First-time partners Scott Arnold & James Stout enjoyed immediate success in their first event together, pulling off two dramatic semifinal and final comebacks to win the David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Sunday, March 6, at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.
Following a brief COVID-induced hiatus, the SDA Pro Tour resumed with one of its most prestigious and historic events—the first SDA event held since November’s Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open.
For the first time in his career, Arnold entered a tournament with the world No. 1 ranking following his Big Apple Open triumph in Manhattan with Manek Mathur against Stout, his new partner in Brooklyn.
After two three-game victories to reach the semifinals, Stout & James prevailed in the match of the tournament in the semifinals against Australian former PSA pros Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley, who upset four seeds Adam Bews & Clive Leach in the quarterfinals. Arnold & Stout narrowly dropped the first two games 13-15, 14-15, before mounting a comeback to win the two hour and three minute match 15-11, 15-13, 15-9.
“Coming back against Ryan and Cameron, two of the best new players on tour, from 2-0 down was tough physically,” Stout said. “Scott and I knew we had a chance if we were able to control the play, but even then we still needed to get a little lucky. Scott showed his pedigree by stepping up in the fifth game and proving why he is world No. 1.”
In contrast to the two-hour semifinal in the top half of the draw, Sleepy Hollow champions James Bamber & Michael Ferreira advanced to the final after just twenty minutes following an unfortunate Achilles injury sustained by Joshua Hollings.
Arnold & Stout once again found themselves down early in the final as Bamber & Ferreira took the first game 15-6. The top seeds then pulled off yet another comeback to clinch the title 15-12, 15-10, 15-13 after an hour and twenty-seven minutes.
“I think in both matches it was a combo of us starting just a little slow, and the teams we played against playing really well at the beginning of each match,” Arnold said. “Against Cam and Ryan I found we were just struggling to put the ball down early and they were playing really solid while also countering well. Against Mikey and Jim they were both really hot to start the match. Both times we made a couple tactical adjustments that seemed to sway things a little in our favor and in the process gave us a bit more confidence in what we were doing.”
With their first Johnson and SDA title together, Stout celebrates his second consecutive at Heights Casino and first of the season.
“To win back-to-back Johnson titles is incredible and to win with Scott in our first event together was even more special,” Stout said. “It felt great being back on court in a professional tournament, especially in front of one of the loudest, most supportive groups of spectators on the tour. The Heights Casino always makes us feel so welcome and appreciated. A huge thank you to Jim Bamber and the squash committee for putting on such a great event.”
Arnold backs up his new world No. 1 achievement with his first Johnson title and second of the season.
“Obviously it’s always great to win, but for me it’s a first Johnson win, one which I’ve always wanted to get a win in previously,” Arnold said. “This was also the last event we played before all of the chaos, so it’s kind of nice to circle back and have a win here at an event with a ton of history and that is also one of the my favorites to play. It’s also nice to feel like you’re somewhat defending that No. 1 position, even if it’s coming after such a strange and inconsistent time where the rankings perhaps need some time to sort themselves again. After all that’s happened the past two years, and despite some lingering uncertainty, the membership at the Heights Casino dove straight back in to supporting the event and the tour the way they did, and made it feel just like any other Johnson. It was great to be back playing there.”
In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was renamed after the early death of David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.
View tournament photography on the SDA SmugMug page.