All posts by Chris McClintick

Russell & McArthur Capture St. Louis Open Title in Partnership’s Debut

(l-r): Greg McArthur, John Russell, Adam Bews, Colin West

Top-five-ranked veterans John Russell & Greg McArthur enjoyed a successful debut together by decisively capturing the 2019 St. Louis Open title without dropping a game November 7-9 at the Racquet Club of St. Louis.

Russell & McAthur overcame two Canadian teams in three games on their way to the final. First, Mark Porter & Rafik Bhaloo in the quarterfinals 15-1, 15-10, 15-7. After a close 15-14 opening game in the semifinals against Joshua Hollings & Martin Henderson, Russell & McArthur plowed through 15-1, 15-5 to reach the final held later that evening.

Hollings & Henderson proved that they are an up and coming partnership having produced the biggest upset of the tournament in the quarterfinals–a five-game comeback over four seeds Clinton Leeuw & Omar El Kashef.

In the bottom half of the draw, Canadian two seeds Will Mariani & Cole Osborne quickly progressed to the semifinals after just three points due to a ruptured Achilles sustained by Matt Jenson. Jenson’s attempted come back this year now comes to an end, and follows rupturing his other Achilles  at the PDC cup in 2014. Former St. Louis-based pro Adam Bews & Colin West then took out the two seeds in the semifinals 15-12, 15-3, 5-15, 15-5.

In the final, Russell & McArthur crucially took their second 14-all point of the game in the second to secure the title 15-11, 15-14, 15-7.

The title marks both Russell & McArthur’s first of the season. A different partnership has now won all four SDA events of the season thus far. The title also boosts Russell’s bid to retain the world No. 1 ranking, having reclaimed it this month after Chris Callis took the mantle in October.

“I’ve lost in the final a few times so it’s great to finally get my name on the trophy,” Russell said. “Playing with Greg was a real pleasure, we both like to shoot so it made for some exciting squash. Mike Puertas runs a fantastic event and the members are very knowledgeable and appreciative. I’ve made some great friends at the club over the years so always try to fit the event into my schedule.”

The St. Louis Open, founded in 2002, returned as a full ranking event having been held as an invitational in 2018 and substituted for the World Doubles Championships in 2017, which Russell won.

“John and I have had a couple of great battles while on opposing teams over the years so it was nice to finally team up for an event,” said McArthur, the world No. 5. “Our personalities match up well so it made for some good squash and an enjoyable on court experience. St. Louis was the first doubles event I ever traveled to, almost ten years ago. It’s really special to finally win the event. It’s a great club and I really want to thank Mike Puertas and the members for making us pros feel at home.”

 

 

 

Alexander & Clarke Collect Second SDA Title and First of the Season in Westchester

(l-r): Zac Alexander, Scott Arnold, John Russell, Robin Clarke

Zac Alexander & Robin Clarke earned their partnership’s second career title and first of the season, however the accolades came in unfortunate circumstances after the withdrawal of Manek Mathur due to injury ahead of the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles final Monday, November 4, in New York.

Alexander & Clarke continued to build on their positive momentum from their first two events of the season leading into Westchester. After a second round exit in the season-opening Maryland Club Open, Alexander & Clarke improved by reaching the Big Apple Open final, where they narrowly lost as a result of third and fourth games dropped at 14-all.

In Westchester, the three seeds decisively reached the semifinals with a 3-0 win over Canadians Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman to set up an encounter with two seeds John Russell & Scott Arnold.

In a match up that could have been a final in any other draw, Clarke & Alexander pulled off a remarkable five-game comeback that included two 14-all points in the fourth and fifth games to win 13-15, 13-15, 15-5, 15-14, 15-14.

“Coming from 2-0 down doesn’t really surprise robin and I anymore I don’t think,” Alexander said. “More often than not we’re grinding for 90+ minutes so when it gets long, we back ourselves in. Super proud of how we fought and dug deep.”

Meanwhile in the top half of the draw, top seeds Manek Mathur & Chris Callis eased their way though to the final with three swift games over Ryan Cuskelly & James Bamber in the quarterfinals and John Roberts & Hameed Ahmed in the semifinals.  Things took a turn for the worse towards the end of their third game in the semis, however, when Mathur’s sustained a rolled ankle. The injury was enough to keep Mathur off court in Monday’s final, resulting in a withdrawal.

Alexander & Clarke add their Westchester title to their inaugural North American Open title last season.

“It’s never good for the club to not have a final,” Alexander said. “Unfortunately for Manek he’s been unlucky with his body lately, but he’s such a diligent athlete he’ll be back very soon. Great to get a win this early in the season and kind of makes up for missing out last week at the Big Apple Open where this time we we’re on the losing end of two sudden death games against Stout and Swiss.”

 

Badan Defends Big Apple Open Title; Stout Celebrates First Title of the Season

(l-r): Kipp Sylvester, James Stout, Yvain Badan, Robin Clarke, Zac Alexander

World No. 7 Yvain Badan reunited with world No. 3 James Stout to successfully defend his Big Apple Open title and extend the partnership’s winning form at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.

Badan & Stout had originally entered the SDA Gold draw with their regular partners, Bernardo Samper and Greg McArthur, respectively. However, both Samper & McArthur sustained injuries in the semifinals of the Maryland Club Open earlier this month, keeping them off court in New York City.

Last season, Badan & Stout put together a title-winning run at the 2018 Westchester Country Club Open in what was their partnership’s debut and as a result, the partnership was a natural fit for the Big Apple Open where they led the draw as top seeds.

The top seeds eased their way through to the final in the top half of the draw courtesy of three-game quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Adam Bews & Colin West and Mike Ferreira & William Hartigan, respectively.

The bottom half of the draw nearly saw the finalists, Robin Clarke & Zac Alexander, crash out in their opening quarterfinal match against Andres Vargas & Jacques Swanepoel. Vargas & Swanepoel fended off a two-game deficit to force a fifth game, where they narrowly lost out 15-13.

The close quarterfinal spurred on Clarke & Alexander to produce a major semifinal upset over world No. 1 Chris Callis & two-time Big Apple Open champion Manek Mathur 11-15, 15-10, 15-13, 15-5.

The NYAC crowd enjoyed a climactic two-hour final on Monday night, October 28, as Badan & Stout prevailed in four games over Clarke & Alexander 14-15, 15-9, 15-14, 15-14.

“The final was physically and mentally exhausting,” Stout said. “To be on court for just under two hours and to sneak out the victory 3-1, tells how grueling it was. We knew it was going to be a tough match against Zac and Robin after their great win in the semis over Manek and Callis, but we stayed strong and managed to play the big points well.”

“Zac and Robin are an unbelievable team,” Badan said. “Their semifinal match was truly impressive. The way they executed their game plan was brilliant. So going into the finals, we knew it was going to be a long, hard-fought final. Mentally and physically were were prepared for it. We also believed in our game plan and our ability to implement it on court.”

Badan and Stout have often faced off against each other on the SDA tour, but have now won both tournaments where they’ve joined forces. Both Badan, the 2018 Big Apple Open champion with Samper, and Stout mark their first titles of the season.

“Playing with James is awesome,” Badan said. “He covers the court exceptionally well which really boosts your team’s confidence! We seem to be pretty successful at implanting or game plan as a team, which makes it all the more efficient.”

“It was a tough first tournament for both of our teams with Greg and Bernardo hurting themselves in the semifinals of Maryland,” Stout said. “It was touch and go till last weekend on whether they would be able to play, but they both decided to give their recoveries a little longer. After winning Westchester last year, it was reasonably comfortable getting back on court with Swiss and picking up where we left off. Having played with and against him so many times, you get a feel for each others style of play, and ours luckily matches up pretty well. Thanks to all of the sponsors, members and pros of the New York Athletic Club for putting on such a great event.”

Stout, world No. 3, engraves his name on the Big Apple Open for the first time in his second tournament appearance. The Big Apple Open has been hosted by NYAC since 2004.

 

Mathur Makes Victorious Return From Tour With Callis in Maryland Club Season Opener

(l-r): Andrew Cordova, John Porter, Martin Knott, Robb Merritt, Mark Price, Manek Mathur, Sage Platt, Chris Callis, JD Wells, John Russell, Scott Arnold, Hugh McGuirk, Chris Haley

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.

(l-r): Mike Ferreira, Maryland Club Director of Squash Andrew Cordova, Peter Kelly

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.

 

 

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.