All posts by Chris McClintick

Third SDA Combine Prepares the Next Generation of Doubles Professionals

The third annual SDA Pro Tour Combine attracted two dozen prospective professionals, and exposed the experienced singles players to hardball doubles instruction and competition Sunday, June 2, at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York.

The crop of players included current and former collegiate singles and doubles players, current and former PSA professionals and experienced U.S. teaching professionals. A group of seasoned doubles veterans led the instruction and competitive coaching, including world No. 3 James Stout, world No. 6 and Commonwealth Games doubles gold medalist Zac Alexander, National Doubles champion Steve Scharff and world No. 22 Adam Bews.

Players were divided into four teams with three partnerships per team for the round robin competition. The Stout-led black team came out on top with the partnership of Lockie Munro & Alexander Schwartz earning the most points from the field. View all results here.

“This was my first year coaching at the combine and it exceeded my expectations,” Stout said. “I was surprised by the quality of play, how quickly the players were to trust the pros and their partners–having just been paired together–and the level of sportsmanship shown by all of those involved. It was a great experience and showed me that the future of the game is in good hands. I am sure it won’t be long before Greg McArthur and I are playing these pairs in upcoming tournaments and trying to hold them at bay a little while longer.”

The combine aims to develop of healthy pipeline of new players on the SDA Pro Tour and has already seen success after the combine’s first two years. Some combine players who have climbed the rankings  include world No. 15 Hameed Ahmed, world No. 25 Omar El Kashef and world No. 33 Kyle Martino, who was named the 2017-2018 rookie of the year.

(l-r): James Stout, TJ Dembinksi, Alexander Schwartz, Peter McIntyre, Omar Allaudin, Lockie Munro

“Lockie and I were lucky enough to have James Stout as our team coach,” said Schwartz, a Penn graduate and Brooklyn native. “He gave pointers on both the mental and physical aspects of doubles such as slowing and increasing pace, positioning, shot selection and critical momentum-driving points in a game. In addition his general advice was massively valuable is something I’ll definitely carry into future matches.”

Nearly half of all combine veterans have gone on to compete in SDA events the following season. Combine players also received SDA ranking points to aid their assimilation into the tour entry process.

“The instruction, SDA points, and opportunity to meet potential partners makes the combine a perfect on-ramp to next season,” Schwartz said. “In addition, you get a sense of the fun that is the SDA Pro Tour. I will definitely look to participate in SDA events next season. The combine was a both incredibly fun and educational. What’s better than a Saturday full of dubs with a great group of guys?”

The combine players will have the chance to join the SDA competition with the season-opening Maryland Club Open in September.

Russell Wraps Up Banner Season By Earning World No. 1 Ranking in Buffalo

(l-r): John Russell, Scott Arnold, Tom Hayes, Greg McArthur, James Stout

The 2018-2019 SDA Pro Tour season came to a fitting conclusion with four of the season’s most in-form players–John Russell & Scott Arnold and Greg McArthur & James Stout–contesting a repeat Buffalo Club Pro Doubles final Sunday, May 12, in upstate New York.

Both sides were tested on their way to the final. Russell & Arnold entered the draw as the three seeds, and needed four close games to win their opener against Canadians Joshua Hollings & Chris Sachvie, 15-13, 11-15, 15-12, 15-11. Russell & Arnold then managed to dispatch two seeds Will Mariani & James Bamber in three games to reach the final.

Stout & McArthur, the top seeds, were on the brink of elimination in the semifinals, where they found themselves two games down against Omar El Kashef & Imran Khan. In the quarterfinals, Kashef & Khan had come out on top of a five game upet over four seeds Hameed Ahmed and Adam Perkiomaki, but this time couldn’t hold onto the lead as Stout & McArthur turned the match on its head to win 12-15, 14-15, 15-6, 15-6, 15-3.

Stout & McArthur carried their momentum into Sunday morning’s final and were on the brink of their second straight Buffalo final victory against Russell & Arnold, taking the first two games 15-9, 15-13 and holding a championship ball at 14-all in the third. Russell & Arnold fought off the championship ball to take the third, and mounted a comeback to clinch the title in five 15-10, 15-11.

“We lost against the same team in last year’s final so it feels great to get them back this year,” Russell said. “After winning the third the momentum seriously swung in our favor. Scott started the fifth game with five straight winners which was the lead we carried all the way home.”

Russell & Arnold celebrate their second title in Buffalo having won the inaugural event in 2017.

The result holds even more significance for Russell, who wraps up the most successful spell of his career by garnering the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career come June 1. The Englishman had already earned a career high ranking of world No. 2 in May on the heels of three straight titles at the Graham Company Cup and career-first title runs at the Tavern Club Open and Kellner Cup. The season-ending title marks Russell’s fifth of the season and twelfth overall.

“This season I’ve played with seven different partners, I’d like to thank all of them for helping me to achieve my first ever #1 ranking,” Russell said. “Tom Hayes runs a fantastic event! Buffalo is a great town with a great squash following.”

Over the course of the 2018-2019 season, Russell won two titles with Arnold, one with James Bamber, Greg Park and Chris Callis–who Russell displaces at world No. 1–reached the PDC Cup final with Hameed Ahmed, and made appearances with Dane Sharp and Yvain Badan early in the season.

 

Russell & Arnold Celebrate Milestone Kellner Cup Triumph

(l-r): Scott Arnold, John Russell, Peter Kellner, George Kellner, Chris Callis, Robin Clarke

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.

 

 

Russell & Bamber Rock Cleveland With First Tavern Club Title

(l-r): Rahul Mohan, James Bamber, Matt Brinn, John Russell, Dick Hollington, Bernardo Samper, Jack Herrick, Yvain Badan, Jack Turben, Jon Outcalt

England’s John Russell & James Bamber join the prestigious Tavern Club Open winners list after a successful partnership debut in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both Russell & Bamber entered the tournament with positive momentum on the SDA Pro Tour. Russell, world No. 5, had won the previous tour event leading up to the Tavern Club–the Graham Company Cup with Greg Park. Meanwhile, Bamber entered the tournament with a career high ranking of world No. 11 on the heels of inaugural SDA title in February–the Tompkins Cup.

The Englishmen entered the Tavern Club draw as the two seeds, opposing top seeds Bernardo Samper, world No. 7, & Yvain Badan, world No. 4.

The draw largely played out according to seeding with the top four seeds progressing to the semifinals, although the three and four seeds had to earn it in five-game quarterfinals. John Roberts & Hameed Ahmed, the four seeds, came back from 2-1 down to defeat Matt Domenick & Travis Judson 15-13 in the fifth, while Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold, the three seeds, held off a five-game comeback against Adam Bews & Colin West.

Saturday, April 13, made for an intense slate of doubles squash with both the semifinals and finals scheduled for the early afternoon and evening. The top two seeds both advanced to the final in four games. First, Russell & Bamber escaped 15-14 in the fourth to beat Clarke & Arnold. Samper & Badan then followed on to take down Roberts & Ahmed 15-8, 14-15, 15-9, 15-8.

In the final Russell avenged his PDC Cup final loss against the top seeds with Bamber, clinching the title 15-13, 13-15, 15-13, 15-8.

Russell celebrates his third title of the season, and first Tavern Club title having lost in the past two finals against Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge.

“It feels great to finally win this event after losing in the two previous finals,” Russell said. “Playing with James was a pleasure, he brings a lot of energy on the court with him and has the potential to carry on improving and being one of the best around.”

Bamber, twenty-three years old, continues his improving form with his second and largest career SDA title. The result also marks the first year that neither Damien Mudge or Ben Gould won the tournament since 2007.

“JR is a legend of the game so I was just trying to let him take the lead this weekend and help out where I could,” Bamber said. “I feel I’ve learnt a lot from playing with JR in just one weekend. It feels great to have another title in the bag for this season. I was looking back on the previous winners of the event and it’s a honor to be on the same board as them.”

The Tavern Club Open was first held in 2006.

“Ian Sly doses a fantastic job running an extremely organized event,” Russell said. “The Tavern Club members are very knowledgeable about the game and the size of the crowd made for a great atmosphere.”

Park Bows Out of the SDA Tour in Style With Fifth Graham Company Cup

John Russell (l) and Greg Park with their families

Former Germantown Cricket Club regular Greg Park extended his Graham Company Cup title record with his fifth on St. Patrick’s Day, after rekindling a partnership with John Russell for their second event this season.

Having spent two seasons together nearly seven years ago, Russell & Park reunited ahead of the David C. Johnson Jr. Memorial last month. In Brooklyn, Russell & Park put together a successful semifinal run as the three seeds.

In Philadelphia, Russell & Park once again entered the draw as the three seeds, but this time went one better.  Like Brooklyn, Russell & Park opened up their tournament with a difficult five-setter, holding off a comeback from Adam Bews & Hamed Anvari 15-13, 15-7, 7-15, 3-15, 15-10. Russell & Park then edged two seeds Robin Clark & Scott Alexander in a close semifinal 15-13, 15-13, 13-15, 15-12.

The top half of the draw saw Canadian four seeds Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman upset top seeds Bernardo Samper & Chris Callis–the new world No. 1 this month–15-9 in the fifth to reach the final.

In the final, the SDA veterans pulled through to clinch the title 15-10, 15-9, 8-15, 15-12.

While Russell adds his name to the Graham Company Cup winners list for the first time, Park marks his fifth, following up his 2014 title with Jonny Smith, 2012 and 2010 titles with Imran Khan and 2007 title with Shane Coleman. Coleman is second on the winners list having won three titles from 2004-2007.

“Playing with JR is always a lot of fun,” Park said. “A tremendous player on the court and a great guy off. Our families are very close throughout the year not just with squash. That helps to make a solid team. Plus JR, as everyone knows, is one of the best players of all time.”

Russell’s second title of the season came just days before his fortieth birthday on Wednesday, March 20.

“It feels good to be answering questions about a tournament win on my fortieth birthday,” Russell said. “Greg played really well this weekend, continuing to improve after playing great three weeks ago at the Heights event. His style compliments my game greatly. Feels good to have finally won this event as I’m pretty sure I had reached four finals there. It was also great to have my son and wife there watching.”

The Graham Company Cup may be the end of his established SDA Pro Tour career, Park admits. At thirty-six years old, Park–the 2012  and 2013 U.S. National Doubles champion and 2011 ISDA Rookie of the Year–played eight events this season.

“This was a special one for both of us,” Park said. “JR was able to get the win and have his wife and son there to watch. My fifth time winning is a great feeling. Germantown is where I started playing so I am glad to have won the most titles there, and this time I had my wife and three kids to cheer me on. My “lucky charms” that day. It was also special because it was most likely my last event and a great way to go out–a win with a great friend of mine and we had our families there to share it with.”