l-r: Chris Callis, Manek Mathur, Greg McArthur, Zac Alexander

The SDA Pro Tour returned with its first event since March 2020—the St. Louis Open—with familiar champions Manek Mathur & Chris Callis claiming the first title of the new season Saturday, October 2, at the Racuet Club of St. Louis.

The season opened up with two competitive five-game first round matches. Jamie Haycocks & Ricardo Lopez Valdivia edged Jordan Brail & Chris Walker 15-12, 8-15, 15-4, 13-15, 15-6, and local pro Mike Puertas & Nathan Dugan held off Rafik Bhaloo & Oscar Lopez Hidalgo 9-15, 15-12, 15-12, 9-15, 15-9.

The quarterfinals brought the top four seeds into action and saw all of four teams safely progress to Saturday, which fielded both the semifinals in the early afternoon and ensuing final Saturday night.

Top seeds Mathur & Callis dispatched Adam Bews & Eric Bedel 15-7, 15-12, 15-8 to reach the final, while two seeds Zac Alexander & Greg McArthur overcame a tough challenge from Canadians Joshua Hollings & Matthew Henderson 15-13, 15-10, 15-13.

In Saturday night’s final, it was defending champion McArthur and Alexander who earned an early advantage, taking the first game 15-13 and then narrowly dropping the second game 15-13. Mathur & Callis then stepped up to clinch the title 15-5, 15-8.

“We knew we were in for a tough match, and those guys came out so accurate and precise in the first game,” Callis said. “We knew that if we could get the pace back up and make it a more dynamic, long game that we would have a great shot. Luckily we were able to fight hard, build momentum, and gain confidence as the match went along. Also have to shout out Manek for stepping up and setting the tone all weekend. He always makes my life a lot easier out on court and he stepped up in a big way after over a year and a half since our last event!

“I think we started a little bit on our heels and sluggish from the long day and previous matches,” Mathur said. “They came out with their game plan and hit their zones well, took us a bit to get going and find our zones again. They’re a good team, we were ready for a long match and no surprises that they won the first, they could have won the 2nd too! My partner Chris was an absolute star as always. We both didn’t know what to expect for our first one back but Chris showed up to the event like he didn’t miss a beat. He gave me so much confidence to be out there to do my thing, that I am so grateful we have each other to work through this season.

Mathur & Callis won all five events that they competed in during the 2019-2020 season and pick up where they left off with their partnership’s first title in St. Louis, and Mathur’s second following his 2016 win with Damien Mudge. Mathur and Callis both emphasized the positive atmosphere of the SDA Tour’s return.

“I can speak on behalf of all the guys that we missed the camaraderie we share on the court but we took the off court stuff with each other, events and sponsors for granted,” Mathur said. “The tour is such a special environment where you really get to know people at these sites and it was amazing to see so many familiar faces in STL. Can’t wait to reconnect with all the locations on tour as well.  Big thanks to Mike Puertas and the entire STL RC squash community for putting on the first event of the season. They treat us like members and we really do have such a blast out there!”

“It was truly amazing to be back, we both missed it so much,” Callis said. “Both competing and spending time with such an incredible group of players and friends at the club. We’re obviously close with all the other players, but we’ve also gotten to know many members really well over years of coming to St Louis. Meant the world to us to have them be the first ones back on the calendar. Mike Puertas deserves serious kudos for putting on such an amazing event. These things are hard enough to put together, but then you add a pandemic on top of it and it’s amazing how he didn’t miss a beat. It’s such a great club full of so many amazing members.”

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