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2001 Rankings

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ISDA DEC 1 2001
RANKINGS

WAITE AND MUDGE EASILY TOP LIST

By Rob Dinerman, DEC 3 2001

The International Squash
Doubles Association(ISDA)recently published its updated rankings for the
2001-2002 season. Unlike most professional squash associations, which
base their rankings on a floating 52-week configuration, this set of rankings
was determined entirely upon performance during the three events—the
Hamilton Cup in Denver,CO in late September, the Tom Page Invitational
in Philadelphia,PA in late October and the North American Open in Greenwich,CT
in mid-November—that have occurred this autumn.

Gary Waite
and Damian Mudge – No surprise at #1 , ISDA photos © 2001)

The operative goal behind this decision
was to have seedings and main-draw and qualifying-draw decisions depend
on current form, rather than have an event that took place last March
have as much influence as one that happened during the present campaign;
this seemed especially important in view of the manner in which the schedule
really picks up in January 2002(when ranking events are scheduled for
all four weekends)and in the succeeding months extending well into the
spring.

Gary Waite – Doubles Standout

(ISDA Photo by B Collier)

This adjustment also allowed the several
“surprise” teams that had upset-filled break-out performances so far this
season to have those results reflected in the rankings in more significant
fashion than would otherwise have been the case. Most noteworthy among
the beneficiaries were Clive Leach and Blair Horler, ranked
No. 21 and 17 respectively in the final 2000-2001 standings, whose four-match
advance through the qualifier and to the final at the Philadelphia Racquet
Club catapulted them to the co-No. 5 position, behind only co-No. 1’s
Gary Waite and Damien Mudge(champions in all three tournaments
and winners now 16 times in only 17 career attempts)and co-No. 3’s Willie
Hosey and Viktor Berg, the losing finalists in Denver and Greenwich. Leach
and Horler actually defeated the latter duo in the semis in Philly, but
Hosey/Berg avenged this setback in five gruelling quarter-final games
on the hot-court environment of the Greenwich Country Club with a decisive
7-1 match-concluding run from 8-10 in the last game.

Clive Leach
and Blair Horler – #3 team
(ISDA photod © 2001)

The other major conversation-piece
this fall was co-authored by the new alliance formed by ISDA veteran David
Kay, who with last season’s partner Josh MacDonald placed just out of
the top ten, and longtime PSA softball performer Chris Walker, who had
his own career highlight in this discipline last spring, when at age 34
he advanced through the qualifying draw and all the way to a 2-0 final-round
lead in the prestigious British Open before faltering under the relentless
comeback pressure of eventual champion David Palmer.

Willie Hosey
and Viktor Berg – #2 team
ISDA photos © 2001)

Walker had entered two ISDA events
last spring, pretty much as a lark, losing in the qualifier both times
and placing 55th out of only 56 ISDA rankees. Notwithstanding the paucity
of Walker’s doubles experience and the risk implicit in Kay’s forsaking
a partnership that had brought him to a half-dozen ISDA semis last season,
this pair burst out of the blocks at the Denver Club, storming through
their qualifier bracket, winning 3-1 over Aussies Brett Martin and Scott
Butcher and then upsetting another new pairing, Jamie Bentley and Michael
Pirnak, 18-17 in the fifth, when Pirnak hit a rail back at himself, resulting
in a match-deciding let-point call. When the same simultaneous-match-point
scenario that had so rewarded them in this case returned to undo Walker/Kay
one event later in Philadelphia—at which crossroads juncture Horler
crushed a backhand crosscourt winner at Kay in the last round of an implicitly
brutal qualifying bracket—it both showed the degree to which caprice
often plays a role in competition at this elite level and springboarded
Horler and Leach to a 15-12 in the fifth quarter-final win over Bentley/Pirnak(who
therefore suffered their two successive first-round losses by a combined
total of just four points!)and the subsequent straight-game(two overtimes)semi
over Hosey and Berg.

The latter pairing, composed exclusively
of top-five ISDA rankees last season, rebounded at the North American
Open, where they followed their aforementioned revenge for the Horler/Leach
defeat with their second successful semi over Todd Binns and Jeff Mulligan,
who reached this stage both here and in Denver with a pair in each site
of main-draw wins, the first of which entailed saving a trio of match-points
from 12-14 in the fifth, with Mulligan’s forehand crosscourt winner at
14-all especially delighting his boisterous home-club supporters in Colorado.

Chris Walker
and Dave Kay,
ISDA photo( r) ST photo (l) © 2001)

After subduing Binns and Mulligan(co-ranked
No. 9)in Greenwich, Hosey and Berg forced Waite and Mudge for the only
time this season to a fifth game in the ensuing final, whereupon this
dominant duo, facing the very real possibility of their first loss in
nearly a year, responded like the champions they are by racing out to
a 5-0 lead and seizing this coveted crown for the second consecutive time,
actually the fifth straight for Waite, who had won in 1997-99 with Mark
Talbott, whom Waite also
conquered
in the final of the North American Open SINGLES event in 1993, when he
thereby clinched the first of his two WPSA No. 1 rankings.

Although the star-laden but heretofore
star-crossed Pirnak/Bentley(Nos. 10 and co-2 last season) contingent has
suffered in the rankings both from not being able to carry over last winter
and spring’s points and from their two agonizingly close early-season
defeats, they played extremely well in Connecticut, where they really
challenged Waite and Mudge in a three-overtime four-game semi, and breezed
to victory in the non-ranking Ben Saunders tourney in early October in
Toronto; they have far too much firepower to remain out of the top ten
for long. Anders Wahlstedt(No. 6 last season) and Scott Stoneburgh, who
issued Waite/Mudge their only career defeat in the first round at the
U.S. Pro in Wilmington, DE last January and then proceeded to win the
entire tournament, have only played in one event so far this campaign,
reaching the semis in Philadelphia before bowing in three to the revenge-seeking
top seeds in their first confrontation since that stunning nine-month-old
upset.

They will have to really come on in
the months ahead to regain their previous standing, as will the Canadian
combination of Scott Dulmage and Dean Brown, who have yet to win a match
this season, though Brown did combine with PSA superstar Jonathon Power
to reach the final of the non-ranking but highly-regarded Cambridge Club
Doubles, played during Thanksgiving weekend and won by Waite and England’s
Mark Chaloner. There are now as many as a half-dozen teams ready to contend
for the status of top challenger to the nearly invincible Waite and Mudge,
and the emergence of several new and fully deserving faces in the tour’s
top echelon are duly reflected in the ranking list below.

ISDA TOP 20 Rankings        
[complete list]

(rankings are computed for individual players, based on results for team
pairings in each ISDA events. Rankings current as of 11-25-01

Position (individual) Player Nationality
1 Gary
Waite
Canada
1 Damien Mudge Australia
3 Viktor Berg Canada
3 Willie Hosey Ireland
5 Blair Horler New Zealand
5 Clive Leach UK
7 David Kay Canada
7 Chris Walker UK
9 Todd Binns Australia
9 Jeff Mulligan USA
11 Jamie Bentley
Canada
11 Mike Pirnak Canada
13 Anders Wahlstedt Sweden
14 Scott Butcher
Australia
14 Brett Martin Australia
16 James Hewitt Canada
16 Doug Lifford USA
18 Dean Brown Canada
18 Scott Dulmage
Canada
20 Josh MacDonald Canada

Other notable players:

21. Scott Stoneburgh
24. Preston Quick
33. Neil Vohr
34. Damian Walker

* * * * * * * *

To reach Rob Dinerman
write to
robd@squashtalk.com

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