Scott Arnold and Steph Hewitt Capture Canadian Mixed Doubles Crown

    By Rob Dinerman of

    By Rob Dinerman of

    Trailing 12-10 in what had clearly become a pivotal third game, top seeds Scott Arnold and Steph Hewitt conjured up a five-point run that keyed their eventual 15-13, 11-15, 15-12, 15-8 victory Saturday evening over 2014 champions Robin Clarke and Nikki Todd in the final round of the 2016 Hennessy & Hinchcliffe Canadian Mixed Doubles Squash Championships before a packed and appreciative gallery at the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club. The outcome represented the fifth win with as many different partners in the past six years for Hewitt, who previously had successfully had teamed up in this event with her husband James Hewitt in 2011, with Scott Dulmage in 2012, with Scott Stoneburgh in 2013 and with Will Mariani a year ago. It also marked the first time that SDA partners Arnold and Clarke, who have won the Canadian National Doubles each of the past three years while ascending into the top tier of the North American pro doubles circuit (including winning an SDA tour stop at the Cricket Club earlier this month), had ever opposed each other in tournament play, and their extraordinary pace and athleticism, combined with an undulating and extremely high-quality battle along the right wall between Todd and Hewitt, made for a fascinating and entertaining hour-long battle of skills and will.

    Each pairing had won its semifinal match in this four-team draw in convincing fashion — with Clarke/Todd out-playing the husband/wife team of Graham Ryding and Marnie Baizley and Arnold/Hewitt prevailing in four over  Seanna Keating and Brian Hong — and the final ultimately swung on the ability of the eventual winners to come up with short but decisive game-ending runs at the end-stage of both the first game (where they went from 12-13 to 15-13, with Hewitt burying a shallow forehand rail at game-ball) and the third, in which Arnold scored on screaming drives to perfect length down the right wall and Todd, who did an admirable job throughout the match of handling Arnold's intimidating heat, volleyed an overhead into the tin on the final point. Buoyed by the fact and fashion with which they had rescued that game, Hewitt and Arnold were able to break open the fourth in mid-game and sprint exuberantly across the finish line.

    By that juncture, Hewitt had found the range on her sharply-angled forehand reverse-corner, four of which she nailed for winners during that game, Arnold’s ferocious attack had his opponents on their heels (opening the front-court), and the cumulative effect of the pressure they constantly exerted took a toll in the form of tins and (on match-ball) a stroke call when an off-balance Todd hit a ball back at herself with Hewitt poised right behind her. Both Arnold and Hewitt had committed several tins late in the second game (during which Todd had scored on a variety of front-court winners and Clarke had played his best squash of the night) but they were immaculate in their 20-8 match-closing run and emerged as richly deserving champions.

    During the trophy presentation, the first annual Jay Gillespie Award, in honor of the Canadian squash doubles icon who succumbed after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer this past winter, was presented to his son Sean, after which a reception was held to bid a fond farewell to Clarke, who after five productive years at the Cricket Club will be moving on in June to assume the head pro position at a new club, Ten-X, which will open at Exhibition Place in down-town Toronto this autumn.