Nearly one year after rupturing his Achilles while playing with Chris Callis, former world No. 1 Manek Mathur made a victorious return to the SDA Pro Tour with Callis by capturing the season-opening Maryland Club Open title, Monday, September 30, in Baltimore.
The $50,000 diamond draw was reflective of the parity that formed over the course of last season in the vacuum of Mathur, who had gone undefeated with the now retired Damien Mudge two seasons ago. James Stout & Greg McArthur, who won three titles last season, led the draw as top seeds, opposed by world No. 1 John Russell & Scott Arnold as the two seeds. Callis, then ranked No. 2, and Mathur, No. 12, entered the top half of the draw as the four seeds.
Mathur & Callis dropped their opening games in both their first and second round matches before getting up to speed and winning both matches in four games. The quartefinals played out according to seeding despite a close slate of matches that were all decided in either four or five games.
Both of Sunday’s semifinals took an unfortunate turn in the second game of each match. First, McArthur picked up a wrist injury forcing a retirement that sent Mathur & Callis into the final. Then Bernardo Samper sustained a hamstring injury in the second semifinal, causing another retirement and sending Russell & Arnold through to the final.
In the final, Mathur & Callis held off a comeback from Russell & Arnold to claim the first title of the season 15-10, 15-9, 12-15, 15-11.
Both Mathur & Callis were pleased with improved form as the tournament progressed–particularly Mathur having spent so long off court–and were happy to be back on court together.
“We were a bit rusty to start, not to take anything away from our initial round opponents who played lights out, but it was fun to watch our progress through the weekend,” Mathur said. “The injury layoff was something I personally expected to be harder on the legs, but seeing the ball at that speed and pace, was the biggest thing to readjust to. Being on court with Chris has always been a treat. We go back so many years competing against each other, that battling on the same team is a ton of fun. We have a good off court relationship which transfers pretty seamlessly to the on court game.”
“I think we were both so excited to get back out there that it translated to us being a little too amped on court,” Callis said. “Each round we got a little more comfortable out there and by the finals it felt like the game had slowed down massively versus the first match. We knew from last year that we had good quality doubles in us and we were really happy to find it in our first event back together.”
The result sends Callis back atop the world rankings in October, marking the second time the Princeton graduate has reached the tour’s top ranking in the past year. Callis was more focused on the successful return of Mathur, however.
“The amount of work Manek put in to get to this point in just eleven months is just incredible–nobody deserved this win more than he did, so I’m glad we could get it done,” Callis said. “Having him back in these draws is great for the sport of doubles and really raises the bar for all of us in the tournament.”
On Friday night, the Maryland Club Open was recognized for being named the 2018 SDA Tournament of the year as voted by the players. The board tenures for outgoing members and SDA players Mike Ferreira and Peter Kelly were also celebrated.
The Maryland Club Open, now four times voted SDA Tournament of the year, heralded in the new SDA Pro Tour season in front of one of the country’s most passionate hotbeds of squash doubles.
“The Maryland Club is such a doubles enthusiastic club that the energy around the event is electric,” Mathur said. “It lifts all of us up and gets us excited for the season. Andrew Cordova goes out of his way to make the event a success and the membership treats the entire tour like family and opens all their doors to us. With the only club in America to have three doubles courts, it definitely fits the mould for the first event of the season!”
“The enthusiasm around doubles at the Maryland Club is truly second to none,” Callis said. “The members really love the sport and put so much energy into the game–it’s always a blast to play in front of a packed crowd that really knows their doubles.”
The tour resumes later this month with the Big Apple Open, October 25-28.