No Harvard player has ever won the Massachusetts s q u a s h championship while in the College--until last weekend, that is, when Vic Niederhoffer snatched the state title away from three of the country's top contenders. And no Harvard player has over won the nationals while in the College--but just watch Niederhoffer in Detroit Feb. 22-24.
The crucial match for the junior came not in Saturday's finals but in Friday's semi-finals, where he faced Ben Heckscher '57. Niederhoffer had upset the former Harvard star 3-1 in the Middlesex bowl tournament Dec. 20, and Heckscher went into training for a month to revenge his loss.
Gambles on Strategy
Heckscher took a quick 2-0 lead in games. Niederhoffer, who had never lost the first two games in a competition before, was unsuccessively trading depth shots with Heckscher, when he decided to change his strategy. He hit more short shots, gambling that Hockscher would be sloppy at the front wall.
Niederhoffer won his gamble, as the over-confident Heckscher let up slightly. Down 5-1 at the time, Niederhoffer came up with his best comeback to take the third game. The Harvard junior won the next two games and the mach 15-10, 15-10; in the end, the Harvard alumnus bowed his head to him, indicting that the victory was no fluke.
Heckscher, who played at his best, ranks as one of the two top U.S. contenders. The other is Henri Salaun, who lost in the semi-finals to Jim Zug (Princeton '62), who lost to Niederhoffer 15-10, 15-11, 15-14.
Zug had previously beaten Salaun, the national singles champion; Azam Khan, defending U.S. open champion; and Niederhoffer on two occasions, by convincing scores. This time Niederhoffer crushed Zug, giving the capacity crowd at Homenway a demonstration of perhaps the finest squash seen at Harvard. In an all-court match, Niederhoffer made several beautiful saves at crucial moments.
The victory proved above all that Niederhoffer's earlier win over Heckscher and his defeat of the U.S. and Canadian title holders at the Harry Cowles tournament are not to be taken lightly. Niederhoffer will enter the singles at the nationals; the next five men on the squash squad may well capture the team title for the first time in many years.