U.S. Hardball Squash
Boston T&R Club, February 2011
Hardball Squash is alive and well and
living in Boston, along with the envy of the Ivy League –
Trinity grads By Sarah Cortes
Final - Men’s Open  Preston Quick bt  Eric Pearson 15-13, 15-11,
12-15, 15-13 Final - Women’s Open Fernanda Rocha bt Hope Prockop
15-9, 9-15, 18-16, 11-15, 15-7 Final – Men’s 20+ Dan Roberts bt David Funk
15-8, 15-8, 15-14
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 weekend’s 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
Suspicious Ivy Leaguers were also unable to overcome the
ghost of recent T&R visitor and Trinity college squash coach
Paul Assaiante. The legendary Assaiante’s profile in the
Sunday Times lurked in the member’s bar along with his
legacy of soon-to-be hardball champions, irking Harvardians
and Princetonians alike along with an undeniably
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, Rocha’s cool riflelike
answers to Prockop’s deep crosscourts prevailed in the end
and she took the match and the title, 3-2.
the men’s 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 Quick’s 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
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 women’s game. Extremely close games teetered the
score back and forth, but Trinity once more took the day as
Quick prevailed, 3-1.
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
Men’s Open division at Boston’s T&R Club in Massachusetts,
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 couldn’t decide whether they were more delighted
at Shahid’s dramatic wins pulling back from the brink of
defeat in games three and four, or Pearson’s endearing
victory over the world class softball player. Although it
was Zaman Khan’s 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 “losing.”
Indeed, it seemed as if he were toying with Pearson and
preparing to repeat this drama in the fifth. However,
Pearson’s marvelous hardball serves, which arc’ed
nostalgically dropped practically vertically upon Shahid’s
head, stopped the comeback of the popular T&R club pro in
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.
The Women’s 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&R’s club president. Top-ranked softballer Hope Prockop
also added interest to the division.