The 2020 U.S. Century Doubles Championships yielded three pairs of repeat champions in two-time Open champions Chris Walker & Thomas Harrity, three-time women’s champions Kathryn Grant & Lissen Tutrone and two-time mixed champions Chris Spahr and Mary Belknap McKee, January 17-20 in New York City.
Celebrating the notion that squash is a lifetime sport, the “Tournament of the Century” requires that the combined age of each team to be one hundred years or greater. The Century has brought together partnerships with family, friends and enthusiasts alike in a well-spirited, yet competitive weekend of doubles for the past fourteen years. 172 players on eighty-six teams–including players from Canada and Mexico–competed across seven divisions: Open, A, Women’s, Mixed, Grand Champions (80+), Masters (70+) and Legends (60+).
Matches were headquartered at the University Club of New York and also held at the Heights Casino, New York Athletic Club, Racquet & Tennis Club, Union Club and Apawamis Club in Rye, New York. The Century Doubles enjoyed its sixth year of support from sponsors Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon.
For the second year running, top-seeded Walker & Harrity mounted an Open division title run, but this year proved to be more challenging with both their semifinal and final going to five games. The tumultuous Open division also saw the two, three and four seeds all exit early. Chris Haley & Ed Chilton knocked out four seeds Andrew Slater & Scott Stoneburgh in five in the second round, then led the top seeds 2-1 in the semifinal, but Harrity & Walker pulled through 15-4 in the fourth and fifth games.
“For me, against Ed is the semifinals it was a real battle to get him out of position–he was playing so well and we just about worked it out by the end–but he is one of the trickiest players I have met on the left wall,” Walker said. “I felt the matches were more cerebral this year–position and shot selection were paramount. Tom and I worked on our positions a lot over the matches helping to cover each other and ‘fill in the gaps’ we were leaving on the court.”
In the bottom half of the draw, Dave Rosen & Jeff Mulligan put together a surprise run to the final, upsetting three seeds Bill Ullman & Jeff Stanley in the second round then a five-game semifinal upset over two seeds and three-time champions Dominic Hughes & Nigel Thain 15-10 in the fifth.
In a close final, Harrity & Walker held off a five-game comeback from Rosen & Mulligan, claiming their second title 15-9, 15-12, 8-15, 12-15, 15-7.
“It felt great to successfully defend our open doubles title with such a talent-laden draw,” Harrity said. “Many of the teams were evenly matched as evidenced by the plethora of five-game matches in the tournament including at least one quarterfinal, both semifinal matches and our final. The draw featured at least half a dozen players who had won the Open title before and established pairings of teams, many of whom are good friends of ours. We were fortunate to play quite very well when it mattered most. It is a pleasure playing with Chris. In addition to being friends for many years, we have now established a great doubles team chemistry and synergy in making tactical adjustments during competition that is a lot of fun.”
“In the final it was also a very thoughtful game with a lot of strategy but I felt Tom and I just go the momentum toward the end by staying up beat and keeping our intensity up,” Walker said. “As with last year, it was an extraordinary week of squash–with the SEA Gala dinner, the ToC, and I had a junior Bronze event going on at the River Club and it was all topped with the Century Doubles title. I have to admit I slept well on Monday night!”
In the women’s division, Grant & Tutrone made tournament history by becoming the first three-time champions–doing so in emphatic fashion without dropping a game. Susan Green & Margaret Rux pulled off the draw’s only upset over four seeds Patrice McConnell Cromwell in the first round. Grant & Tutrone then defeated Greene & Rux in the semifinals to meet two seeds Jeanne Blasberg & Diana Dowling in the final. In the final, Grant & Tutrone prevailed in three close games 15-10, 15-10, 15-13.
“Kat and I have been best of friends for over fifty years now,” Tutrone said. “Though it’s an honor to win anything at our advanced age, the fact that this is our third win at the Century, pales in comparison to us spending time together playing a sport we love. Being in NYC is always exciting and we love staying at the University Club, thanks to US Squash for setting up a great room rate.”
In the mixed division, top seeds Spahr & McKee also pulled off a perfect title run without dropping a game. Spahr & McKee defeated two seeds Ed Kelly & Natalie Grainger in the final 15-11, 15-12, 15-9.
The Legends (60+) final proved to be an 80-minute, five-game affair as Palmer Page earned his second 60+ title with first-time partner Cameron Pilley, defeating two seeds Michael Sherl & Liam Kenny 15-10, 7-15, 15-11, 6-15, 15-12.
Perhaps the match of the tournament was the Masters (70+) semifinal between three seeds John Brazilian & Ryan Mullaney and father-son pairing and two seeds Tim & Adrian Griffin. A packed gallery of 100 spectators gave a standing ovation as the Griffins won on simultaneous match ball 13-15, 15-10, 10-15, 15-13, 15-14. The Griffins would then fall short in the final against four seeds and first-time champions Kenneth Leung & Rishi Tandon 7-15, 15-13, 15-10, 15-5.
Ninety-one-year-old Jordan Purdy embodied the spirit of the tournament as its eldest player in the Grand Champions (80+) division with partner Humberto Roman. In the 80+ final, 2012 70+ champions and two seeds Michael Wilson & Dylan Patterson dethroned defending champions and top seeds Dave Matthews & William Moore 15-9, 15-12, 7-15, 15-5.
Thanks to all Century Doubles patrons for their support: