Vic Niederhoffer, who had never touched a squash racket before he came to Harvard three years ago, defeated both the American and Canadian national champions in the Harry Cowles tournament in New York City this weekend.
The amazing junior must now be ranked among the top five squash players in the country and has a good chance to snatch the U.S. crown away from Sam Howe in the championship tourney in February. Niederhoffer upset Howe 3-1 yesterday.
Playing in the first round Saturday, Niederhoffer beat Carter Mitchell, who has been intercollegiate champ three times, by a 3-1 score, as number one-seeded Howe was winning his match 3-0. Niederhoffer met Howe that afternoon, and in the first game had tied him 13-all when Howe called the beat of nine. The battle see-sawed for the next eight points, until Howe eopped the victory 18-17.
But Niederhoffer did not let the loss discourage him. He took the next three games 15-8, 15-9, 15-10 in the biggest win of his life and the turning point in the tourney.
The next day the Harvard star, who was also studying for a statistics exam, faced Canadian champ Smith Chapman, who had beaten him in Canada previously. Niederhoffer got the jump on the fast and skillful Chapman, keeping him up front in the court. The match went to 2-2 in games and 12-12 in points in the final game when Chapman cracked under pressure, hitting several shots into the tin. Niederhoffer took the game, 15-12.
Meanwhile, in another semi-finals contest, number three-seeded Charley Ufford '53, a former Harvard great, lost to Harry Conlon, who had once been U.S. national champion. Conlon "hits harder than any mortal ever has," so Niederhoffer planned his strategy carefully. He kept the ball off the back court and, slowing the game down, won handily, 3-1, taking the tournament, the second biggest in the United States.
Niederhoffer is now favored to beat Sam Howe's brother Ralph, the national intercollegiate champ, when Harvard and Yale clash in February. The Ellis have won the top three matches for the last two years, but this year the Crimson could beat the best Yale team in history 8-1 or 7-3.
The Greatest Ever
After the tourney, at the Harvard Club of New York, Chapman called Niederhoffer potentially the greatest squash player ever to come from Harvard, which has contributed a sizeable number of national champions. And Ufford said that the last five points in Niederhoffer's final match against Conlon were "the best squash I've ever seen."
In the simultaneous Harvard Club invitation tournament, which Niederhoffer won last year, senior Doug Walter upset number one-seeded Vic Seixas, the tennis great, but lost in the second round. Sophomore Terry Robinson lost in the first round