Wednesday, May 3, 2017


2017 Doubles Club Championships

Old winners. New winners. Mixed bag with the results this time around, I can’t say I was knocked speechless with this year’s doubles club champions - unlike the 2016 version when the Rakolta / KordasBlue Chips” (still can’t figure out that name) catapulted us all into bizarro world with their victory. Of course, there isn’t much that could top that, some of us out there that are still pinching ourselves wondering if we’ll ever wake up, no one more so than Jed Elley and Ryan Covell who were desperate not to relive that agony that was inflicted upon them…

Doubles C
A healthy draw with 13 teams. It’s also the draw with the widest difference of playing standards since there isn’t a lower category to play in. Beginners to the game have no choice but to start here, and in reality have very little chance of winning. I do remember years ago where we offered a Doubles D, but no one entered. As the amount of players that we have increase, it probably would be a good idea to try to add another level to the tournament again – it would make more parity, and (now) maybe encourage more newbies to have a crack.

That being said, it was no surprise that all the first round results came back as 3-0. It then started to get interesting for the quarter finals. Top seeded Dave Devine and Tom McCarthy had high hopes of a competitive run this year, considering they fell just a few points short of taking the C title in 2016 (in fact held a match ball in the final but couldn’t convert). However, once again, they would fall agonizingly short. This time it would be a 15-13 in the 5th loss to Marc Topacio and John Perkins, a frustrating result for Tom and Dave, no doubt, especially when they could see later on in the event that Marc and John got through their semifinal 3-0. The one that got away, maybe, but Dave and Tom will be back next year I’m sure, hungrier than ever and certainly would have learned from this one.

On the other side of the draw, the team to watch out for would be Sean Moran and Jim Stroh. I was a little weary having them in the C’s, this team had won this category before – way, way back in 2008. But, neither Sean nor Jim had played any competitive squash for a few years, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I believe it was the correct decision, even though they did win their first couple of matches comfortably 3-0. The final would be a different story, however.

Marc and John are not overly experienced at the doubles game, being a solid singles player does not always translate to the doubles court. And even though Jim and Sean have been M.I.A. for quite a while, no one can take experience away from you. So when the going gets tough, the knowledgeable step up and take control.

Marc and John’s tactic was to engage Sean as much as possible. And that worked for most of the match. But in the end it also burnt them. A tight, clean match, Marc and John were 4 points away from a 4 set victory, until Sean’s racquet came alive and he ripped a couple of superb forehand volley winners. The tide turned, momentum shifted and for anyone who has played doubles, it can be rather difficult to stop a run of points. Sean and Jim pinched the 4th and stayed on top to take the 5th as well. Marc and John undoubtedly felt like Tom and Dave after their match – the one that got away. But it was a great effort all around – congrats to Sean and Jim for their second C title!

Doubles B
This category was the one with probably more ‘upsets’ than the others. Not a huge draw, but the hardest of the three to predict the winner. Chris Van Tol and Matt DiDio went in as the ‘favorites’, based on the fact that they were last year’s bridesmaids. But neither Chris nor Matt have spent a lot of time on the doubles court since, which of course is not a great recipe for success. Just because that tactic worked for them 12 months ago…

Shail Arora, JC Tibbitts, John Mann, Joey Gaylord
It almost got them through this year too, but a 3-2 loss to John Roarty and Len MacEachern in the quarter-final would have them rethinking that strategy somewhat. Len and John would then be dealt with in 4 games in the semifinal by Joey Gaylord and Shail Arora. Joey and Shail in the final did surprise me to some extent, but on the other hand, both of them play a decent amount of doubles so it really shouldn’t be that much of a shock. Shail also won the Doubles C at the DAC Classic this year, no easy task!

The opposite side of the draw also had its fair share of drama. Colin and Chas Bayer teamed up and turned into what was a reasonably effective partnership. After a first round 3-0 win, I thought their campaign would be stopped abruptly against Dave Walker and Jason Currie. Dave and Jason have had a number of close matches in this tournament over the years, never quite getting over the hump. And they repeated that this year too. An epic encounter with the Bayer-Boys, Colin and Chas jimmied and jived their way to a 15-14 in the 5th victory, setting up a semifinal against JC Tibbitts and John Mann, a match that unquestionably involved a ridiculous amount of trash talking, wagering, and probably something humiliating for the losers. In the end, I’m sure Colin and Chas’ wallets felt a little lighter after their 3-1 loss and a few meals and drinks were involved.

The final – on paper anyway – looked like JC and John would be favorite. But, after a first game 15-14 loss, they must have been a little worried. Shaking it off, they stormed back in the second game, dominating the entire way for a 15-3 win. Then parity set in again. Another sudden death point to decide the game, this time it was JC and John walking off with the game under their belts and the all important 2-1 lead. It was enough to break the resistance from Shail and Joey. The 4th was more a one-sided affair with a 15-6 score, JC and John taking their first doubles B club championship title.

Doubles A
Was the Blue Chips victory of 2016 a once off fluke or would they again defy not just the odds, but all logic as well? John (JR) Rakolta and George Kordas started off their 2017 effort with a comfortable 3-0 win in the first round, setting up the much anticipated re-match of last year’s final against Jed Elley and Ryan Covell. JR and George certainly held the mental edge here, I’m not too sure that Jed and Ryan have ever gotten over their 3-1 defeat just a year ago, it seems a sore topic of conversation whenever the subject comes up and George has no problem reminding them of that as he points to his and JR’s name on the championship board....

Revenge is a sweet feeling in sports. Now the win for Jed and Ryan did not guarantee them the title, but the 3-1 victory certainly stopped the Blue Chips from their second one. With the monkey off their backs, they could now focus on final and the challenge they lay ahead of them: Peter Logan and Vikram Chopra.

Peter is no stranger to the doubles. He has been in the Doubles A final 9 times since 2007, winning 4 of them. Vikram on the other hand had yet to reach a final so this would be his maiden appearance, and having an experienced partner like Peter would be vital if they were to succeed.

Again, on paper, I was leaning towards a Peter / Vikram win. And as usual, my predictions on these things generally indicate the kiss of death. Sorry guys. Your fault for being ranked higher (at the time!). Kudos to Julie VandeVusse who was asked to live webcast the blockbuster event, your dedication to the sport is recognized and appreciated!

Jed and Ryan were on a mission taking the first game 15-9. A great confident start, but also they needed to be careful not to get ahead of themselves. I’m not saying they did, but Peter and Vikram stymied their momentum in the second game to come back for a 15-10 win to tie up the match 1 game each. The third game would be the decider.

Ryan Covell, Vikram Chopra, Peter Logan, Jed Elley

The psychological difference in walking on the court for the 4th game 2-1 up or 2-1 down can be significant, especially if the third game ended in dramatic fashion. Which it did here. The rally that really decided the match was at 14-all in the third. Ryan and Jed snatched that point, a huge emotional boost that carried over to the next game. It wasn’t all one way traffic that game, but being a lot closer to the finishing line than their opponents gave them the extra push they needed. Peter and Vikram kept it relatively tight but couldn’t close the small gap. 15-11 in the 4th, and we can crown our new DAC Doubles Champions: Jed Elley and Ryan Covell!

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