John Russell & Scott Arnold both hit career milestones by lifting the biennial $50,000 Kellner Cup for the first time in their careers–their largest career titles on the SDA Pro Tour–Monday night, April 29, at the Racquet & Tennis Club of New York.
The result also marks Russell’s third consecutive title following up the recent Graham Company Cup and Tavern Club Open–another career first. The string of results sends the Englishman up to career high world ranking of No. 2 in May’s Tour rankings.
The SDA Diamond draw attracted a full field of sixteen partnerships, four of which progressed through qualifying draws. The quarterfinals produced one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when recently-crowned U.S. National Doubles champions Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris took out top seeds James Stout & Greg McArthur 15-12, 12-15, 15-11, 15-13.
Russell & Arnold entered the draw as the four seeds in what was their first appearance together this season. After dropping a game against qualifiers Alex Stait & Ed Garno in the first round, Russell & Arnold righted the ship to win their quarterfinal against Will Mariani & James Bamber and semifinal against Ferreira & Morris in three games to reach the final.
The bottom half of the draw largely played out according to seeding. Three seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan pulled off a five-game escape after going 2-0 down against Jonny Smith & Jacques Swanepoel to reach the semifinals. Two seeds Robin Clarke & Chris Callis, world No. 1, progressed through the draw efficiently without dropping a game on their way to the final, including a 15-8, 15-12, 15-10 semifinal victory over Samper & Badan.
The final proved to be a close contest with Clarke & Callis taking the opening game 15-14. Russell & Arnold rebounded to take the second 15-10 before narrowly taking the third 15-14 and fourth 15-13 to claim the title.
While the Kellner Cup marked Russell & Arnold’s first tournament together this season, the duo picked up where they left off last season.
“This was our first event together for eleven months, but it felt as if we practice together everyday,” Russell said. “Our playing styles really compliment each other, we’ve now played seven events together, winning three and losing in four finals. “I recently turned forty and know that I probably only have a couple of years left at being able to compete at this level. I’ve definitely felt more focused than ever on the court.”
Russell, a two-time World Doubles champion for England, celebrates his fourth title of the season–all coming with different partners–and eleventh overall title, while Arnold collects his seventh career title.
Arnold returns to the rankings’ top ten for the first time since December 2018 following the result, while Russell bests his previous career high ranking of No. 3 with the No. 2 position. Russell & Arnold will close out the season together as the three seeds in the Buffalo Club Pro Doubles draw, May 9-12.
The tournament’s namesake, George Kellner, presented the trophy to Russell & Arnold in front of a packed R&T gallery.
“Winning the Monday night final on a packed R&T court for the Kellner Cup would be the highlight of anyone’s career,” Russell said. “Jonny Smith, Damien Mudge and Manek Mathur all combined to make the event run extremely well with lots of extra perks for the players.”
2019 was the thirteenth iteration of the Kellner Cup, which was first hosted in 2000. The tournament was co-hosted by three New York City clubs: the University Club, Union Club and Racquet & Tennis Club.