US SQUASH

Nanda & Simmonds Win Maiden Mixed Doubles National Title

The open division final (L-R): Victoria Simmonds,  James Bamber,  Raj Nanda,  Natalie Grainger.

The open division final (L-R): Victoria Simmonds, James Bamber, Raj Nanda, Natalie Grainger.

U.S. Mixed Doubles Draws

U.S. Mixed Doubles Gallery
Raj Nanda & Victoria Simmonds are the 2015 U.S. Mixed Doubles champions after enduring an arduous route to the partnership’s first national mixed title Sunday at the Round Hill Club and Field Club of Greenwich in Connecticut.

The Open division top seeds lost their first game of the tournament 15-14, but recovered to defeat Charlene Neo & Scott Wilson in the first round. Nanda & Simmonds had to dig deep in their semifinal against four seeds Emily Lungstrum & Dave Rosen, recovering from 2-0 down in games to reach the final 11-15, 6-15, 15-8, 15-13, 15-9.

In the draw’s bottom half, two-time defending champion Natalie Grainger and first-time partner James Bamber eased their way to the final in two three-game victories, including a semifinal victory over the Round Hill Club’s Steve Scharff & Amy Milanek.

Mixed doubles national champions Victoria Simmonds (L) &  Raj Nanda.

Mixed doubles national champions Victoria Simmonds (L) & Raj Nanda.

Sunday yielded three dramatic finals, which culminated in a simultaneous match ball in the Open final. Once again, Nanda & Simmonds were one game away from elimination after Grainger & Bamber won the second and third games. As they did in the semifinals, Nanda & Simmonds turned things around winning the fourth 15-10, then coming back from 11-13 down in the fifth, to win a dramatic finish on a simultaneous match ball at 14-14.

“Physically, it wasnt the best for us to go into the finals the day after a tough 5 game match—we were a little sore!—but mentally and strategically, it was probably the best thing that could have happened given we had never played mixed doubles together before, not even a friendly practice game, ” Simmonds said of her partnership going into the final.

“Going into the final we knew we were up against it, ” Simmonds continued. “we all know how talented Natalie is on the doubles court and that she was looking for her third consecutive title. James was an unknown, but despite his lack of doubles experience, he was very strong and so fast, he got everything back! Winning the first game was crucial, but it certainly lit a fire under them because they came back fighting and took the next two. However, being 2-1 down was familiar territory for us and just like before, we were figuring it out.

“The fifth and final game was about being smart and sticking to the game plan that had got us there. When we were down 11-13 we had to be remain patient and wait for the obvious opening to finish the rally, rather than forcing it too early. It’s crazy that after being on court for so long, winning the title came down to one rally! Like most mixed doubles games and certainly at 14-14 in the 5th, I knew they were going to be hitting every ball to me and keeping it away from Raj, so the pressure was on. Sure enough, Natalie and I exchanged about 4 or 5 sensible cross courts, then when one came a little wider off the side wall and I could see James was to the left of me in the middle of the court, I played a hard, straight rail to the back and luckily it never came back. It was instant relief mixed with elation.”

Mixed doubles 40+ champions Steve Scharff (L) & Amy Milanek.

Mixed doubles 40+ champions Steve Scharff (L) & Amy Milanek.

Simmonds, WSDA world No. 5, and Nanda, SDA world No. 17, are both coaches at the Hackley School in New York.

“I loved playing with Raj and I think we compliment each other well, ” Simmonds said. “I love the adrenaline of competing and have a lot of energy, but sometimes I can get a little too fired up! Raj on the other hand is about as calm and laid back as they come. So when we got to those crucial moments in both of our five set matches, I gave Raj the kick in butt he needed and he did a great job of keeping me steady and focused.”

The 40+ division final also went the distance to five games. Scharff, 2013 open champion, & Milanek dethroned defending 40+ champion Dave Rosen & Emily Lungstrum 14-15, 15-13, 15-7, 13-15, 15-11.

2014 40+ finalists Joe & Diana Dowling moved up to the 50+ division this year where they claimed their first mixed doubles title together against William Ullman & Jeanne Blasberg in four games.

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