Russell & Callis Bag First Title in Bean Town

(l-r): John Russell, Chris Callis, James Bamber, Will Mariani

Two seeds John Russell & Chris Callis added their names to the SDA Platinum MFS Pro-Am Boston champions’ list for the first time, overcoming a competitive draw at the University Club of Boston.

Russell, world No. 8, found himself in need of a last-minute partner leading up to the tournament, and Chris Callis fortuitously stepped in boasting his highest career ranking of No. 3 this month.

Russell & Callis slotted into the draw as two seeds with an arduous draw of defending champion Robin Clarke and Commonwealth Games doubles gold medalist Zac Alexander in the quarterfinals. Russell & Callis shot their way past Clarke & Alexander to advance to the semifinals in three games 15-11, 15-9, 15-11.

“We knew it’d be a tough draw all the way through when we saw it was Robin and Zac in the first round,” Callis said. “Luckily JR was shooting outrageously well in the first match, so we were able to get comfortable pretty quickly.”

First-time partners James Stout & Eric Bedell met Russell & Callis in the semis after escaping a grueling quarterfinal against Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris in five games. Russell & Callis ended their run in four games to reach the final. The top half of the draw produced the upset of the tournament in the form of Will Mariani & James Bamber toppling Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan in a four-game semifinal.

In the final, Russell & Callis recovered from dropping a narrow  second game to claim the title in four 15-10, 14-15, 15-5, 15-13.

“I was extremely lucky to have Chris Callis step in as a last minute sub,” Russell said. “He played really well all weekend. It feels great to get back in the winners circle again!”

“We certainly had a few stretches where we weren’t as comfortable as we’d like on court,which is to be expected,” Callis said, “But thankfully we were able to play tough on the big rallies and pull those matches out. Certainly feeling sore today after all those tough matches!”

Russell, the 2017 world doubles champion, celebrates his first title of the season in Boston, while Callis adds the MSF Pro-Am to his season-opening Maryland Club Open title.

For the first time in tournament history, the MSF Pro-Am Boston offered equal prize money with an eight-team WSDA draw held concurrently. Doubles veterans Suzie Pierrepont & Natalie Grainger defeated the likes of Amanda Sobhy & Fernanda Rocha in the semifinals, and Narelle Krizek and Stephanie Hewitt in the final to claim the historic title.

“The university club of Boston and its members are fantastic hosts,” Russell said. “This year the event was extra special as it joined forces with the Harvard Club and WSDA to host a women’s event with equal prize money.”

The MFS Pro-Am Boston was first held in 1992.

“It’s one of the tournaments we all circle on the calendar before the season, so it’s pretty cool to finally get the title,” Callis said. “You see the list of the guys who have won it in the past and it’s a who’s who of all-time great doubles players. To be on the same list with those guys is pretty cool. Major thanks to the club and all the sponsors for taking such great care of us players.”