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2002 USHA National Open Doubles
Coney Island Aug 1-4 2002
By Ben Brettner

Tony Roberts making a shot during the Open Doubles finals.
Click for bigger picture

Photo by Holly Koffler-Wooley
Tony Roberts making a shot during the Open Doubles finals.
Picture the wild scene that takes place on the field and in the locker room after a team has won a championship. Players pile on top of each other in one mass group hug. In the locker room cameras and microphones are recording the celebrating. Champagne is flowing everywhere.

Well, after Pee-Wee won the singles title the celebrating was more reserved. Handshakes, back slaps, with water and gatorade flowing. The reason for the more sedate scene was that Pee-Wee's job was only half done. He had to refocus his energy and mind for the task at hand. That was to become the first player to slam since 1995.

I've written about two players engaged in singles and compared them to fighters in a ring. Now I'd like you to use your imaginatiobn and picture all the doubles teams as horses in a race and follow the race with me from start to finish. As I handicapped the field I made Castro and Roberts the fifth best team, a definite longshot.

They opened up with a strong showing against Albert Apuzzi and Ervin Irizarry before falling back into the pack when they dropped the first game 21-19 against the reigning champs Dave Rojas and Rookie Wright. They regained momentum with a 21-5 second game win. In the tie-breaker Pee-Wee was almost knocked out of the race when he started developing leg cramps. Jesse Cevallos suggested that he drink pickle juice to replenish the salt his body had lost. I promptly sped off to purchase a bottle of pickles at the nearest supermarket. After Pee-Wee finished drinking the juice I used the pickles on the turkey sandwich I had just bought. They were back in the race and won the tie-breaker 11-5.

One the other side of the draw Joe Kaplan and Cesar Sala received a default, in their semifinal match against Kendell Lewis and Robert Sostre, when Sostre failed to make it back in time from a paddleball tournament at Orchard Beach.

Castro and Roberts opened up a one length lead with a 21-16 first game win. Kaplan and Sala pulled even going down the stretch with a 21-18 second game win. With the finish line in sight Joe and Cesar opened up the tie-breaker with a 7-1lead. Pee-Wee and Tony pulled even at 7 all. Now they were neck in neck in the sprint to the finish line. The lead seesawed back and forth with Castro and Roberts winning by a nose 11-9.

If Pee-Wee was the MVP of the tournament than Tony was the runner-up. A look at Robert's record shows 3 National Doubles titles, 2 World Doubles titles and a European Doubles Championships.

What are the ingredients that make a successful doubles team? In handball as well as tennis players are always looking for the right combination of playing style and personality that will mesh into a championship team. One ingredient in the formula would be to have Tony Roberts as your partner. He has won his many titles with 3 different partners. He has a great game face; serious, asll business, and completely supportive of his partner. He possesses perhaps the best hands in handball. Whatever shot is called for he can produce - fly kills with either hand, sidearm, underhand, power, and finesse.

He's always accompanied by his girlfriend Melody, his number one fan. Melody is also a player moving up in the rankings among the women players, can always be heard encouraging Tony with the phrase "Come on honey!!". What's in store for Pee-Wee and Tony next year? Winning the first is hard, repeating is even harder. injuries, complacency and other factors can make this year's champion next year's also-ran. But one thing Castro and Roberts will never be lacking in is heart.

In an era where millionaire athletes are often critized for lack of hustle it's a pleasure to watch all the players performing for the sheer love of the sport.

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