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Dardis & Shay, Broderick & Palmer Win Final Grand Prix Titles in Philadelphia
February 14, 2016
The Philly Open was the last Grand Prix of the season and the last major event prior to the APTA Nationals. Normally most questions about contenders vs pretenders have been answered by this juncture of the season. Either fortunately or unfortunately this is not the case this season.
On the women's side the absence of the #1 ranked team of Ana Brzova and Viki Stoklasova left a void. To further complicate matters defending National Champion, Liz Cruz and former top #3 player Roxy Enica, were playing only their second tournament of the season, after a long absence due to delivering their first children. At Short Hills the prior week the two had run out of gas early. In Philly they would make to the semis before losing to Cynthia Dardis and Amy Shay in three sets. Despite their relative lack of tournament play, past results show that Liz and Roxy are serious threats next month. Can they get their games together in time for Nationals? Only time will tell.
The other second semi was an absolute classic that showcased the best that women's paddle has to offer. The # 1 seeds, Kerri Delmonico and Lauren Gebbia faced the young guns and #3 seeds, Gabi Niculescu and Martina Ondrejkova. KD and Lauren came out on fire and quickly jumped to a 5-1 lead. but Gabi and Martina kept fighting only to lose the set 7-5. The second set was another tight one with Gabi and Martina coming out on top 6-4. The third set featured some brilliant shot making and great gets. Delmonico-Gebbia fought off three match points at 4-5 to ultimately force a tie breaker. The match went back and forth until an untimely foot fault on Delmonico set up a fourth match point at 5 all in the breaker. That was all Niculescu-Ondrejkova needed and they closed out the brilliant affair 7-5 in the third set breaker.
In the finals Niculescu and Ondrejkova started out slowly again. After losing the first set they raced out to a 5-2 lead in the second set. It was looking like a repeat of the prior day, but apparently Dardis and Shay hadn't read the script as they closed the match with five straight games. Dardis and Shay relied on great team work and patience as they won yet another Grand Prix, increasing their already insurmountable lead as they clinched the Childress Cup. The win, their second in a Grand Prix, should boast their confidence at Nationals as they are seeking their first Women’s National Championship.
The men’s draw was the toughest of the season and the first time since Chicago that both Drew Broderick and Jared Palmer as well as Johan du Randt and Mark Parsons were all in the draw.
Broderick-Palmer faced a tough early test from Mikk Irdoja and Dan Regan. Irdoja-Regan won the second set before falling in three. Look for this team to make a big move next season.
A slew of upsets continued a common theme in the cold conditions. Bancila-Uihlein barely escaped the 32s alive after being down 5-1 in the third to the another pair of up and comers in Graham McNerney and Randy Lofgren. The next round was a cruel turnaround as Alex and Brian failed to convert four match points with Jeronie Barnes serving at 0-40 at 5-6 in the third. Jeronie and Rob Bakker would lose to Broderick-Palmer in straight sets in the quarters.
Juan Arraya and Max Lepivert had a relatively uneventful route to the semis losing only ten games. Du Randt-Parsons survived a huge scare from the Pittsburgh duo of Scott Kahler and Casey Watt 7-5 in the third. The final quarter final match pitted two unseeded teams, but far from unknown. George Wilkinson and Jeff Morneau advanced to the quarters after a long match with Sebastian Bredberg and Martin Bostrom. In the quarters they found future APTA Hall of Famer Chris Gambino and Marek Czerwinski, winner over the #3 seeds, Jon Lubow and Steve Derose. Gambino-Czerwinski got off to a slow start, but fatigue appeared to take its toll on Morneau and the Chicago duo came out on top 6-3 in the third.
Sunday was bright and cold, but lacked the wind that had plagued the competitors on Saturday. Both semis were straight set affairs, with the top two seeds advancing to create a rematch of the 2015 Nationals final.
Spotty play earlier in the year had created numerous questions about du Randt-Parsons, but they looked focused and ready against Broderick- Palmer. After jumping out to an early lead Broderick-Palmer took the first set tie breaker. Johan and Mark responded by winning the next seven games, as the defending National Champs suffered a love set for the second week in a row. The third set featured some brilliant paddle between the country's top two teams. In the end Broderick-Palmer took their second tie breaker and the match 7-3. Many of the questions about du Randt-Parsons had been answered, but not the biggest one. Of course that won't be known until the first weekend in March. For now Broderick-Palmer go in as the favorites, but probably not the prohibitive ones they were a week ago.
Major thanks to Keith Studnick, Steve Beers and Tim McAvoy & Cooey Lyon. Always one of the best run events of the season the Philly Open did not disappoint. Special thanks also goes to Mark Bliss, Tim McAvoy and Jack Burke for braving the single digit temperatures to umpire matches.