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Locals Scott Kahler/Casey Watt Repeat at West Penn
December 5, 2016
The 2016 Men’s West Penn took place under perfect paddle conditions at clubs around the Pittsburgh area over the weekend. The Open draw had one of its strongest fields in recent memory. Among the 51 teams entered, 9 were ranked inside the top 35 in the national rankings.
The seeds held true to form until the Round of 16, where two unseeded teams were able to notch three-set victories. The Cincinnati partnership of Rob Bakker and Tyler Fraser defeated the seventh seeds from Pittsburgh, Dan Hersh and Tyler Noland, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 and the Washington, D. C. duo of Scott Freund and Alex Hume beat Brian Hagman and Zachary Held of Indianapolis, who were seeded sixth, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.
Quarterfinal action took place Saturday afternoon at the Fox Chapel Racquet Club with the bottom half of the draw finishing quickly. Seeded second, Indianapolis’ Ryan Baxter and Ricky Heath defeated Bakker and Fraser, 6-1, 6-2, while the fifth seeds from Washington, D.C., Tommy Croker and Trevor Spracklin beat Pittsburgh’s Ajay Khurana and Mike Wagner, who were seeded fourth, 6-2, 6-1. The top half of the draw saw much longer matches. The top seeds and defending champions from Pittsburgh Scott Kahler and Casey Watt needed 2 1/2 hours to get by Freund and Hume in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. The final semifinal spot went to the third seeds from Philadelphia, and two-time West Penn Open champs (2013 and 2014), Scott Falatek and Vlatko Najdek, 7-5, 3-6, 6-0 over the eighth seeds from Columbus, Mark Barry and Brian Heil.
Semifinal matches were played under the lights Saturday night and featured contrasting styles of play. Baxter/Heath vs. Croker/Spracklin proved to be a match of fast-paced, action-packed shot making, blitzing, and all-around aggressive play. Baxter/Heath wound up with the better end of most of the exchanges, winning 6-2, 6-3. Kahler/Watt vs. Falatek/Najdek was played at a much slower, more methodical pace that finished with Kahler/Watt winning 6-4, 6-3.
The top two seeds were set up for a rematch from last year’s final. A large crowd gathered Sunday morning to watch a compelling match. After Kahler/Watt took the first set, 6-3, Baxter/Heath fought back to take the second set, 7-5. The score stayed even until 3-3 in the third set. Casey Watt battled back from 0-40 to get a hold, and from there the locals were able to win the final two games for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory, winning the Sturgess Cup trophy for the second year in a row.
The 95+ draw saw 19 teams participate and the seeds held to form into the semifinals, with all Pittsburgh teams playing for the win. Top seeds and defending champions Taylor Abbett and Mike Katz defeated Paul Kriebel and Kurt Meyer, and the second seeded team of Ray Tarasi and Jeff Troutman beat Mike Mezerski and Tom Sparta. In the finals, the defending champions, Abbett and Katz prevailed.
The tournament had a great group of volunteers helping with the event, the staff at the Fox Chapel Racquet Club did a spectacular job with all of the logistics, and of course we need to thank Sean Casey and the Church Brew Works for donating the kegs that were enjoyed by all Saturday afternoon and evening. Thanks to everyone who played or helped out in any capacity, and we look forward to a bigger and better 2017 West Penn next year!