Fifteen U.S. national singles champions will be crowned on the McArthur Squash Center’s blue and orange glass court this weekend in the facility’s inaugural season at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jointly-hosted with the 2014 U.S. Masters Championships on the facility’s nine international singles courts, the 103rd U.S. Championships offer prize money parity for men and women with a combined prize money purse of $15, 000 and will be streamed live throughout the weekend.
The McArthur Squash Center opened its doors in September with the fanfare of a Grand Opening Festival of Squash featuring five simultaneous tournaments including a Professional Squash Association (PSA), Squash Doubles Association (SDA), Pro-Am Squash Doubles, and US SQUASH-accredited skill level and junior level tournaments, and now showcases the highest level of squash the United States has to offer in the U.S. Championships, and the passionate, adult squash community in the U.S. Masters.
There will be a new women’s U.S. champion in 2014 as former world No. 1 and 2013 champion Natalie Grainger will not defend her title. A finalist in 2013 and fresh from winning her third College Squash Association individual national title last weekend, twenty-year-old Amanda Sobhy (pictured left) is seeded to win her second national title after becoming the youngest player to win a U.S. national title in 2012. Opposing Amanda Sobhy as the two seed and twenty-one years her senior, is world No. 29 Latasha Khan. Seven-time U.S. Champion Khan returns to the U.S. Championships since last competing in 2009.
Khan is seeded to play Amanda Sobhy’s seventeen-year-old sister and three seed, Sabrina, in the semifinals. After recently turning professional and reaching a world ranking of fifty-three, twenty-year-old and four seed Olivia Blatchford is lined up to reach her sixth consecutive semifinal since 2009.
After winning his first U.S. national title in 2013 and breaking into world’s top fifty for the first time in last May, twenty-seven-year-old Chris Gordon enter the men’s draw as the one seed in another first for the New York City-native. Eight-time U.S. champion Julian Illingworth opposes Gordon as the two seed in search of a (pictured right) record-tying ninth national title. Illingworth has become perhaps the most versatile American professional, having recently won the 2014 U.S. Hardball Singles Championships, qualified for a number of SDA main draws this season, while maintaining his status as world No. 49 on the PSA world tour–just one place below Gordon in March’s PSA world rankings.
Teammate of Gordon and Illingworth on the 2013 U.S. Men’s World Team Championships National Team, player-coach of the 2013 U.S. Pan-American National Team, former world No. 48, and current Assistant Squash Coach at the University of Pennsylvania, Gilly Lane weighs in as the three seed. Lane pulled the upset of the 2013 championships against Illingworth in a five-game semifinal, and is seeded for a rematch.
Having reached his highest career world ranking of 113 in March, twenty-three-year-old Princeton University graduate Todd Harrity is seeded to reach the semifinals as the four seed in what would be a rematch of his 2013 semifinal against Gordon, which Gordon won in three games. Harrity could potentially meet fellow recent Ivy League graduate Chris Hanson in the second round. Having recently recovered from injury, Hanson looks for a strong nationals run to boost momentum for an upcoming string of PSA tournaments.
The Masters draws boast more than 150 players in thirteen age-divisions ranging from 35+ to 75/80+. 2013 U.S. Squash Hall of Fame inductee Jay Nelson has the potential to break the all-time record by winning his twenty-ninth masters title in the 70+.
Dominic Hughes and Richard Millman will rekindle their rivalry in the men’s 50+. Steve Wren will be looking to return to the top of the podium in the men’s 45+ after having his three-year winning streak broken by Anders Wahlstedt in 2013.
On the women’s side, Susan Lawrence will be tuning up for the World Masters in Hong Kong, and Juliana Lilien will be looking to repeat in the women’s 45+.
Participants will have the opportunity to enjoy Three Notch’d Brewing over the weekend, the official beer sponsor of the U.S. National Singles Championships.
The McArthur Squash Center at the Boar’s Head Sports Club will be hosting the highest level of squash the United States has to offer from this 33, 000-square-foot, $12.4 million 33, 000-square-foot venue. Along with eight other international singles courts and two North American doubles courts, the McArthur Squash Center features at its center a glass-walled international show court with spectator seating and an audio-visual recording system for live web-streaming of tournaments. The squash facility is operated for U.Va. by the Boar’s Head resort, a subsidiary of the University of Virginia Foundation.
“It’s a world-class facility, ” US Squash Vice President of Properties Conor O’Malley said. “It’s very unique to have an all-glass court, as well as two doubles courts plus eight international singles courts. You can really cater to the grassroots of the sport as well as the elite level.
“We definitely see it as a gateway to the South. Having a renowned school such as U.Va. and the Boar’s Head Sports Club team up, hopefully other colleges and clubs will see this and embrace it.”
The addition of the McArthur Squash Center, along with the Boyd Tinsley Courts at the Boar’s Head Sports Club (the indoor home of the University of Virginia tennis team), has made the club a “racquet sports mecca, ” according to Boar’s Head Sports Club manager James Neiderer.
“We’re not in the squash hub yet like Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore, ” Neiderer said, “but the McArthur Squash Center provides an opportunity to develop the sport further south. Even folks who had little interest in squash, when they enter the building, they’re amazed and impressed.”
To learn more about the McArthur Squash Center, go online to see a UVA Today video of the facility.