US SQUASH

WDSA Turner Cup recap: final-round masterpiece for Quick And Hewitt

by Rob Dinerman, for DailySquashReport.com

Steph Hewitt, Narelle Krizek, Meredeth Quick, Suzie Pierrepont (Quick/Hewitt won 3-1 in this Turner Cup final)

Dateline May 16th, 2012 – Trailing four points to three in a best-of-nine tiebreaker that had a match-defining feel to it even though it was only the first game, Meredeth Quick and Steph Hewitt won the next two points and never looked back, defeating their long-time nemeses Suzie Pierrepont and Narelle Krizek 18-17 15-9 10-15 15-7 Monday night at the University Club Of New York in the final round of the $30, 000 Turner Cup, the most lucrative event on the WDSA pro women’s doubles tour. In so doing, and in producing an hour-long display of immaculate and inspired squash that was more than even their redoubtable foes could handle, Quick and Hewitt won their fourth tournament in as many attempts this season, consolidated both their breakthrough first-ever win (after four losses) over Pierrepont and Krizek in the season-opening Philadelphia Open final seven months earlier (which was also keyed by an 18-17 first game) and the U. S. National Doubles title they had won last month, extended to a perfect 4-0 their record in tiebreaker sessions for the season and clinched the No. 1 team end-of-season ranking for the 2011-12 campaign.

That opening frame, as noted, was absolutely crucial, especially in light of the pair of late-game three-point deficits (13-10 and later 3-love, set-five) that Quick and Hewitt, after leading 10-7, were forced to overcome. A daring forehand reverse-corner from off the back wall by Hewitt got her team’s rally started in regulation and a Krizek tin followed almost immediately by a pair of front-court winners of Quick’s racquet knotted the overtime session at three points apiece. Krizek, the only player in the tournament able to somehow hit effective skid-boasts even in spite of the host club’s lower-than-usual ceiling, guided one that Quick was unable to return that create that double-game-ball advantage, but Quick then dead-nicked a three-wall from the depths of the back wall for 4-all, set-five. The ensuing simultaneous-game-ball had a crucial feel to it as regards Quick and Hewitt, who had played so hard and so well the entire game to get to that point that it felt like it was a game that HAD to land in their column, especially in light of the reputation that Krizek and Pierrepont have deservedly acquired for seizing early-match leads and emphatically building upon them.

That 17-all point ended abruptly when Pierrepont’s attempt to spike a backhand head-high volley winner instead rang loudly off the tin. Buoyed by this development, and by a mid-game 4-1 skein (two winners apiece) that brought them from 6-4 to 10-5 in the second, Quick and Hewitt, their belief clearly growing with every passing point that they could indeed beat their opponents, even at a venue where they had been soundly thrashed by them in the past (including a 15-6, 11 and 6 tally in the inaugural Turner Cup two years back), finished off that game. Even after falling behind 13-6 in the third, Hewitt and Quick, rather than let that game go and conserve themselves for the fourth, took four of the next five points, thereby sending a “we’re not conceding anything” message that carried over to the fourth game, in which Hewitt and Quick surged from 6-5 to 11-6 and exuberantly closed it out from there.

Throughout that extended stretch, Hewitt moved beautifully, volleyed aggressively and showed resolve that even some infrequent reversals could not dent, one instructive instance being when she double-faulted at 2-1 in the third game but then buried a forehand reverse-corner winner off a Pierrepont cross-court on the very next point. Krizek is such a canny sniper, capable at any instant of snapping off a reverse-corner, a nick-finding three-wall or a shallow drive, yet Hewitt battled her on at least even terms in their exchanges along the right-wall. Her partner Quick displayed both a strength/stamina/mobility quotient that belied the intense five-game Mixed Pro-Am final that she and Kip Gould had lost to Dave Rosen and Sarah West just minutes before the final began, and, more importantly a degree of racquet accuracy and shot-making skill that implied that if anything that Pro-Am match had sharpened her game up rather than wearing her out.

In last season’s Turner Cup tournament, Quick had frequently passed up chances to shoot in a straight-game semifinal loss to eventual champs Amanda Sobhy and Natalie Grainger, choosing instead the “safe” option of pushing the ball back deep. This time, by contrast, she lit up the arena with tight backhand reverse-corners, wall-clinging drop shots and the occasional roll-corner or (as in that first game-ball-against in the opening game) three-wall. She and Hewitt each may well have played the best doubles match of her career, but more than that, they had a healthy dollop of collaborative magic going for them as well. Every time that Krizek and Pierrepont appeared on the verge of making a charge, either Hewitt or Quick came up with a shot that wrested the momentum back to their side. One way or another, their racquets were in the right place all night, as may have been best exemplified when at 13-7, Hewitt was caught off-balance by a ball into her body, fending it off with a reflex backhand that slid the ball just over the tin and into the front-right nick much too swiftly for a dismayed Krizek to react.

The latter then tried a shallow rail serve-return that caught the tin to conclude the match. Krizek and Pierrepont are terrific players who will unquestionably be back with a vengeance next season and who for the most part played admirably well even in this final. But ultimately, Quick and Hewitt not only defeated their vaunted rivals but did so going away on what proved to be their night — and their season — to shine.

Final-Round Summary:
Meredeth Quick/Steph Hewitt d. Suzie Pierrepont/Narelle Krizek, 18-17 15-9 10-15 15-7

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