An Unfortunate Saga: The Cancellation Of The 2014 US Open Doubles Championship  
by Rob DInerman

Dateline December 4th ---- The U. S. Open Doubles was scheduled to be played this coming weekend at the Wilmington Country Club --- but it won’t be. It had been prominently listed on the SDA and WDSA pro men’s and women’s doubles schedules for months before a VERY low-key announcement (which does not seem to have ever appeared on the U. S. Squash web site) was forwarded to the SDA membership, as well as the WDSA leadership, by SDA Pro Tour Manager Graham Bassett in early October as part of an update covering several autumn events. The pertinent passage reads as follows:

“US Squash will be postponing the 2014 U.S. Open Squash Doubles Championships until the fall of 2015.

"The event will be run bi-annually and in coordination with the U.S. Open Singles Championships in order to raise the profile of both tournaments. US Squash, in partnership with the SDA and WDSA, looks forward to showcasing the best players on a world class stage in Philadelphia next year.”

    Incredibly, U. S. Squash seems to be presenting the cancellation as a POSITIVE by depicting it as an opportunity to “raise the profile” of both the singles and doubles portions of the October 2015 event, rather than acknowledging that what was supposed to have been a flagship stop on the 2014-15 schedule would instead not even take place at all this season, leaving, as it happens, a huge (SEVEN weeks’ worth) hole in the SDA schedule, which will now not resume until the Putnam Pro-Am Boston tournament at the University Club of Boston on the second weekend in January.

   Beginning in 1995, the Wilmington Country Club, under the leadership of Ed Chilton, its highly popular head pro then and now (and the current Canadian National Doubles 45-and-over champion along with partner Andrew Slater), ran a tremendously successful pro doubles event every year through the 2010-11 season --- 17 consecutive seasons --- first from 1995-97 as the U. S. Open Doubles and subsequently as the U. S. Pro Championships. There were a number of memorable results, among them the first-round ouster in 2001 of the previously undefeated Gary Waite/Damian Mudge pairing by qualifiers Anders Wahlstedt and Scott Stoneburgh, who went on to win the entire event (the only time in ISDA/SDA history that a qualifier has captured a sanctioned ranking tournament), as well as the 2009 final, which came down to simultaneous-championship-point, a reverse-corner winner by Chris Walker that gave him and partner Mark Chaloner the victory over Jonny Smith and Yvain Badan. Top teams turned out every year, and there was always a lively and well-subscribed pro-am event as well.

   When in 2012 an agreement was struck between U. S. Squash and the Tournament Committee to have the event come under the U. S. Squash aegis, the title (with great fanfare and self-congratulation) was changed from the U. S. Pro to the U. S. Open in concert with the business relationship formed that year between U. S. Squash and the newly-created SDA. At that time it was decided to have the tournament alternate from one year to the next between the Wilmington Country Club, which did indeed host the tourney in December 2012, and the Philadelphia Country Club, which ran it in December 2013 (though a heavy snowstorm that weekend caused the men’s final to begin well over an hour late when one of the final-round teams got stuck in a huge traffic jam, resulting in a final that was played in eerie isolation in front of only a handful of spectators).

   Under the normal course of events, the Wilmington Country Club would have hosted it this year, and its Tournament Committee fully planned to do so. But U. S. Squash, which apparently took losses in both the 2012 and 2013 holdings, allegedly announced last spring that it needed to be paid $80,000 ($20,000 a day for the four days’ worth of main-draw matches from Thursday through Sunday) to cover the prize-money lay-out and other associated expenses. Eventually an attempt was made during the summer and early-autumn to spread the matches over several Philadelphia-area clubs, but in the end only the Wilmington Country Club Tournament Committee agreed to shoulder the requested $20,000 obligation, as the other Philadelphia-area clubs declined, citing the upcoming U. S. National Doubles in Philadelphia this spring. U. S. Squash then reported back to Chilton that it was cancelling the entire tournament and would instead swing it over to make it part of the 2015 U. S. Open singles event 10 months from now, along the way deciding to make it only every other year rather than every year.

   In my view, this is by no means the first time that an event which ran smoothly for years took a decided turn for the worse once U. S. Squash became involved. The Wilmington Country Club Tournament Committee understandably has decided that it will run an SDA event on its own next season (as it did for so many successful years in the past), without any “support” from U. S. Squash. It is highly disappointing when a much-anticipated event is cancelled with very little notice, as happened here. It is an insult to everyone’s intelligence that the cancelling body has apparently chosen to couch such a decision as a boon and a benefit when what it SHOULD be doing is acknowledge having badly screwed this one up.