Written by Rob Dinerman:
Finals are broadcasted October 29 (8pm) & 30 (5pm) on Rogers channel 10.
Top-tier women’s pro doubles returned to Canada this past weekend for the first time in the five and a half years since the 2011 World Doubles when the $25,000 BMO Canadian Pro Women’s Squash Doubles Championships were held at the Toronto Cricket Skating & Curling Club. Back then Steph Hewitt and her Canadian compatriot Seanna Keating won a riveting five-game final against Narelle Krizek and her sister Tarsh McElhinny. This time Hewitt and Krizek were partners rather than opponents, making their first appearance as teammates since they swept to victory in the 2014 U. S. National Doubles in New York. They fully duplicated their success of 31 months ago with a four-game semifinal win over Tina Rix and Latasha Khan, following which they defeated first-time partners Dana Betts and Fernanda Rocha 15-9, 15-6, 9-15, 15-10 in the Saturday-night final before a Cricket Club gallery that was packed to the rim by club members who later that evening participated in the Squash Opening Party to kick off the new season. The main presenting sponsor was BMO Wealth Management, with supporting sponsors including Chestnut Park Realty, Medcan Health Care, Specops, Harrow Sports, Porter Airlines and BDO Tax Advisory.
Rocha, just two weeks removed from winning a pro Mixed Doubles invitational tournament in St. Louis with her former Trinity College contemporary Manek Mathur, and Betts had won pre-final matches over first Nikki Todd and Marci Sier and then McElhinny and Meredeth Quick, who led two games to one and 7-3 in the fourth, only to then fall victim to a 10-point burst throughout which Betts and Rocha commandeered the front part of the court and pounded a series of shallow winners. Quick and McElhinny then staged a late-game rally of their own but were undone by a pair of tins that caused them to come up just short at 15-13. Thus reprieved, Betts and Rocha earned a mid-game lead in the fifth which they never relinquished en route to a 15-7 ticket to the final.
In the bottom half of the six-team draw, Rix and Khan out-played Keating and Amy Milanek, and took the second game of their Krizek/Hewitt semi before Krizek in particular went off on a shooting spree that, buttressed by Hewitt’s steady error-free play, enabled the eventual champs to close out the match with competitive but convincing 15-9, 15-11 tallies. They then grabbed those two single-figure opening games in the final before Betts and Rocha took advantage of a slight letdown by their opponents and came away with the third game. The first portion of the fourth game was evenly contested, but Hewitt and Krizek were able to assert themselves during the last dozen exchanges, with a Krizek backhand three-wall nick at championship-point serving as a fitting calling-card for a match during which she hit substantially more winners than anyone else on the court. Tournament Co-Chairs James Hewitt and Doug Mackay arranged for the final to be broadcast by Rogers Cable Television to cap off a night in which three Pro-Am finals, all named in honor of major tournament sponsors, were also contested. Rix and Barb Robinson took the Specops Cup and there were also two Mixed Doubles pro-ams, namely the BDO Cup, which was won by Quick and Gary O’Neill, and the Chestnut Park Cup, which went to Todd and Carlo Mariglio.
The women generously decided to donate all of their Pro-Am winnings to the Canadian Breast Cancer Association, which helped raise $20,000 for this designated official tournament charity, All told, the three-day extravaganza constituted a praiseworthy and memorable launch-pad to both the doubles season in Toronto and to the 2016-17 WSDA pro women’s doubles tour, and it ended in feel-good fashion, with all 12 WSDA players entering the court immediately after the last ball was struck and receiving a prolonged standing ovation from the gallery in appreciation of how hard and how well every one of them had played.
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