All posts by Chris McClintick

Binnie & Cuskelly Celebrate Maiden SDA Title in Pittsburgh

(l-r): Ryan Cuskelly, Chris Binnie, Jim Shields, Clinton Leeuw, Omar El Kashef

PSA and Commonwealth Games softball doubles veterans Chris Binnie and Ryan Cuskelly celebrated their first hardball doubles title success on the SDA Pro Tour by capturing the Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger Sunday, January 19, in Pennsylvania.

Binnie and Cuskelly, both based in Greenwich, Connecticut, represented Jamaica and Australia, respectively, on the international softball doubles courts in numerous Commonwealth Games and WSF World Doubles Championships, and have recently started competing in its North American counterpart. Cuskelly made his pro hardball doubles debut in an ISDA-era Briggs Cup, and more recently competed in the 2018 North American Open and six events so far this season with partners including fellow Aussie PSA retiree Cameron Pilley, James Bamber and Jaymie Haycocks. Binnie made one appearance in the then ISDA Johnson in 2012, and more recently competed in the 2018 Sleepy Hollow Open and four events so far this season with partners including Chris Hanson and fellow Trinity graduate Shaun Johnstone.

Binnie & Cuskelly nearly opened up their first SDA tournament together with a loss after coming back from 2-0 down against Canadians Kelly Shannon & Robert Nigro, clinching the match on simultaneous match ball 13-15, 3-15, 15-11, 15-10, 15-14. Three tournament’s four first-round matches extended to five games, as John Roberts & Kyle Martino held off Duncan & Gavin Maxwell, while Matt Dominick & Adam Perkiomaki edged Elroy Leong & Alexander Ma 15-13 in the fifth.

Binnie & Cuskelly then rebounded with a resounding semifinal upset over top seeds Roberts–who sustained a neck injury–& Martino 15-3, 15-4, 15-9 to set up a final against two seeds Clinton Leeuw, who recorded two three-game wins to reach the final. It was the newcomers who came through in the final as Binnie & Cuskelly clinched the title 15-7, 12-15, 15-7, 15-8.

“It was definitely a fun experience to play a hardball doubles together,” Binnie said. “Obviously Ryan and I are very new to it. He’s played maybe four or five SDA events, I’ve played maybe three or so before Pittsburgh so to actually win a tournament this early on is pretty cool. During the games I think we got a little bit of luck throughout the tournament and some things fell for us, and lucily we were able to sneak out the wins. We are pretty happy overall.”

Binnie and Cuskelly have been long-time PSA training partners under the tutelage of Australian PSA legend Rodney Martin. While Binnie, world No. 87, continues to compete on the PSA tour, Cuskelly, former world No. 12, recently announced his retirement at the 2020 Tournament of Champions in New York City.

“We hang out together all the time and have trained together for  years and and we’ve played hardball doubles a couple of times,” Binnie said. “Having a good friendship can definitely help and once you play together you learn from each other and what each person likes to do on the court. We’re going to keep playing and have some fun. I’m still playing PSA and Ryan just retired so I think he’s a little more invested in doubles, which is good. So I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of him and a little more of me. Either way we’re looking forward to playing another one soon.”

Mathur & Callis Avoid Boston Semifinal Exit to Claim Third Straight Title

(l-r): Lenny Bernheimer, Greg McArthur, James Stout, Chris Callis, Manek Mathur

Manek Mathur & Chris Callis avoided a semifinal exit coming back from 2-0 down to mount their third straight title run at the MFS Pro-Am Boston January 8-12 at the University Club of Boston.

Mathur & Callis entered the SDA Diamond draw as top seeds, boosted by improved rankings of world No. 3 and 1, respectively, this month following their Briggs Cup triumph in December. Unlike the Briggs Cup, where they didn’t drop a game, the Boston draw presented new challenges in the form of the tournament’s surprise package, Mike Ferreira & Will Hartigan.

One week after winning the inaugural Ox Ridge Open with James Bamber, Ferreira partnered up with Will Hartigan for the second time this season. After a 3-0 first round win, Ferreira & Hartigan took out four seeds Adam Bews & Bamber 15-11, 15-14, 15-12 to meet Mathur & Callis in the semis. Ferreira & Hartigan caught the top seeds off guard, shooting their way through the first two games to go up 15-13, 15-10. In the third Ferreira & Hartigan came within two points of winning the match, but Mathur & Callis salvaged the game 15-13 before pressing through the rest of the match 15-8, 15-10.

“Hats off to Mike and Will for playing some incredibly high-level doubles in the semi,” Callis said. “They couldn’t miss in the first two games! It took a massive effort to stay positive and work our way out of that 2-0 hole. We had to slow the pace down and stay incredibly disciplined. It was probably the most mentally taxing match Manek and I have played to date.”

In the bottom half of the draw, two seeds James Stout & Greg McArthur were also tested, but in the quarterfinals where they needed five games to come back from 2-1 down against Graham Bassett & Hamed Anvari. Stout & McArthur put in a better display in the semis to progress against three seeds Scott Clarke & Zac Alexander 15-11, 15-14, 15-13.

The final saw the top two seeds split the first to games before Mathur & Callis clinched the title 15-7, 10-15, 15-10, 15-9.

“This was definitely our toughest tournament since the season opener in Maryland,” Callis said. “It’s always tough to follow up an effort like that semifinal against opponents as good as Greg and James in the final. We were mentally very prepared for a battle in the finals and I think that’s what allowed us to dig deep and pull it out. Hats off to those guys for a great match.”

The world No. 1 celebrates his second straight title in Boston having won the 2019 edition with John Russell. Mathur’s name returns to the winners list for the first time since 2017 and 2016 when he won with Damien Mudge and Yvain Badan, respectively. Mathur & Callis have now won three consecutive titles in the Sleepy Hollow Open, Briggs Cup and Pro-Am Boston.

The MFS Pro-Am Boston was first held in 1992 and this year increased its prize money to a record $50,000 from $40,000 last year.

“There’s a lot of confidence that comes from winning a tournament like Boston where you’re pushed really hard like that,” Callis said. “It’s crazy how Manek’s movement is still continuing to improve since his injury. Looking forward to the back half of the season! A major thank you to all of the members and sponsors at the University Club in Boston. Len runs an incredible event and makes it easy for us players to play our best. It’s one we circle on the calendar every year.”

 

 

Ferreira & Bamber Lift Maiden Title at Inaugural Ox Ridge Open

L-R Wick Clothier, Richard Colligan, Will Mariani, Thomas Brinkman, Will Newnham, Mike Ferreira, James Bamber, Phil Thompson

The first professional squash doubles tournament held at the recently opened Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club produced a maiden title for first-time partners Mike Ferreira & James Bamber, January 2-6, in Darien, Connecticut.

Having opposed each other often on tour, the Ferreira, world No. 14, & Bamber, world No. 10,  paired up for the first time as the SDA Bronze draw’s top seeds. The Englishmen’s only dropped game of the tournament came in their first test against Travis Judson & Parth Sharma, after which they regained control for the remainder of the tournament.

In the semifinals, Ferreira & Bamber resolutely dispatched four seeds Andres Vargas & Clive Leach 15-5, 15-5, 15-8. Meanwhile in the bottom half of the draw, Aussie PSA veterans Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley qualified for their second straight main draw and pushed two seeds Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman to four games in the first round. The Canadians then held off Americans Graham Bassett & Hamed Anvari in a four-game semifinal 15-12, 15-14, 10-15, 15-7.

In the final, Ferreira & Bamber edged a close second game at 14-all and pulled away to win the title 15-10, 15-14, 15-8. Both Ferreira and Bamber celebrated their first title of the season in Darien.

“It was great fun playing with James in our first event,” Ferreira said. “I think our styles complemented each other very well and I certainly hope to be able to team up with him again soon.”

The Ox Ridge Club’s two squash doubles courts have added to the vibrant squash doubles community in southern Connecticut.

“This tournament coming online is great for the SDA and squash doubles in the Darien area,” Ferreira said. “Ox Ridge and all those responsible really organized a fantastic event in their new and very impressive squash facility. I look forward to hopefully going back next year to play in the event again!”

 

Mathur Claims Third Briggs Cup; Callis Celebrates First at Apawamis

(l-r): James Stout, Greg McArthur, Manek Mathur, Chris Callis

World No. 9 Manek Mathur claimed his third career Briggs Cup title to move second on the all-time winners list of the biennial SDA Diamond event behind former partner Damien Mudge, while world No. 2 Chris Callis celebrated his first and largest career title at the Apawamis Club, December 5-9, in Rye, New York.

The $60,000 draw of sixteen teams and four qualifying draws was reflective of a competitive SDA season at its midway point, with four different teams having won the five events leading into the prestigious Briggs Cup.

Fresh off their perfect title run in Sleepy Hollow before Thanksgiving, Mathur & Callis entered the top half of the draw, but not as one of the tournament’s top four seeds. Two of the top four seeds woudn’t make it past the first round, however, with both upsets coming in the top half of the draw. First, Clinton Leeuw & Omar El Kashef took out four seeds Robin Clarke & Zac Alexander 15-13 in the fifth in one of the first main draw matches of the tournament. Later that evening, Adam Bews & Colin West held off a five-game comeback from top seeds John Russell & Scott Arnold to win 15-12 in the fifth.

Australian PSA professionals Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley–Apawamis’ new head squash professional–nearly provided an intriguing presence in the quarterfinals in their Briggs Cup debut. After progressing through qualifying to reach the main draw, the Aussies fell short 15-7 in the fifth against Eric Bedell & Whitten Morris, who proved to be one the tournament’s two surprise semifinalists.

In the bottom half of the draw, two seeds James Stout & Greg McArthur were the only top-four seed to reach the semifinals, but needed to come back from 2-1 down against Graham Bassett & Hameed Ahmed in the quarterfinals. Will Mariani & James Bamber reached their first Briggs semifinal with a four-game upset over three seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan. Mariani & Bamber’s surprise run would end in the semis courtesy of a three-game loss against Stout & McArthur.

Mathur & Callis, meanwhile, maintained their strong form from Sleepy Hollow with three decisive 3-0 victories to reach the final against Stout & McArthur. In a rematch of the Sleepy Hollow final, Mathur & Callis produced the same result, edging a close three games to take the title 15-11, 15-5, 15-14.

“We are starting to find some form and it really hit home for the Briggs Cup,” Mathur said. “The timing could not have been better. Both of us felt strong physically and mentally, ready to compete. Chris especially played the best i’ve seen him play, maybe ever… all weekend. His movement and ball control was spectacular in setting us up as a team and allowing for perfect execution of our game plans.”

While Callis celebrates the largest prize money title of his career, Mathur marks his third triumph of the tour’s highest prize money event. The former world No. 1 first captured the title with Yvain Badan in 2011, and his second with five-time Briggs champion Mudge in 2017. The Briggs Cup is the namesake of doubles legend and U.S. Squash Hall of Famer Peter Briggs, who has been based at Apawamis for decades.

“Apawamis is where I really began my doubles journey and learning from Briggsy makes this event extra special for me,” Mathur said. “I know the entirety of the membership and most of them have converted into good friends over the years. Having my name on that board means the world to me and I am very excited to share the space with Chris. Not only is this the biggest event of the season, but it’s one of the best run events on the tour. The club makes you feel at home and the membership could not be more welcoming.”

View a gallery of tournament images here.

The SDA Pro Tour resumes in the new year with the inaugural Ox Ridge Open, January 4-6.

 

Mathur & Callis Dethrone Stout & McArthur in Second Sleepy Hollow Open

(l-r): Manek Mathur, Chris Callis, Chris Adams, Rob Gutheil, Greg McArthur, James Stout

Manek Mathur & Chris Callis became the first partnership to win multiple titles this season by taking out Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open defending champions James Stout & Greg McArthur Sunday, November 24, in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

After a successful debut on the SDA Pro Tour as a Bronze event in 2018, the Sleepy Hollow Open elevated to a $25,000 SDA Silver draw this season, expanding the draw and attracting more top partnerships in what has been a competitive opening to the season.

Mathur & Callis returned to the tour for the first time since being forced to withdraw after the Westchester semifinals earlier this month due to a Mathur ankle injury. The top seeds re-emerged in strong form with decisive three-game quarterfinal and semifinal victories over David Letourneau & Kelly Shannon and Adam Bews & James Bamber, respectively.

Stout & McArthur entered the bottom half of the draw as the two seeds and progressed to the semis courtesy of a three-game win over Graham Bassett & Clinton Leeuw. After progressing through qualifying, current and former PSA professionals Ryan Cuskelly & Jaymie Haycocks celebrated their first quarterfinal appearance together in just their partnership’s second event. Veterans Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan ended their surprise run in four games to reach the semis. Stout & McArthur then fought back from 1-0 down in the semis to reach their second Sleepy Hollow final 10-15, 15-8, 15-12, 15-7.

In the final, Mathur & Callis prevailed in three tight games, 15-12, 15-13, 15-11 to claim their first Sleepy Hollow title. The title marks their second of the season, following the season-opening Maryland Club Open in October.

“It was unfortunate in WCC, we were looking forward to playing in that final, but wasn’t meant to be,” Mathur said. “This sleepy final was exhausting! Even though it was just three games, the intensity and quality was extremely high and I think all four players were both mentally and physically exhausted post match. Playing James and Greg is always exciting as they’re so talented and creative with the ball that they keep you on your toes and force you to be extremely focused defensively and keep the ball away from their hot zones.”

The Sleepy Hollow result saw both Mathur & Callis returning to fitness after some setbacks.

“Both with Maryland and this Sleepy event, we went in with no expectations and just letting our bodies do their thing and we managed to find some good form this weekend right from the get go,” Mathur said. “I think both Chris and I had a ton of fun out there and were just happy to be playing feeling good and healthy.  I think Chris is starting to feel a lot better too after his knee scope from earlier this year.”

Last year, McArthur–the Sleepy Hollow head professional–and Stout started their ascent as one of the tour’s top partnerships with the 2018 title.

“This was our first time playing at Sleepy Hollow and not only is it a stunning location but the membership is second to none,” Mathur said. “Big thanks to my pro-am partner Chris Adams and the rest of the membership for being so supportive, friendly and inviting to us and the entire tour. Another big shout out to our very own Greg McArthur–we all know it’s not easy to run an event–but the amount of detail that he put into it made it a very special weekend!”

Tour focus now shifts to the biennial $60,000 Briggs Cup, December 6-9,  the tour’s top teams aim for one of the tour’s most iconic titles. This season has been characterized by parity with a different partnership winning each event up until Sleepy Hollow.

“The tour is in a great place,” Mathur said. “We had the biggest qualifying draw ever at NYAC and with multiple winning teams so far this season, I don’t think I’ve seen that since my start on the ISDA back in 2010. The same transfers over to a depth perspective where first round matches are extremely competitive and can go in either direction. This season has seen a great influx of former college and singles players.”