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U.S. Hardball Squash Championships
Boston T&R Club, February 2011

Hardball Squash is alive and well and living in Boston, along with the envy of the Ivy League Ė Trinity grads
By Sarah Cortes

Final - Menís Open
[2] Preston Quick bt [1] Eric Pearson 15-13, 15-11, 12-15, 15-13
Final - Womenís Open
Fernanda Rocha bt Hope Prockop     15-9, 9-15, 18-16, 11-15, 15-7
Final Ė Menís 20+
Dan Roberts bt David Funk              15-8, 15-8, 15-14

Longtime Tennis & Racquet Club manager Tom Dobbins prescribed complimentary Bloody Marys all around at the crack of 10am, when players and spectators rolled back in for finals. After a Saturday evening of dinner at the Harvard Club and goodness-knows-what afterwards back at the T&R club when the blackout blinds were discreetly drawn, everyone was well-acquainted yet still on friendly terms and eager to resolve of the weekendís competition.

Softball snobs were confused by the remarkably international flavor of the competitors in this distinctly American game. Besides the renowned and beloved Pakistani Zaman Khan, draws featured players from such exotic hinterlands as Argentinian Rocha, Irishman Roberts, and Californian Pearson. The latter charming and friendly San Franciscan gamely struggled all weekend to fit in culturally with the understated Bostonian crowd, drawing on his roots at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Suspicious Ivy Leaguers were also unable to overcome the ghost of recent T&R visitor and Trinity college squash coach Paul Assaiante. The legendary Assaianteís profile in the Sunday Times lurked in the memberís bar along with his legacy of soon-to-be hardball champions, irking Harvardians and Princetonians alike along with an undeniably Trinity-formed Quick-Rocha-Schwartz-axis.

Women's Final

Fernanda Rocha and Hope Prockop lost no time in ripping the genteel mask off cold-blooded competitiveness, offering a fine display of skill. Ever sportsmanlike, Rocha nevertheless displayed excellent speed and the rapid reflexes hardball requires to avoid looking silly.

After a close first game, Prockop came back blazing in the second and displayed her excellent racquet skills, serving up deadly shot after shot deep to the back of the court. However Rocha recovered her stride and jabbed deep into the back corners, matching shot for shot until 13-all in the third. Physical contact abounded, when a call of set-5 emphasized the strategic importance of that third game, which Rocha eventually took at 18-16.

Still full of energy in the fourth, Prockop screamed back to even the match at 2-apiece. However, Rochaís cool riflelike answers to Prockopís deep crosscourts prevailed in the end and she took the match and the title, 3-2.

Men's Final

In the menís final, not a seat nor a square inch of space was to be had in the gallery as play got underway. Tournament director duties did not pierce Quickís cool demeanor as he confidently took on higher-seeded Pearson.

The mysterious blond-haired number one seed, reputed at different times to hail from Washington DC, Philadelphia and California, depending on the time of day, appears to change nationality more often than Bostonian-Bermudian-Australian David Palmer.

Neither were Pearson nor Quick shy about physical contact, at times seeming to mistake the historic T&R hardball singles courts for lucrative hardball doubles courts each frequents in the long hardball off-season.

The pair lost no time in pulling off the gloves and sportsmanlike aggressive physical contact abounded as it had in the womenís game. Extremely close games teetered the score back and forth, but Trinity once more took the day as Quick prevailed, 3-1.

More videos on Sarah's YouTube Channel

Pearson flies the
flag for Hardball

Sarah Cortes reports

A shockingly young hardball crowd witnessed the remarkable, if entertaining, defeat of Shahid Zaman Khan, the popular former world #14 from Quetta, Pakistan, as he succumbed 15-12 in the fifth to Eric Pearson from the Philadelphia Cricket Club in the first semifinal of the Menís Open division at Bostonís T&R Club in Massachusetts, USA

Hardball, an obscure sport somewhat resembling squash, practically disappeared from the planets closest to the sun around 1995. Legend holds that it was in this, the Mesozoic era, that an intrepid American squash parent discovered squashlike life forms beyond the USA, notably, European softball junior championships.

Spectators couldnít decide whether they were more delighted at Shahidís dramatic wins pulling back from the brink of defeat in games three and four, or Pearsonís endearing victory over the world class softball player. Although it was Zaman Khanís first hardball tournament, the crowd at the classy Tennis & Racquet Club of Boston packed every square inch of the gallery to witness the re-enactment of this primeval hardball sport ritual which prevailed until Americans discovered other planet inhabitants with more advanced life, and squash forms, notably, softball.

Shahid demonstrated his mathematical flair, establishing for doubters how it is possible be actually be losing a match for 99% of the minutes, while achieving a nearly tied score. Facing a deep deficit in the third and an unthinkable 3-0 defeat, Zaman Khan took the third by racking up point after point in a matter of minutes. He repeated this nailbiting display in the fourth, again, spending the majority of the match technically ďlosing.Ē

Indeed, it seemed as if he were toying with Pearson and preparing to repeat this drama in the fifth. However, Pearsonís marvelous hardball serves, which arcíed nostalgically dropped practically vertically upon Shahidís head, stopped the comeback of the popular T&R club pro in its tracks.

Pearson bt Zaman 15-10, 15-5, 11-15, 13-15, 15-12. Seeded #1, he faces tournament director and #2 seed Preston Quick tomorrow in the final.

Womenís Open

The Womenís Open Division drew notable feminine talent, beauty, wit, charm, youth and even squash ability, and the competitors were not bad, either.

Argentinian Fernanda Rocha squared off against another former Trinity player, Suzy Schwartz, who manages to keep in top form despite responsibilities as T&Rís club president. Top-ranked softballer Hope Prockop also added interest to the division.

More videos on Sarah's YouTube Channel

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