2017 DAC Squash Classic - Feb 9-12
Let’s start at the beginning… Originally, there was nothing. Then, for some reason, the universe popped into existence. Earth, strangely, formed itself and somehow produced life… oh, hang on, I’m going a little too far back… full forward to now… amoeba… dinosaurs… Handball… cavemen… Larry King… Cher… America… DAC - Ah! here we are! The 2017 DAC Squash Classic where the doubles entries took 5 days to fill and the singles only 7. I thought my inbox was going to explode.
Before I get into the results, I would just like to take a serious tone for a minute and shout out to a couple of the players this weekend who unfortunately didn’t make it through unscathed. Patrick Seyferth scared the living amoebas out of his opponent during their first round match on Thursday as he took a head first tumble straight into the front wall, completely knocking himself unconscious for roughly 60 seconds before coming to and then realizing he had also dislocated his shoulder. A frightening situation for all concerned, Patrick was taken to the emergency room and we can all be very relieved that, although sore, he is on the way to a full recovery.
The other victim was Peter Logan who collected the full brunt of a forehand follow-though on the doubles court directly to his head, missing his eye by millimeters. A complete accident, but still a nasty incident, Peter also went to the emergency room and again - thankfully - nothing broken and no permanent damage expected. He will live with a beautiful black eye for a while, but she too should make a full recovery. Peter was of course wearing his eye guards (that ended up 20 feet away), a definite lesson for anyone who thinks that this wouldn’t happen to them and we absolutely always need to be on our guards and be careful out there!
Okay, let’s tackle the categories and see who ended up with the hardware:
Singles 2.5: I think upsets are wonderful. Unexpected winners make all events more interesting. That being said, I also think that a woman winning a mixed event is also wonderful and for this draw I had a feeling that London’s Victoria Soo could have gone all the way. She reached the semifinal comfortably but standing tall in her way was none other than Batman… I mean Dewey Steffen. Dewey is nothing if not confident. You have to be if you are prepared to don superhero attire on the court, and thankfully it’s not Captain Underpants. But, give credit where credit is due. Dewey was impressive during this match, and incredibly I did not hear one single “Boo-Yah!” the entire morning. Maybe that helped him focus and he scrambled his way to a 3-1 victory, retrieving shots that Victoria was certain were winners, using his power serve well.
His finals opponent would be against the same fellow that ended his 2016 DAC Classic tournament run - Haytham Hermiz. Haytham’s run to the final wasn’t overly stressful, as he dropped only one game to get there. Funnily enough, Haytham always seems genuinely surprised when he wins, believing his opponent had a horrible day, or was critically injured, deathly ill, incredibly unlucky… it certainly has nothing to do with the effort you are putting in, right Haytham? That effort continued through the final. Two feisty competitors, a very clean match and a tight result that really could have gone either way. Haytham took the final 3-1, and with it a good load of confidence that he does deserve to move up to the 3.0. For Dewey, he took the loss well, he did have a successful weekend, some his Facebook friends turning his “Boo-Yah’s!” into “Boo-Hoo’s!”… I’m sure Batman (or Superman.. or Wonder Woman?) will be back for revenge.
Singles 3.0: Here we had another opportunity for a women to win this category. Mercedes Dollard from Pittsburgh certainly had the goods to do so but unfortunately for her, she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to practice much in the Steel City. So she was coming into the event a little scratchy. She got through her first match 3-0, and a lucky escape on the second match 3-2 to reach the semifinals. There she had to tackle the unorthodox stylings of Shail Arora, who ended up being this year’s Houdini act and marathon man all in one. Mercedes was 2-0 up on Shail who knows no other way than to chase every shot down like it was match-ball, and swing at it without too much care of which direction it goes or which part of the racquet it connects with. I’ll probably never see his racquet for a restring. His constant retrievals frustrated Mercedes and Shail somehow managed to pull out the 3-2 win, and immediately wondered (regretted?) how was he going to step up for the final.
David de la Torre was (sort of) standing in his way for the title as he too had a busy day on the courts over the weekend (runner-up for the Marathon Man title!) his body punishing him for the thrashing he was putting it through. David dropped one game to reach the final, and on paper was the favorite in this match. But Shail was defying the odds all weekend (as you will read about in the doubles C) and made this an awful lot closer than what we expected. The scramble tactic was effective, David had trouble getting too comfortable. But that one extra game was a fraction too much for Shail’s legs and Dave took the match 3-2.
Singles 3.5: The biggest draw of the tournament, we had 30 players enter this one. It was here where David de la Torre made his life in the 3.0 more difficult and his success in the 3.5 gave him 4 more matches to contend with. He reached the semifinals which was a little unexpected, before he succumbed to Mike Petix 3-0. Mike appeared to be in good form this weekend, chewing up his opponents 3-0 or 3-1, the quiet achiever of the category. His finals opponent was also a very friendly soft spoken young man, but he did manage to turn heads regardless - he’s a switch hitter.
Max Surnow is completely ambidextrous. Hitting to his backhand is literally impossible - I didn’t see him hit one all weekend. Very unusual to say the least, Max can also cover the court rather quickly and he likes to move into the front corners with a full head of steam only to tap a delicate drop over and over for a winner. Max only lost one game on his way to the final and Mike would have to be extremely careful giving Max anything loose front to mid-court if he were to walk off the winner here. Regrettably, Mike wasn’t careful enough. It’s easy to get sucked into playing someone else’s game - when your opponent hits drops on you, you want to reciprocate and try to beat them at their own game. It wasn’t all one way traffic though, Mike did win one game and almost won a second, but Max was simply too steady in the end and took the 3-1 victory. For clarification sakes, it is not against the rules in squash to switch hands - it’s not recommend and I think Max may find it a little more difficult as he moves up the levels and the pace increases, but on the other side of the coin it can throw the opponent off somewhat. What is against the rules is walking on the court with 2 racquets… although it would make squash more interesting if were allowed…
Singles 4.0: The second biggest draw of the event, 26 players were battling it out. Joel Vosburg was listed as the number one seed here being the first name on top of the draw, and to be perfectly honest it had nothing to do with my ‘genius’ of recognizing everyone’s ability - it was an unmitigated guess. I had no idea who Joel was. I am regularly asked how I put the draws together and why players are placed in certain spots on the draw. Seedings are (not always but for the most part) totally irrelevant as since we have a 4 day event, the out-of-towners generally cannot play on the Thursday and hence must be pushed forward in the bracket. Simply the nature of the DAC Classic. Joel, though, proved me right! Just. None of his matches were easy, none of them were 3-0. He reached the final beating Mike Ethridge 3-1, an early Sunday morning semifinal contest that Mike did really well just to get n court for after the Saturday night festivities!
Joel’s opponent was London’s Marcus Plowright. A regular visitor to the Classic, Marcus has yet to take a winner’s trophy home with him, although he did get to the final back in 2012. Always competitive in the 4.0, Marcus only dropped one game to reach the final which was to our own Colin Bayer in the semis. Marcus has terrific court sense, knows where to place the ball, and makes his opponents work corner to corner. You need to be fit and prepared to run to get the best of him, the longer the match progresses the better chance you’ll stand. Joel did just that. He put his nose to the grindstone and ran down was what served up to him, eventually tiring out the more experienced Marcus to take the 3-1 win.
Singles 4.5: A very tough 4.5 draw this year. Our DAC players did not fair particularly well here, not one of our players beat a non-DAC member. In fact out of the 8 members in the draw, they won one game between them under that scenario. Were they out of their category? Well, no - but it is a little eye-opening for them that once they step up into the these upper levels what type of squash is now expected in order to be successful. They can compete, they just need to do it more often.
Avinash Gali won the 4.0 category on 2015 and had little trouble reaching the final here. On the opposite side of the draw, Abhay Sood had almost identical results to get the final, the only mark on his record was a game drop to BAC’s Mike Beauregard in the second round. Avinash and Abhay played some impressive squash in the final, cracking the ball around well, few unforced errors, long exchanges. It was almost a battle of who could be more patient in the end, Abhay, though, a couple more shots in the bag which made the difference and he scored the 3-1 victory. Both of these players should be well positioned for a 5.0 run next year.
Singles 5.0: Probably the most difficult of all the draws to predict, there were some players in this category who I didn’t know. And they were good - three of them reached the semifinals, and another was knocked out in 5 games in the first round by the eventual runner-up (*bad* luck of the draw there!). DAC members played well and put up solid resistance. George Kordas lost his second match 3-1 to the winner of the category, and Sante Fratarcangeli lost his third match to the finalist. No shame there.
The final was between Brendan Baker from Ann Arbor and David Coate from London. It was the last match of the tournament and as is customary at the DAC Classic after this monstrous work week, the final match usually ends up going to 5 games. As it did here. A very entertaining encounter, there was (clearly) not much between the 2 players and entering the 5th game is was anybody’s guess to who would end up winning. A dog-fight to the end, Brendan walked off with the 3-2 victory, both though deserving the winner’s trophy.
Singles 5.5: A lot of interest in this category as we all at the DAC were fascinated to see how good is Jed Elley’s brother really? Rumors going around said that Jason would win the event, and my gut was telling the same. But my gut isn’t exactly fool proof. It’s certainly not idiot proof.
Jason and Jed sound identical when they talk, that South African accent is an Australian wannabe one, and they should eat more vegemite. The Elley’s also produced identical 3-1 wins in their first rounds, setting up much anticipated semifinals.
Jed took on 3-time DAC Classic winner Brad Hanebury from London. I thought Jed played a great game, the rallies were long and hard, few unforced errors. When Brad walked off the winner after a lengthy match, I was rather surprised to see it was 3-0! I was sure Jed picked up at least one game, the closeness of the two.
Jason on the other hand was in for a tougher time. Alex Ford (also from London) is a tall young lad, and smacks the ball hard, stretches far, and young legs tend to work for longer. Neck and neck for almost an hour, the pair went at it. Jason is one cool cat though, never, ever, gets ruffled, always in control of his movement and swing, and fantastic display of efficiency. Maybe that fraction more experience saw him get over the line, but the 3-2 win left an impressionable mark on all who witnessed it.
The final was not as close as predicted. Once again Jason went about his business, methodical, effective, unflappable. Brad struggled to keep patient, consistency just a little lacking. The 3-0 win was quicker than expected and I have to admit that by this stage of the tournament, the squash is simply a foggy mess to me, my focus waning. My apologies to Jason as I handed him the runner-up trophy and suggested he come back next year to do one step better. He had no idea what I was talking about, how do you improve on winning the highest category of the tournament? My gut proved the idiot theory perfectly.
Doubles C: Alright. If anybody out there predicted the winners and finalists of this event, then you need to move to Vegas. This was the Shail Arora / Bruce Shaw show. Their quarter final match on Saturday was epic enough coming from 0-2 down against Patrick Petz and John Mann to win 15-13 in the 5th, but apparently that wasn’t close enough for them. No sir. Sunday morning semifinal would top that effort with a 15-14 in the 5th win against London pair Laurie Arora / Greg Gillis. And their final? Well who would have thought that challenging them at this point would be none other than Double D himself Dave Devine and his long lost partner of international flavor Sir Alan Howard from England. Dave and Alan also amazed us all with their run into the final, 3-2 wins everywhere, defying all the odds and putting many bookies out of business.
Shail and Bruce, Dave and Alan, the four went back and forth. At this stage, it really didn’t matter who would win, they all have done a remarkable job to be there. That of course means squat to the players on the court. The 5th game was upon them and in the end, Bruce and Shail finished off their dream run to claim the prize! It wasn’t 15-14, but no one cared. Well done fellas!
Doubles B: A more straight forward set up for this one. Kevin Furmanek and Andrew Caille were heavily favored to win and they didn’t disappoint. It was simply a fact to too much too often. Kevin is one strong unit, obviously the hardest hitter in the draw and Andrew wasn’t far behind him. There is only so much a team can absorb and Kevin and Andrew broke down everyone’s defenses quickly and easily enough. They went through without dropping a game.
The DAC, however, did put up a good show. JC Tibbitts and Jason Currie had a great upset win in the first round taking out the experienced waiting of Tom Porter and Craig Woolson (Windsor) 3-2. Jason then had to withdraw due to an unexpected early arrival of his child! A decent excuse (!), we hear baby and Mom are doing very well and we all wish them the very best! Dane Fossee then jumped in to take his place and a huge thank you to their next opponents Gary Sullivan and Arthur Naregatsian for allowing the change. Sante Fratarcangeli and Manny Tancer had a decent performance as well, reaching the final to play the buzz saw Windsor team. They could have a good chance to win the B next year - Kevin and Andrew will have to move up to the A.
Doubles A: This would have been the strongest Doubles A draw we have seen and the DAC Classic. The top teams put on an outstanding show and I hope that any of our members who were watching were taking plenty of notes and learning. A clinic on how to play the game, clear, avoid lets as much as possible, what angles you should be aiming for…
You would be hard up to find a better team in the State than Jon Uffelman and Mike Parks (BAC). It’s amazing the angles they find, Mike is a genius at just that, Jon you could argue is just as clever. They reached the final without losing a game - a tough task considering the semifinal opponents in Brad Hanebury and Chris Boden (London), who in any other year could win the event.
Rob Doherty (London) and Windsor pro Graeme Williams teamed up to create another formidable combination. They won easily first round and had to fight tooth and nail for the 3-2 semifinal won over Londonites Alex Ford and Mike Blythe. Mike Blythe is Canada’s answer to Mike Parks - just an uncanny sense of knowing where to place that ridiculous winning angle.
The final was superb. In all likelihood, the best doubles A match we have had at the DAC. Incredible rallies, breathtaking winners, the intensity was high, the scores were close, the sportsmanship second to none. Could not have asked for a better show. Jon and Mike edged it out 3-2, I am sure that Rob and Graeme could hardly be too disappointed though. Excellent stuff all round.
All that is left are the thank yous: To all the players - your support and enjoyment of the weekend is what makes running it so worth the effort. To the DAC staff - without you, it wouldn’t be possible at all. To the sponsors - you have no idea what your continued support means to me and the club. To Corey - awesome job my friend, I can lose less hair now that I know you are here. Rob Barr, Nick Peet… thank you so much for all the help.
2018… weekend after the Superbowl. See you back at the DAC!