Former touring professionals Alex Stait, Georgina Stoker, and Gavin Jones have all secured places in 2014 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships Qualifying after winning their Pre-Qualifying finals Tuesday night at Drexel University’s Kline & Specter Squash Center.
Stoker, former world No. 47 (December 2006) and Jones, former world No. 37 (December 2005), will both make their second consecutive U.S. Open qualifying spots through local pre-qualifying.
Last year’s men’s pre-qualifiers Jones and Malvern Prep’s Imran Khan faced off for one of the two men’s qualifying positions.
Jones claimed his spot in qualifying with a three-game victory 11-6, 11-4, 11-8.
“That’s actually the first time I’ve beat Imran since I’ve been in Philadelphia so Imran, we’re one all so let’s leave it like that, I don’t want to play again!” Jones said afterwards.
“He plays a fast pace and has some good shots. Obviously neither of us are at our physical peaks anymore so it came down to who had the most winners.”
Jones, the Director of Squash at Franklin & Marshall College, was once again supported by a cast of traveling Diplomats.
“The main goal for the team this year is to continue our philosophy, which is being one big squash family, as well as improving our academics. I actually laugh everyday because this job is my dream. I don’t actually work, this is just a passion.”
Jones, thirty-four, revealed that 2014 is the Welshman’s last run in U.S. Open qualifying.
“Basically, Ramy [Ashour] pulled out for a second year in a row because he knew I was going to possibly be in it again. He’s still never beat me. Physically I can’t match up with these guys anymore, but hopefully I’ve got a better head than them. I’m looking forward to it, it’s always a great experience. I think this is going to be my last one actually, so I think I’m done after this.”
In a rematch of the 2013 women’s pre-qualifying final, Stoker once again defeated U.S. Junior National Team player and Princeton Univeristy Freshman Olivia Fiechter, who had a supporting cast of Germantown Friends students in attendance.
As in 2013, Stoker needed four games to beat Fiechter 11-5, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7.
“Really happy, thought I played pretty well,” Stoker said. “It was a really tough match; it always is against Olivia. Last time I played her it was just as tough. I’m super happy I got through and I’m excited to play in the Open.”
Former world No. 53 (January 2005) Alex Stait will make his second U.S. Open qualifying appearance in three years after dispatching Brown University alum and world No. 300 Bradbury Thompson 11-8, 11-2, 11-6.
“It’s tough because he probably hasn’t played too many people like me who are old, retired and can’t run.” Stait said after the match.
“So I had to mix him about a bit and avoid getting into longer rallies, which obviously he’s going to win. It’s a fine line, if I lose a game there it becomes a real battle. I played well, and enjoyed it, it was good fun.”
After retiring and moving to Philadelphia from his native England, Stait became Director of Squash at Agnes Irwin School. In 2012, the thirty-four-year-old also qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open where he lost to Ryan Cuskelly in qualifying.
“I had to retire because I had four knee operations when I was twenty-five, and I didn’t play for a long time. I started to play with some of the kids over here and started to feel a bit better. Then I played two years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it took me two years to recover.”
Stait, a father of two, had a supporters section full of family and Agnes Irwin students.
“I’m just looking forward to playing again. My little one here is seven, and has never seen me play. So that’s my motivation really.”
The first round of Men’s U.S. Open qualifying begins October 9, with Men’s and Women’s qualifying finals taking place October 10.
Tickets for all days of main draw action are still available on usopensquash.com.