.
|Kirk Haggarty, Mike Eugenio, Peter Logan, Robin Basil|
Ryan Covell and Jed Elley were my pick to challenge Kirk and Mike for the title. A straight forward 3-0 first round win set up the match of the tournament between them and the Logan / Basil team. Peter and Robin certainly boosted their performance. We expect Peter to play well anyway, but it was Robin who picked up the tempo and well and truly confirmed he belonged on court at this level. Four of the five games in this match went to 15-14 or 15-13, including the 5th. Decided by a sudden-death rally at 14-all, Peter and Robin were the victorious couple. It was a great performance, but believe it or not, they would have to play even better to win the final.
This match did not go 5 games. It didn’t go 4 either. The 3-0 game score was closer than what it looks on the surface, and it was Mike and Kirk who established once again who the kings of the doubles court are. The match was full of bludgeoning rallies. The four participants stepping up and belting balls at each other until one would falter or the front wall would fall down. Luckily the court is still intact, and unluckily for Peter and Robin they simply were not as rock steady and their counterparts.