Walker And Chaloner Capture U. S. Pro Title On Winner-Take-All Point 
By Rob Dinerman

Dateline December 7, 2009 --- History was made at the Wilmington Country Club this past Saturday evening, where the ISDA (founded in early January 2000) completed the first full decade of its existence and did so in dramatic fashion, with its first-ever simultaneous-championship-point. Chris Walker and his British compatriot and fellow former PSA top-seven Mark Chaloner battled back from a two-games-to-love deficit in a two-hour final with former mid-2000’s Trinity College teammates Jonny Smith and Yvain Badan to force a best-of-five fifth-set tiebreaker conclusion to this 2009 U. S. Pro Championship that ding-donged hair-raisingly through four evenly divided points, at which crisis moment Walker unleashed a tin-defying forehand reverse-corner winner that decided the 10-15 8-15 15-9 15-12 16-15 outcome.

The match was characterized by lengthy, all-court exchanges, extremely high pace and an intensity level that may have been attributable to the absence of the top-eight-ranked players in this $10,000 Challenger event, which presented an opportunity for these contestants to vie for an ISDA crown. Of the final-round foursome, only Walker had ever competed in the final round of a full-ranking ISDA tourney – indeed, he and Clive Leach had been the last team other than the Damien Mudge/Viktor Berg and Paul Price/Ben Gould tandems to win a ranking ISDA event over the past 26 months (and 28 tournaments) that have passed since Walker and Leach won the first two stops (in St. Louis and Baltimore) on the 2007-08 tour.

The quarterfinals were all very distinct: first Badan and Smith, first-time partners whose collegiate careers overlapped during the 2002-03 season, overwhelmed Rob Dinerman and Rob Whitehouse with their athleticism; then Tom Harrity and former PSA No. 1 John White, pinch-hitting for an injured Dave Rosen, won in four over Mark Price and his tin-plagued partner Raj Nanda (who just three weeks ago had straight-gamed Harrity and Imran Khan in the St. Louis Challenger final), which preceded a close (two overtimes) albeit 3-0 win by Tim Porter (who learned the game as a youngster at the host club) and Greg Park over Carl Baglio and Eric Christiansen. The latter pairing consistently geared their attack towards Porter’s side of the court and rallied from 10-13 to force a best-of-five tiebreaker, only to have their comeback bid extinguished when Park, serving at 2-1, set-three, hit a lob serve that a momentarily distracted Baglio foul-tipped and stared for several seconds at the ceiling in disbelief and dismay.

The fourth and final match was the best of the entire evening, as heavy underdogs Ed Chilton (just a few weeks shy of the start of his 20th year as the host club head pro and the tournament-chairman of this event throughout its 16-year existence) and Penn women’s head coach Jack Wyant sharp-shot their way through an opening-game tiebreaker against top seeds Walker and Chaloner to the roaring approval of the home crowd. Chilton and Wyant forced the third game into overtime as well and played beautifully throughout the entertaining four-game match. Chilton would go on to partner Dinerman to victory in the highly competitive pro-am tournament with a quartet of hard-fought four-game wins, the last of which, over Baglio and Scott Simonton, must have carried special meaning for Chilton in light of the event being named the Tim Chilton Cup in memory of his father, who passed away four years ago.

In the Saturday mid-day semis, Smith and Badan again had too much firepower for the Harrity/White team to withstand, following which Walker and Chaloner again dropped their first game before inexorably asserting themselves over Porter (who faded badly in the final two games, committing a host of errors) and Park, three games to one. As noted, Smith and Badan powered their way to a two games to love advantage in the final and seemed to have a stranglehold on the match when at 6-all in the fourth, Walker committed a terrible mental blunder by stopping play after a questionable Smith retrieval and declaring that the ball had bounced twice. He was over-ruled, then his teammate Chaloner tinned a drive, then each of their opponents hit a winner --- suddenly the score was 10-6.

That Walker and Chaloner were able to overcome their self-inflicted wound and the imposing deficit that swiftly followed with a 15-4 run to 6-2 in the fifth is attribute to their grit and determination. Ultimately, Walker would redeem not only that potentially ruinous lapse but also the forehand reverse-corner tin he had hit two years ago on the same court at 13-14 against Mudge and Berg after he and Leach, trailing 14-9 in the fifth, had saved four match-balls-against. At two-all, set-three in the fifth-game tiebreaker, Walker again had a forehand reverse-corner on his racquet, and this time he hit it with full conviction, producing a deadly dart that eluded even Smith’s full-bodied diving attempt to get his racquet on it.

The ISDA tour will now take a month-long holiday break before resuming in January with important stops in Boston and Greenwich.

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