The Nationals

Got an email a couple of days ago: “Who has won the national doubles in both squash and court tennis?” That was easy: Ralph Howe and Morris Clothier. And now Addison West, who along with Trevor McGuinness took the 2011 BMO Capital Markets U.S. Squash Doubles Championships men’s open division title, can also claim that rare feat of dominating the amateur four-handed games in two sports.

At the national singles, it was Old Home Week. For all the names in the draw, it could have been played a decade or two ago. In the women’s draw, a smattering of teenager came and one, Sabrina Sobhy, age fourteen, knocked off former champion Shabana Khan, age forty-two. Shabana, it must be said, had a world ranking three years before Sabrina was born.

On the men’s side, there were more blasts from the past with forty-somethings Richard Chin, Jamie Crombie and Damian Walker not only entering the tournament but each winning their first round match. Does it say something about the strength of the U.S. game when forty-one year olds like Chin and Walker (the latter turned forty-two the week after the tournament) let alone a forty-five year-old like Crombie can all still make the quarters of the nationals?

Or does it just say that the three of them are gifted and hardworking? For when has the nationals had three quarterfinalists ranked in the top seventy-five in the world? Not until last year.

And Julian Illingworth, statistically the greatest American man ever, won his seventh straight title. Now he stands alone, beyond any other male player, ahead of Stanley Pearson who won six nearly a century ago. Julian is now tied with Alicia McConnell who won seven in a row in the 1980s and only has Demer Holleran, who was national champion nine times, to catch.

It is possible he’ll do it. He would only be thirty when he could surpass Holleran in 2014. That should be easy if you use this year’s nationals as a forecasting tool—if he follows Crombie’s training regimen, he could still be playing in the tournament in 2026.

And Sabrina Sobhy will probably be at that 2026 nationals, as she’ll just be twenty-nine  and in her prime. Will she be Shabana-like and play in the 2039 nationals? 2039—just seems impossibly far away.

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