Canada runners-up in both doubles finals
By JAMIE HICKOX – Squash Canada Performance Director
With full-house crowds in Toronto cheering on their home heroes and heroines, Canada is today glowing with pride at two silver medals in the Pan-Am Games doubles finals.
First on at 7pm was the Women’s Gold Medal match. With Canadians in both finals there was great expectation for at least one gold and the packed crowd were ready for some excellent doubles squash.
Having played in practice these two players, Samantha Cornett and Nikki Todd had some familiarity with each other but what was brand new to both teams was the all glass doubles court.
So far all doubles matches had been played on the glass-backed courts but for the final the show court wall was moved and the floor was extended setting the scene for a fantastic showdown. Although not seeded, the US pair with world top ten player, Amanda Sobhy, and ex world number one, Natalie Grainger, were the favorites.
A slow start for the Canadians put them 3-0 down in the first before they grabbed two points to get into the match. The US then went 7-3 up with fast paced shot making.
The Canadians clawed back to 7-8 when the US had a string break and then to 8-8 to level. 9-8 to the US, 9-9 then a lucky miss hit from Grainger for 10-9 game ball. A perfectly played middle ball won the US the first game.
Canada, with a better start to the second, went 3-1, 4-2 then 6-2 up with some fast and furious exchanging when the ball was hit out of the court area and lost, resulting in a short break. A new ball had to be warmed up and the Canadian momentum was broken with the US coming back to 5-6.
The Canadians quickly found themselves again and went 9-5 up. 6-9 then a tin which was not seen by the ref but typical to the US sportsmanship they gave the point to Canada for a 10-6 lead and five game balls. The US fought hard to get back to 9-10 but the Canadians finished after fiery rallies to level at one game all.
The third was to and fro trading, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 before the US went 7-5 ahead. The US solidified to 9-6 then a beautiful straight volley drop from Grainger gave the US match ball, which was followed by a delicate cross court drop again from Grainger for the win. Excellent squash from all as the crowd were on the edge of their seats throughout.
Second on at 8.30pm was the Men’s Gold Medal match featuring another Canadian team, the Schnell brothers, who could be mistaken for twins and were seeded 5-8.
The Schnells won a huge quarter-final against the second seeded Mexican team by a single point and then backed it up with a solid semi-final win against the 3-4 seeded US team.
Unseeded, the Colombian team were fresh off an England training stint where they were able to gain access to the exclusive 27-feet wide, 13-inch tin all-glass court in Manchester. The move paid off as they beat the top seeded Argentinians in the quarters and then the Peruvians in the semis to make the final.
The start of play was delayed by non-listed eye guards. Once a change was made the Colombians came out fast and strong taking a 3-0 lead till Canada made the score board. The Colombians were the steadier pair going 6-1 before the Canadians got their second point.
The Canadian pair were going short too soon which gave the Colombians the chance to blast the body shots to go 10-3 game ball. The Canadians won a couple quick points to Colombian errors to get 6-10 but then lost 11-6 to go one love down.
The Colombians rode on their first game high to go 3-0 up with fast pace rallies, then 8-1 up with the Canadian team looking very tentative and nervous. A backwall nick at 9-3 gave the Colombians their first match point, which they converted with an excellent crosscourt nick to win the game 11-3 and the match 2-0 comfortably.
What promised to be potentially two gold medals for Team Canada ended up as a respectable two silvers to make a four-medal count so far in this 2015 Pan American Games.
The joy at this success echoed round the corridors of Squash Canada.
President Lolly Gillen said: “Once again in front of a screaming sold out crowd our Canadian team pounded their hearts out to win for Canada!
“SILVER (wow…what a treasured medal) This is truly a phenomenal achievement by our Canadian team to reach the finals in both events.
“Canada was the only country to win silver in both the men’s and the women’s doubles.
“Our congratulations go out to Colombia and USA but seriously…WOW!!!…Sam, Nikki, Andrew and Graeme…..we are so incredibly proud of your accomplishments tonight. Thank you!”
Pan Am Games, 2015. Direct Energy Place, Toronto. Men’s and Women’s Doubles Finals. Tuesday 14th July 2015 :
Men’s Doubles Final:
Graeme Schnell/Andrew Schnell (5-8), Canada vs Andres Herrera Gonzalez/Juan Varga, (5-8) Colombia.
Result: Colombia wins 11-6, 11-3 in 29 minutes.
Women’s Doubles Final:
Sam Cornett/Nikole Todd (3-4), Canada vs Amanda Sobhy/Natalie Grainger (5-8), USA
Result: USA wins 11-9. 9-11, 11-9 in 45 minutes
Pictures by PAIGE STEWART and social media