Richard Elliott. Those who religiously played in the U.S. Nationals in the late ‘90s and early years of this century, know Elliott as a mainstay in the finals of the over-30 and -35 year after year. More often than not, he won. But it wasn’t only his presence in those championship matches that drew crowds. It was his beautifully efficient racquet work and movement around the court, forever in control of the ball and his opponents. There were people who would show up at his matches just to watch him—they weren’t actually playing in the tournament.
In 2003 at Trinity, we found out Elliott was human when he ran into some old guy playing down an age group but with even more game than Elliott. That guy was Brett Martin who thought he was doing players a favor by not playing in the over-40s.
Elliott played two more Nationals after that (Seattle and Harvard, respectively) where he got back to his winning ways by rolling along in the 35+.
But then he disappeared from the U.S. Championships. Though he has continued teaching the game he loves so much at the Pacific Club south of San Francisco, where he’s been for the past nine years, Elliott turned to a new form of competition—triathlons. “I got a little burned out a couple of years ago, which is when I started doing the triathlons,” recalls Elliott. “I was doing international distances—a mile swim, a 40K bike and 10K run. Manageable distances, but being burned out from squash I still wanted a reason to train. It’s a lot of fun, but to go to the next level, like half Ironmans, it’s a lot of training and I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.”
After two years of biking, swimming and running, Elliott got the itch to get back to competitive squash. But instead of working his way back to becoming nationally competitive in the US, Elliott aimed higher—the World Masters in Christchurch, New Zealand, last October.
Barely missing a beat, Elliott won a nail-biter in the semifinals of the over-40s despite dropping the first two games to the No. 2 seed, 9-1 and 9-3. In the final, Elliott jumped out to a 2-1 lead but faltered in the last two games, 9-0 and 9-2.
“I did a lot of training for New Zealand,” said Elliott. “Although it was disappointing to lose, it was nice to get in a lot of track work and match practice, and it was good because I did well when I was there.”
When interviewed for this story, Elliott said he hasn’t played a single competitive match since that final. “I got injured after the final,” said Elliott, “I had fluid on my knee, and it’s been four months since I’ve played anybody at my level. It feels good now. It was just an inflamed bursa. But I’ve not played because I have to be able to teach—it’s my livelihood. But I do miss playing.”
As a result of his knee problem, he’s not expecting to play in the U.S. Championships this year. “I don’t think I’ll be ready by March,” said Elliott. “If I’m going to go, I want to be able to do myself justice.” But, he is hoping to be ready for the U.S. Skill Level Championships in April.
Squash has been a major part of Elliott’s life since he was a kid in Essex County, England. Two of his peers included Jon Perry (the teaching pro at the Decathlon Club in the Bay Area for nine years) and Mark Allen (who was at the Bay Club in San Francisco until a year ago). “It’s funny, we all lived within a 40 mile radius in England, we all moved 5,000 miles, and still lived within a 40 mile radius,” Elliott laughed. “It’s such a great game. The relationships you make; I’ve got friends all over the world.”