By James Zug
It is a generally understood superstition among people of right minds that something is not a trend until it occurs three times. For your mother-in-law, for instance, you cannot report your baby is sleeping through the night until he does so three nights in a row.
For squash tournaments, the three-times rule is a good benchmark and the US Father-Son Championships has passed it with consummate grace on its way towards a long, long history. The number of teams that come to New York each spring is growing: 30 teams in the inaugural tourney in 2005; 34 last year; and 42 this year.
Most encouragingly for the future, the growth is largely coming in the youngest divisions. In 2005, just four pairs played in a round-robin in the U13s; last year it was nine; and this year a very high-quality 15. Next year, Morris Clothier and Simon Aldrich, the tournament directors, will consider adding a U15.
Another sign of strength was, like last year, none of the winning tandems were repeat champions. In the U13, the unseeded pair, Peter and Spencer Stokes, lost just a single game in their march to victory. In the finals, they overcame Bill and Browning Platt in three, the third game going to 18-16. In February, Browning Platt took the U15 national junior doubles title, so he knows his way around the doubles court, and the Platts were able to slip past Jon and Sam Conant, even though Sam is ranked two in the BU13 singles. But in the finals, the Stokeses managed to triumph without too much work. After losing a tight 3-2 match to Peter and Tim Lasusa, Christopher and Alan Wilkinson cruised through three straight matches to win the consolations.
In the U17, there was the unusual sight of the son playing on the left wall. Southpaw Jack Ervasti was the class of the sons in the small, six-team U17 draw. Ranked 14 in the U17 singles and, like Spencer Stokes, a current national junior doubles champion, Ervasti displayed the usual Heights Casino sangfroid. He and his father John swept through three matches without the loss of a game, beating Michael and Zeke Scherl in the finals. Fellow Heights members, Paul and Tom Rapisarda, won the consolations.
In a century draw filled with new teams, two San Francisco-based sons and sometimes partners, Kevin Jernigan and Dave Vahlsing, slugged it out for five long games in the final. In the fifth, the Jernigans, Sam and Kevin, bottled a sliver of lightning to take the last 10 points of the match: 11-15, 15-11, 15-7, 13-15, 15-8. Matthew and Joel Kozol won the consolations.
The open draw boasted a number of top-ranked singles players, including Tim Wyant, former Harvard All-American, last year’s national junior champion Trevor McGuinness, and Mike Ferreira, the former Trinity All-American. Ferreira’s father even flew in from South Africa for the tournament. But as in previous years, upsets abounded and none of the vaunted players reached the finals. The McGuinesses, with the left-handed Trevor playing on the right wall and his father Vince on the left, went down in a gobsmacking show of shot-making, 16-15 in the fourth, to Steve and Greg Park. The Wyants won the consolations after being put out in the first round by Bill and Michael Strong of Philadelphia. The Strongs then overcame the Ferreiras as well, before getting steamrolled by the defending champions Scott and Will Simonton in the semis.
The finals rose to a fever-pitch in the second game, when the Simontons, up a game, saved two game points to reach 15-all, set-three. After four tension-filled lets, Greg Park rolled a boast to even the match at one-all. They traded easy games and then in the fifth the Parks roared from 5-4 to 14-6 and slipped through: 13-15, 16-15, 15-8, 10-15, 15-10.
“It was a huge success,” said Clothier after the long day of finals at the Racquet & Tennis Club. “Doubles is growing across the country, and the Father-Son is an exciting part of that growth.”