Young Stars Energize US Squash Hardball Singles Nationals!!

Hardball Singles is not just for “old” guys. The 2011 Hardball Singles National championships at the Tennis & Racquet Club in Boston, February 18-20, was dominated by enthusiastic, young talent, with 15 players in the Open draw and 15 more in the 20+ category, plus several strong women competing for the first Women’s Open hardball Singles National Championship in many years.

Everyone came away from a weekend of stellar play—with rolling out three-wall nicks, tight reverse corners, hard serves, and power rails and cross-courts—praising the joys of playing hardball singles and the thrill of watching it competed at a high level. The many new enthusiasts proclaimed their intentions to play more hardball singles, on both the traditional (18.5 feet) and the wider (21’) courts (with the “green” austral ball that was being passed out to all the many takers). The new recruits were vociferous in their plans to promote hardball to their friends and club mates as a fun, exciting—and challenging—supplement to their standard softball play; a much desired, and needed, shot in the arm for the future of hardball singles.

The featured match saw defending three-time National Champion (and former Princeton All-American) Eric Pearson of San Francisco fall to Preston Quick, a touring ISDA Hardball Doubles standout and two-time former National Softball Champion (‘03, ‘04), in the Open Division Championship. Pitting Pearson’s well-honed hardball shot-making against Quick’s hard-harder-hardest power and relentless pressure play, Quick prevailed in four close games—culminated by Quick’s “no set” call at 13-all who then closed out the match with successive, devastating forehand blasts. It was the most impressive hardball singles match the many “veteran/statesmen” witnesses had seen since the Mark Talbott dominated pro tour ended, over 15 years ago.

The Women’s Open Final featured youthful energy and power against veteran guile and hardball experience. Fernanda Rocha, who also played in the 20+ draw with the men (winning her first round match), used her strong rails and ever-advancing understanding of the hardball game to prevail 3-2 over Hope Nichols Prockop, a rusty but experienced hardballer, with a full repertoire of reverse corners, three walls, roll corners and rails for length.

Is Hardball Singles poised for a surge of popularity among young, veteran and venerable players, men and women alike? Hamed Anvari has organized a Hardball Squash Championships on the wide courts at the University Club in New York; James Hewitt, the Executive Director of the ISDA, is organizing a Hardball Singles feed-in tournament with a $7,500 purse (from the U.S. Hardball Singles Squash Fund) in conjunction with the ISDA’s April 15-17 tournament at the Creek Club on Long Island, with the hardball doubles and singles finals in New York City. And like the 2010-2011 season, this coming year the Hardball Squash Committee will hold ten (10) hardball singles tournaments, starting in November in DC, with tournaments in Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, three in NYC, one each in Philadelphia and Atlantic City (on the wide courts), a final preparation for the Nationals in DC, with the 2012 National Hardball Championship venue up in the air, with new interest from Chicago and Atlanta, as well as Philadelphia (always eager to host) and Boston ready to renew.

Try it; you might like it and, as former World No. 1 Jonathon Power has often said, “hardball will improve your softball game,” challenging reflexes and shot making creativity.

2011 Hardball Singles Division Winners
Men’s Open: 
Preston Quick d. Eric Pearson, 3-1
Women’s Open: Fernanda Rocha d. Hope Nichols Prockop, 3-2
20+: Dan Roberts (Boston, MA) d. David Funk (Short Hills, NJ), 3-0
40+: James Hewitt (Toronto, ON) d. Chris Lutes (Boston, MA), 3-0
50+: Bryce Harding (Arlington, VA) d. David Schenkein (Boston, MA), 3-1
60+:  Tefft Smith (Washington, DC) d. Paul Chan (Egg Harbor Township, NJ), 3-1
70+: Ted Marmor (New York, NY) d. George Young (Omaha, NE), 3-1
75+: Phil Clapp (Boston, MA) d. Wes Schmidt (Cleveland, OH), 3-0
80+: Bill Wilson (Radnor, PA) d. Charlie Baker (Radnor, PA), 3-0