by Rob Dinerman
This weekend will mark the 16th edition the World Doubles and the 10th since it was accredited (sanctioned) by the International Squash Racquets Federation (ISRF) in 1994.
It began in 1980-81, the first significant season (with 22 ranking events) of the WPSA pro hardball tour, when it was held in Toronto, sponsored by the sneaker-manufacturer Bata and won by Mo Khan and Clive Caldwell in a four-game final over Peter Briggs and Ralph Howe.
By far the most memorable of the early-1980’s World Doubles occurred in 1983, when all four quarterfinals went five games, consuming almost nine hours overall and causing the Committee to push the semis, originally scheduled for Saturday late-afternoon, to Sunday morning. Defending 1982 champions Michael Desaulniers and Maurice Heckscher, who had trailed Victor Harding and Jay Gillespie late in the fifth game in their quarterfinal, eked that game out 15-13 and rolled to straight-set Sunday wins over Briggs/Howe in the semis and Michael Pierce/Tom Page in the final.
After a three-year hiatus, the tournament resumed in 1986 in Buffalo, with Xerox as the main sponsor and with Todd Binns and Gordy Anderson barely defeating the top-seeded Desaulniers brothers, Michael and Brad, when on a wild scrambling point at match-ball in a tense five-game final Binns found the entire right side open (his opponents had gotten their signals crossed and both were stuck on the left side) and nailed a backhand rail winner.
He and his new partner Page would win again in 1987, defeating Jamie Bentley and Kenton Jernigan in the final as part of a three-year Binns/Page run (1987-89) as WPSA Doubles Team Of The Year, after which the tournament would not be held for seven years, during which time the WPSA was absorbed by the international-ball PSA tour under the aegis of the ISRF.
The champions list during the half-dozen years from 1994 to 2000 primarily features Bentley, who won the tourney with Jernigan in ’94, Waite in ’96 (they were undefeated that entire season) and Willie Hosey in 2000, while losing the ’98 final to Waite and Mark Talbott, whom Bentley and Hosey then defeated in the 2000 final.
By the early 2000’s the event was being played under the auspices of the ISDA, the first-ever association devoted exclusively to pro doubles, and for the next several holdings its leading teams battled each other for this prestigious crown. In 2002, Waite and Damien Mudge culminated an undefeated season with a contentious four-game final over their leading challenger (and conqueror in the 2003 Kellner Cup final) Blair Horler and Clive Leach.
Waite and Mudge retained their status in 2004, when the World Doubles was held in conjunction with the Kellner Cup, thrashing Viktor Berg and Josh McDonald (who had handed Waite/Mudge their lone defeat that season three months earlier in a fifth-set overtime in Boston) in the final.
Calendar 1994 also marked the first year of a Women’s Doubles competition, with Mixed Doubles to follow in 1996. Demer Holleran and Alicia McConnell, who swept the U. S. National Doubles from 1995-2004, similarly dominated the first decade of the World Doubles, winning five of the first six editions through the 2004 event. Holleran also teamed with Keen Butcher to win the inaugural Mixed Doubles tourney in 1996, by which time the Holleran/Butcher duo, both Princeton alums of the late 1980’s, were well along in their run of seven straight U. S. National Mixed Doubles crowns from 1994-2000 before that streak was finally ended in 2001 by Jessie Chai and Gary Waite. The latter pair also captured the World Mixed Doubles in 1998, 2000 and 2002, with Chai (who with Karen Jerome had earned the 2000 Women’s Doubles, the sole exception to the Holleran/McConnell skein) then partnering Berg to the 2004 title.
The 2006 edition ushered in a new era in the World Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles tournaments, while becoming a testimony to the versatility of Narelle Krizek and Preston Quick, who won the Mixed Doubles flight in mid-week with Krizek on the right wall. She then moved to the left and earned the Women’s title with Steph Hewitt (who also won in 2009 and 2011 with Canadian compatriots Jessica DiMauro and Seanna Keating respectively), while Quick crossed to the right and partnered Chris Deratnay to the men’s title, 18-15 in the fifth over Bentley and Scott Stoneburgh, with the last four games going to overtime.
Starting in 2009, teams had to be comprised by players from the same country. Aussie Ben Gould won this title that year with Paul Price and in 2011 with Mudge, in both instances against British stars John Russell and Leach in the final, and in 2011 by overcoming a 2-1 deficit to clinch an undefeated 2010-11 campaign. This weekend they will attempt to become only the second team (preceded by Waite/Mudge 2002/2004) to successfully defend a World Doubles title since Heckscher and Mike Desaulniers accomplished this feat exactly 30 years ago.