The North American Open Men’s Doubles tournament is one of the most prominent squash doubles events in the United States. Since 1931, this event has drawn top-ranked squash players from around the world. The Field Club of Greenwich, Greenwich Country Club and Round Hill Club have hosted this event on a tri-club basis for the past seven years and have made it one of the premier sporting events in Greenwich. Alongside the Chilton North American Open Doubles ISDA event is a top level WISPA event, the Glo Greenwich Open, and three pro-am events sponsored by Lexington Investments.
The tournament supports the NAO/GO Scholarship Fund in partnership with U.S. SQUASH, which provides financial assistance to participants in urban squash programs. The NAO/GO Fund will make an important difference in the education of these young men and women as a result of the generous support of tournament patrons.
Two local teams came through the tough qualifying draw and both pulled off first round upsets. Bernardo Samper and Mark Price scored the first upset of the Friday evening matches with a victory over fifth seeded John Russell and Greg Park (15-10, 15-12, 12-15, 15-13). Samper controlled the opening match with incredible hands, outshooting Russell on the left wall. In the second match, the Round Hill pros faced off, with qualifiers Steve Scharff and Phil Barker overpowering Greg MacArthur and Dan Roberts, 15-13, 15-4, 15-4. The last two matches were straight forward with both seeds prevailing—Imran Khan and Raj Nanda over Paul Price and Willie Hosey (who just turned 50 years young!), 12-15, 15-11, 15- 10, 15-8; and Jonny Smith and Preston Quick winning decisively, 15-9, 15-11, 15-11, over Josh Schwartz and Ahmed Anvari.
The quarterfinals featured many new and local (Greenwich/Rye area) names. Super Saturday started off with Samper and Price unable to maintain their hot hands from the previous night, losing to top seeds Damien Mudge and Ben Gould. The second match saw another upset, with the No. 6 seeds Smith and Quick defeating the No. 4 seeds Chris Walker and Mark Chaloner, three games to love. Scharff and Barker were also unable to repeat the magic that got them into the quarterfinals and fell to the third seeds, Manek Mathur and Clive Leach, in four games. The final match of the evening saw the number two seeds and first time partners, Matt Jenson and Yvain Badan defeating Khan and Nanda.
In Sunday’s semifinals, Mudge and Gould rolled over Smith and Quick 15-8, 15-11, 15-7, while the second semifinal involved all four 2011 Briggs Cup finalists, but with different partners this time. Badan and Jenson both had hot hands through the first two games but then seemingly disappeared completely in the third game. The fourth game was much tighter and Mathur and Leach found themselves up 13-11 but were unable to finish the game. The simultaneous game ball at 14-all saw Mathur misplay a tough ball down the middle to give the match to first-time-together finalists Jenson and Badan, 15-8, 15-9, 3-15, 15-14.
For the first time in recent history, the final was held on Monday night at the Greenwich Country Club with more than 150 spectators treated to one of the most interesting displays of strategy and tactics. Jenson and Badan surprised Mudge and Gould with a slow game of lobbing on the right wall to start the match. With Mudge iced on the left wall, Jenson and Badan took advantage of rare openings from Gould and were able to finish the points, comfortably winning the game, 15-7. Mudge and Gould picked up the pace in the second game and finished with a five point run, leveling the match 15-10. The crucial third game was a back and forth struggle for nearly 45 minutes, until a 14- all simultaneous game ball—where Mudge coaxed a ball to the front right nick just out of Badan’s reach. The fourth game saw small advantages for Mudge and Gould, with Gould ending the match with a nick in the front left hand corner 15-11.
This was Gould’s fourth NAO Doubles title but, more importantly, it was Mudge’s 10th title, tying him with Gary Waite for the most NAO doubles titles. There is no doubt Mudge will be competing in next year’s event in hopes of breaking his first partner’s record.
The highlight of the weekend for most of the amateur doubles players was the Lexington Pro-Am which allows the amateurs a chance to be on court with the top doubles players in the world. This year’s event had three divisions with Tim Greer and Yvain Badan winning the RED division over Damien Mudge and Tim George; Rob Robin and John Russell winning the BLUE division over Mark Hayden and Manek Mathur; and the WHITE division saw Bob Hopkins and Tim Wyant defeat David Barrett and Graham Bassett.
The tournament chairs John Burke (RHC), Libby Welch (FCG) and Ted Murphy (GCC) gave large amounts of their time and energy to make this event a success. Thanks also to the local head professionals Steve Scharff (RHC), Liam Kenny(FGC) and Phil barker (GCC) and the staff of all three clubs for all their hard work.