The SDA Pro Tour welcomes the support of johnnie-O as the official lifestyle partner of the tour for the next two seasons.
“We are very pleased to welcome johnnie-O as a sponsor for the SDA Pro Tour,” said Kevin Luzak, Chair of the Squash Doubles Association Board of Directors. “The johnnie-O brand embodies an active, sports-oriented lifestyle that matches up perfectly with the DNA of the SDA and of squash doubles. We look forward to a great partnership going forward.”
Started by John O’Donnell in 2005, johnnie-O is a branded lifestyle apparel company, founded in Santa Monica, CA, that fuses a Southern California vibe with East Coast style and embodies living your best life. With headquarters based in Los Angeles and offices throughout the Midwest and East Coast of the United States, johnnie-O boasts a national presence and partnerships with Major League Baseball, university athletics programs and now the SDA Pro Tour.
Johnnie-O joins the SDA in its sixth season. Established in 2012 as the successor to the International Squash Doubles Association, the SDA Pro Tour has more than 100 members representing eighteen countries and supports a schedule of more than twenty events across the United States, Canada and Mexico with an aggregate purse of more than $500,000.
“The SDA Pro Tour is a great partnership opportunity for johnnie-O with plenty of synergies between our brands with friends playing on the tour and customers who support tournaments,” said johnnie-O’s founder John O’Donnell. “We’re excited to be officially working together to help grow awareness of the tour and look forward to an outstanding relationship.”
SDA players and patrons can be seen sporting johnnie-O gear this season. Items from johnnie-O’s SDA Pro Tour collection can be viewed and purchased here.
The 2018 Delaware Pro Doubles draw was stirring before it even began. Shortly before the tournament began, John Russell was forced to withdraw from his top seeded partnership with Chris Callis due to injury, with Jonny Smith stepping in to replace his fellow Englishman. Shortly thereafter, Callis sustained an injury and was forced to withdraw, which saw Yvain Badan step in to rekindle his former partnership with Smith as the top seeds at Wilmington Country Club.
Smith & Badan made it seem as though they had been playing together all along with a decisive three-game victory in the first round to set up a semifinal against Canada’s Tyler Hamilton & Robert Nigro. After a narrow five-game loss in Boston, Hamilton & Nigro once again faced match balls in the first round Bobby Burns & Hamed Anvari, but this time fighting them off to win the tournament’s only five-gamer 13-15, 15-10, 12-15, 15-14, 15-12.
The Canadians took an early advantage against the top seeds by winning the first game 15-11, before Smith & Badan regained control to advance to the final in four games.
In the final against two seeds Will Mariani & Greg Park, Smith & Badan controlled a close match to claim the title 15-6, 15-12, 15-13.
“After the first game drew out in the semis, we did a good job not panicking and getting back to and executing our game plan,” Badan said. “The final was a three love score, but it was much closer than the score suggests. There were long rallies, but we had out strategy in place. We found our way to control the match, but we knew we had to be patient.”
The SDA Silver title marks the largest in Smith’s career, and is Badan’s first since the 2016 PDC Cup.
“Unfortunately there are quite a few injuries on the tour at the minute, hence a few partner changes, but in the end I was extremely happy to be playing with Swiss.” Smith said. “Obviously we know each others games very well which enhanced our team chemistry and to win the tournament was great; tournament wins aren’t easy to come by, this was the biggest so far in my career!”
Smith & Badan had previously reached the Delaware final in 2011.
“Jonny and I used to play together a few years back,” Badan said. “He asked me to step in after the injuries so I was excited. We’ve known each other a long time, he was a senior at Trinity when I was a freshman so our friendship goes all the way back to 2002. He’s someone everyone enjoys and respects. It felt pretty comfortable, I was amazed how quickly we got used to each other and remembered how to play together. I’m grateful to win a tournament on this competitive tour, and especially to do it with Jonny given our history together.”
The Delaware Pro Doubles returns to the tour after a brief hiatus. The tournament was first held in 1995. Wilmington also hosts the annual U.S. Junior Doubles Championships.
“It was great to have a SDA event back again at the Wilmington Country Club, where historically the doubles community has always been very strong and knowledgeable,” Smith said.
“It’s a very nice group of people in Wilmington and was great to go back there,” Badan said. “Everyone really enjoys Ed Chilton, who runs the program there where the community appreciates the high level of squash doubles. The players were all glad to see the event back on the calendar.”
Canadian national doubles champions Scott Arnold & Robin Clarke started off the new year by winning their biggest SDA title to date–the platinum MFS Pro-Am Boston at the University Club and Harvard Club of Boston.
Arnold has spent majority of this season playing with John Russell and has risen to world No. 3 with his new partnership. Arnold had been entered with Russell until the Englishman was forced to pull out of the tournament two weeks leading up to it. Clarke, world No. 49, filled in for Russell and entered the draw with Arnold as the four seeds.
The first two rounds saw just one match progress to five games as Bostonians Graham Bassett & John Roberts pipped Canadians Tyler Hamilton & Robert Nigro 15-14 in the fifth game. The top four seeds all progressed to the semifinals, where Arnold & Clarke and top seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan both won in three games.
A marathon final concluded the tournament with two big momentum shifts throughout. Arnold & Clarke edged the first two games 15-11, 15-14, courtesy of a few more errors from Ferreira & Badan. The top seeds came back in the third and fourth, however, cutting down their error counts to win 15-11, 15-11. The fifth progressed with a close scoreline until at 10-all, Clarke fired off a sequence of winners to claim the title 15-10.
“The first two games had a lot of long rallies and it was very competitive, but they made a few more mistakes which allowed us to keep the lead in those games,” Clarke said. “In the third and fourth, personally, I started to fade a bit physically so I started to get a little lethargic with my movement, and they stopped making mistakes. Mike started hitting some ridiculous winners. In the fifth it was pretty much anybody’s game and we were going back and forth. Around 10-all we won five in a row and I hit a few winners to close out the match.”
“It’s always tough to switch the momentum after losing a couple of games,” Arnold added. “But we had a good idea of what we were trying to do out there, it was just a matter of trying to get back to those things and staying positive.”
The MFS Pro-Am Boston marked Arnold & Clarke’s third career SDA title together and first since the 2016 Toronto Cricket Club Open.
“I think it’s one of the if not the strongest doubles communities around,” Clarke said. “The members are amazing. They treat the players unbelievably well. The committee, Lenny and everybody makes sure that when we land, everything is taken care of. So really we’re able to focus solely on competing and playing the best doubles we can. The Pro-Am component of it is great. The members are always fun to play with and you always meet someone new and make new friends. The other cool thing with Boston is walking through the club and seeing the previous champions listed and the pictures of them. It’s one of the most prestigious titles on tour in my opinion.”
The MFS Pro-Am Boston was first held in 1992.
“The first event after the holidays is always a tough one, so it’s definitely nice to come out and get the win, having it be in Boston where we both love to visit and play is a bonus,” Arnold said. “The Squash community down in Boston is obviously a great one. The fact that so many of the members, sponsors, friends, etc., turned out despite the snowstorm and freezing temperatures showed just how much they love their Squash down there. Also that the support and enthusiasm levels are so high for this event year in year out, it really is a fun one to play.”
World No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge maintained their unbeaten record this season on their way to winning the pinnacle event of the SDA calendar, the biennial Briggs Cup at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York.
The Briggs Cup, named after Apawamis pro and doubles stalwart Peter Briggs, has been held every two years since 2003 as the highest prize money event on the SDA Tour. The 2017 prize purse had $60,000 on offer for the full draw of sixteen teams.
The top seeds’ first win of the weekend came under unfortunate circumstances after John Roberts was forced to retire following an ankle injury. Mathur & Mudge then controlled three-game victories in the quarterfinals against James Bamber & Clive Leach and against surprise semifinalists Raj Nanda & Greg Park.
The bottom half of the draw included the biggest upset of the tournament when unseeded Adam Bews & William Hartigan knocked out two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan in a five-game quarterfinal 15-9, 15-10, 12-15, 14-15, 15-6.
It was the three seeds who started on the front foot in the final, speeding to a 6-0 lead and earning four game balls up 14-11. At 14-11, Russell sustained an ankle injury that required treatment, briefly suspending the match. Once wrapped up, the Englishman stepped back on court and slotted home a winner to give the underdogs a 1-0 lead.
A re-calibrated Mathur & Mudge edged out a close second game 15-13 to level the score, before pushing through the third and fourth games to claim the title 15-9, 15-11.
“Right from the start I think Damien and I were a tad uncomfortable,” Mathur said of the final. “We went down 0-6 very quick, but found a way to get some momentum heading into the second. The second game was close, but we won some crucial points at 10-13 down which was the turning point in the match for us. Both of us found our feet a bit more and started moving better and in turn the ball did too.”
The tournament involved an unusual amount of ankle issues, with Roberts, Graham Bassett, Will Mariani and Russell all sustaining injuries of varying severity.
“In the first round it was very unfortunate to see John Roberts go down, it was pretty bad and his ankle swelled up pretty quick,” Mathur said. “In the final I think JR managed to twist it slightly, but his movement through the rest of the match told us otherwise. He is deceivingly quick.”
While both Mathur & Mudge have previously won the Briggs Cup, Monday night marked the first their partnership’s first title. Mathur had previously won in 2011 with Yvain Badan, while Mudge adds to titles with Ben Gould (2015), Viktor Berg (2009), Gary Waite (2005) and Michael Pirnak (2003).
“The Briggs is always a special event for me,” Mathur said. “I learned a chunk of my doubles here working for Pete and have made some of my closest relationships at the club. The members and the staff hold a special place with me and being on that board twice now is a dream come true.”
The Briggs was one of the last titles on tour evading the Mathur & Mudge partnership until this weekend as they continue their second season together.
” I cannot thank City Squash, Briggsy, Peer, Steve Mandel, Tommy Clayton, Artie and Brian Walsh enough for running a first class event,” Mathur said. “We are all getting excited for two years from now to return to Apawamis for the 2019 Briggs Cup. Last but not least to my partner: talking about learning things, I have had the opportunity to learn from one of the game’s best daily. Being on court with Damien is a real treat and I look forward to our next event.”