The Steel City is set for a full slate of professional squash this weekend in the form of the $25,000 U.S. Pro Series (USPS) Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open at the Rivers Club, and the $15,000 Squash Doubles Association (SDA) Pittsburgh Challenger at the Pittsburgh Golf Club.
The tournaments have contrasting histories with the 2015 Pittsburgh Open marking the tournament’s fifteenth year with roots tracing back to hardball and softball professional exhibitions in the 1980’s, and the Grand Prix tour in the U.S. organized by Tom and Hazel Jones in the 1990’s, whereas the SDA Pittsburgh Challenger is in just its second iteration under the SDA aegis.
The Pittsburgh Open is enjoying its third year offering the largest prize money in the tournament’s history with $25,000. Longtime Rivers Club Squash Professional Duilio Costa arrived in Pittsburgh in the 1980’s, and has witnessed the squash community transition from having only North American hardball courts to a vibrant international court community, although one that remains mostly private.
“When the pros are here, it generates so much interest to play—not only in this club, but around the entire city,” Costa said. “The pros are inspirational to our players. It’s such an enhancement to a private club to bring twenty-four super-human guys who play professional squash to play in front of many players who are trying to learn and develop their games. A lot of these members play to reduce stress from jobs, or basic exercise, and when they see the pros play, the members feel younger, re-energized, and ready to jump on court themselves.”
Costa hopes to see the Pittsburgh Open evolve into a glass court tournament staged in a public setting in downtown Pittsburgh.
“These pros deserve a glass court in Pittsburgh one day, and we hope to be able to provide that and get squash out to the masses and increase awareness of the sport in this city. My motto is ‘build the courts, and they will play.'”
The first round of qualifying included a number of local players, including Rivers Club professional and tournament director Steven Baicker-McKee, who pushed Malaysian world No. 62 Muhd Asyraf Azan to five games, at which point the true PSA professional prevailed. Recent Harvard graduate Ali Farag is amongst the four qualifiers, and had the unlucky draw of the top seed and defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the first round.
2012 champion and 2014 finalist Alister Walker weighs in as the number two seed as he aims to reclaim the title. American world No. 57 Chris Gordon is set for main draw action Thursday night as he faces fifth-seeded world No. 43 Karim Ali Fathi.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Golf Club will be hosting an SDA Challenger event with a full draw of eight teams set to kick off Friday evening. Playing in just their third tournament together, and already with one $25,000 title under their belts, Viktor Berg & Hamed Anvari are seeded to win the Challenger. Trinity graduates Carl Baglio & Andres Vargas are seeded to meet Berg & Anvari in the final. Follow all of the SDA scores live throughout the weekend on sdaprotour.com/live.