In a taut 90-minute match three of whose four games were tied at 13-all, second seeds James Stout and Greg McArthur edged out top seeds John Russell and John White 15-14 13-15 15-9 15-13 Sunday afternoon in the final round of the 11th annual $10,000 Graham Cup, hosted as always by the Germantown Cricket Club in suburban Philadelphia. This was the first Challenger tournament of the season, and players had to be ranked out of the top 12 at the entry deadline to be eligible, a change from past years when the cut-off had been at No. 8.
Both finalist tandems have flourished in this, their first full season as partners, with Stout and McArthur advancing to the semis in St. Louis and Brooklyn and Russell and White doing the same in the U. S. Open in Wilmington and at the Tompkins Invitational at the Racquet Club Of Philadelphia. But, whereas Stout and McArthur raced into the final with a pair of straight-game wins over first Rob Whitehouse and Brett Erasmus and then qualifiers Alex Stait and Randy Lim (quarterfinal 3-0 winners over Carl Baglio and Tom Harrity), the Russell/White duo barely survived what turned out to be a formidable opening-round challenge from Matt Domenick (whose father, Jim, as served for years as Tournament Chair) and Andrew McGuinness, who, after dropping the first two single-digit games, rallied to win the next two and push the fifth to a nervous-making 8-all before succumbing to a swift trio of tins that gave the top seeds just enough breathing room to close that game out 15-10.
They then faced the young Canadian pair of Will Mariani and Jeff Lurie, who had straight-gamed last year’s runners-up (and Gold Racquets champs this past December) Trevor McGuinness and Todd Ruth in their opening match, and who then shot the lights out in trouncing Russell/White 15-3 in the second game to even the top-half semifinal at a game apiece. But White and Russell fully asserted themselves in the 15-9, 15-8 games that followed to advance to their final-round match-up against McArthur and Stout, who won the first game when at 14-all, McArthur, who had scored repeatedly with forehand volleys into the front-left nick, shaped as if to hit that shot but instead rifled a cross-court that wrong-footed and passed Russell, who had been heading to the front wall. The second game similarly came down to the end, landing in the Russell/White column when Stout was caught cross-handed on a harshly-caroming drive and whiffed the ball at 13-14. He and McArthur jumped out early to seal the third game but the fourth was point-for-point throughout, until at 14-13, championship-point, McArthur’s narrowly-angled forehand roll-corner barely eluded White’s full-out retrieval attempt to clinch the hard-earned outcome.