USSRA Hardball Nationals 2002
The venerable Harvard Club in New York City was the scene of the US Hardball National Singles Championships in late February. Seventy-six of the top hardball players in the US participated in the Open and eight age brackets from 35 to 80.
Gary Waite dominated the Open, losing only one game to Rob Dinerman on the way to the final. Marty Clark was his surprise opponent, having beaten two former national champions on the way to the final. In the quarters he defeated Tom Harrity and in the semis Rob Hill. However, even the lightning reactions and hard shots of Clark were unable to deter the explosive power, deft drops, and deadly accuracy of Waite. Waite prevailed in three games.
Even the iron man Harrity participated in both the Open and the 35+. In the latter he decisively defeated Greg Burton 3-0.
The 50+ saw an early upset as Jim Gibbons of California ousted last year's champion, Bill Giese. Palmer Page, another accomplished player from the Page family, dominated in the final to defeat Gibbons.
The 55+ saw two familiar faces in the final, John Frazier (Merion Cricket Club) and Sandy Martin, a champion doubles player who decided to once again get back into the singles scene. Martin displayed amazing racquet skills to jump out to a two-game lead and it looked like the match was over. However, Frazier adjusted taking the next three games and the match.
In the 60+ it was Young vs. Young. Lucky, that is, against Warren. Lucky's quickness and racquet skill in cutting off the ball early proved decisive and gave him a three-game victory.
The 65+ was a very hard fought contest between Dan Dudas and John Wheeler. Both players covered a lot of court and hit the ball with authority. In the end it was the fewer mistakes of Dudas which gave him the 3-2 edge in this close contest.
The 70+ was a match between Bill Wilson, a former national champion, and Henri Salaun, probably the most dominant player in the game over the past 50 years. The first game was a one-point squeaker for Wilson but he turned up the heat in the final two and prevailed in three straight games.
The 75+ saw Charlie Butt, reigning national Champion in this age bracket, take on Charlie Baker. Though Baker was in each game until the final point, Butt won convincingly in three games.
Hastings Griffin, who has won the nationals in several different age categories, did it again. He won the 80+ by defeating Hal Boddorff.
Throughout the weekend spectators were thrilled by the excitement and drama of the hardball game. Here's to next year!