A dozen top college graduates and singles professionals convened at the Apawamis Club to take part in the inaugural SDA Pro Tour combine, Saturday June 10, in Rye, New York.
The first event of its kind aimed to expose experienced singles players to professional-level hardball doubles in hopes of attracting future competitors to the SDA Pro Tour.
“The SDA Board of Directors realized how difficult it is for newcomers to join the tour,” said Graham Bassett, SDA Pro Tour Director. “The purpose of the SDA Combine is to remove some of the roadblocks from joining. Participants are given a chance to earn SDA points, receive coaching from the game’s best, and play some high quality matches. They are also introduced to a pool of prospective partners in the same position as themselves and given a feel for the comradery of the tour. This year’s pool was exceptional. They were all enthusiastic and there was some terrific talent. The future of the tour looks bright!”
World No. 1 Manek Mathur, defending world champion Clive Leach and Travis Judson coached the assigned teams as they competed in three matches over the course of the day.
“The energy and enthusiasm at Apawamis was contagious,” Mathur said. “It was great to see such powerful singles resumes battle it out and be so receptive to advice and constructive criticism. I think this was a great idea for the growth of the SDA and the tour is headed in the right direction. The level of potential was extremely high for all the guys that played. If all these guys go back to the drawing board and spend some time on court this summer, we might see some new names in the top rankings next season.”
Leach, a veteran of both the ISDA and SDA eras for more than a decade, praised the format and goal of attracting new players to the tour.
“The players really responded well to our coaching and advice, and I felt there was really good intensity from all players,” Leach said. “Some had more experience than others, but overall they really did try and execute what we were asking of them. This format worked really well and I hope to see this type of event again soon. This is definitely the way forward to attracting and encouraging more players to this great game. Personally, I enjoyed the day sharing my knowledge to the next generation of players.”
Heights Casino professional and first place finisher Omar El Kashef said his doubles game improved over the course of the day thanks to the professional coaching exposure.
“One of the amazing things about squash doubles is that every time I play with or against someone new, there is a different perspective that I wasn’t even considering,” El Kashef said. ” I spoke to my partner Julian a lot before and during the match. We worked together on finding the harmony we aimed for. Also, Manek and Travis were watching every single point. They made sure they talked to us between games and matches. It was very good to hear their constructive feedback on how to adjust our game to hardball doubles instead of playing ‘singles in the doubles court.'”
“I would like to thank Graham and the SDA for this tremendous idea,” Mathur added. “I want to encourage all prospective players to mark the next SDA combine on their calendars as it was a great opportunity for all those that attended.”
Results and Teams:
1st – Julian Kirby (USA, Harvard)/Omar El Kashef (EGY)
2nd – Adam Perkiomaki (USA, Rochester)/Duncan Maxwell (CAN, St. Lawrence)
3rd – Omar Sobhy (USA, George Washington)/Hameed Ahmed (FIN, Rochester)
4th – Leroy Leong (MAS)/Ryan Mullaney (USA, F&M)
5th – Rob Hong (CAN)/Andrew McGuinness (USA, Navy)
6th – Yasser El Halaby (EGY, Princeton)/Alex Grayson (NZL)