US SQUASH

England Retains Men’s and Women’s World Doubles Titles; Team USA Earns Mixed Gold

(l-r): John Russell, Clive Leach, Mike Puertas, Adam Bews, Thomas Brinkman, Scott Arnold.

England’s defending WSF World Hardball Squash Doubles champions John Russell, Clive Leach and Suzie Pierrepont successfully retained their 2015 men’s and women’s titles, while Team USA’s Natalie Grainger & Chris Callis won their first mixed title this weekend at Racquet Club of St. Louis and Missouri Athletic Club.

The men’s draw began with twenty teams representing ten different nations saw the field whittle down to three English teams and one Canadian team in the semifinals.

One of England’s three semifinalist teams, Alex Stait & James Bamber, made an unseeded run to the last four after a quarterfinal upset against Australia’s two seeds Matt Jenson & Scott Arnold. Canada’s Robin Clarke & Thomas Brinkman also made a surprise run to the semifinals courtesy of a two five game victories–including a quarterfinal upset against American three seeds Chris Callis & Greg Park.

In the semis, Clarke & Brinkman came back from 2-1 down against Stait & Bambert to clinch a spot in the final on a double match ball in the fifth. In the top half of the draw, both top seeds Mike Ferreira & Jonny Smith and four seeds Russell & Leach progressed to the semifinals without dropping a game.

In the semis, the defending champions Russell & Leach eliminated the top seeds Ferreira & Smith 15-5, 15-8, 15-11.

In the final against Clarke & Brinkman, Russell & Leach earned a two-game lead 15-10, 15-10, but the Canadian’s came back to win the third and fourth games 15-3, 15-7. Russell & Leach recovered in the fifth and earned their first match ball at 14-12.

After two match-balls were saved, it was sudden death at 14-all. With Leach pressuring Brinkman to hit the ball back to himself and give away a stroke, it was the English duo who retained their title.

“I got sucked into hitting aimlessly across court and lost the battle with Thomas in the middle but then got back to the plan of mixing height with width and some down the middle to try and force an error,” said Russell later. “It worked but it was close!”

(l-r): Georgina Stoker, Suzie Pierrepont, Adam Bews, Mike Puertas, Narelle Krizek, Natarsha McElhinny.

The women’s draw saw England’s defending champion Suzie Pierrepont return to the World Doubles with a new partner, Georgina Stoker, whom she defeated in the 2015 final.

Pierrepont & Stoker endured a grueling first game match against Team USA’s Grainger & Kayley Leonard, recovering from 2-1 down to win 15-9 in the fifth. Pierrepont & Stoker, the two seeds, dispatched fellow Englishwomen and three seeds Tina Rix & Victoria Simmonds to reach the final against Australia’s top seeds Narelle Krizek & Natarsha McElhinny.

In the final, the Australian’s took an early lead winning the first game 15-12, but it was all England from there on out as Pierrepont & Stoker won the title 12-15, 15-11, 15-3, 15-7.

“I lost to Suzie in the final two years ago in the final,” Stoker said. “So it was really great to have won with her this time. I was so nervous for the first game and could hardly hit it he ball, but after we won the second I settled in and we came out firing in the third and fourth.”

(l-r) Viktor Berg, Stephanie Hewitt, Mike Puertas, Natalie Grainger, Chris Callis.

Seasoned hardball doubles campaigner Natalie Grainger, the former world No. 1, partnered with 28-year-old Christopher Callis in the Mixed final. The U.S. team had already upset the No. 4 seeds in the first round and faced third-seeded Canadians Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg in the final.

After taking the opening game, Grainger and Callis fell 2-1 behind–then had to save three match-balls in the fourth to force a decider. But experience shone through as the home duo marched on to win 15-9, 10-15, 11-15, 15-14, 15-7.

“We knew we had to be on high alert with Viktor on the court as he is so dangerous,” Grainger said “We had to up the pace and add variety–we are so pleased to get the win.”

For match replays and further cover, visit www.worlddoubles.com.

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