All posts by Chris McClintick

Russell & Callis Bag First Title in Bean Town

(l-r): John Russell, Chris Callis, James Bamber, Will Mariani

Two seeds John Russell & Chris Callis added their names to the SDA Platinum MFS Pro-Am Boston champions’ list for the first time, overcoming a competitive draw at the University Club of Boston.

Russell, world No. 8, found himself in need of a last-minute partner leading up to the tournament, and Chris Callis fortuitously stepped in boasting his highest career ranking of No. 3 this month.

Russell & Callis slotted into the draw as two seeds with an arduous draw of defending champion Robin Clarke and Commonwealth Games doubles gold medalist Zac Alexander in the quarterfinals. Russell & Callis shot their way past Clarke & Alexander to advance to the semifinals in three games 15-11, 15-9, 15-11.

“We knew it’d be a tough draw all the way through when we saw it was Robin and Zac in the first round,” Callis said. “Luckily JR was shooting outrageously well in the first match, so we were able to get comfortable pretty quickly.”

First-time partners James Stout & Eric Bedell met Russell & Callis in the semis after escaping a grueling quarterfinal against Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris in five games. Russell & Callis ended their run in four games to reach the final. The top half of the draw produced the upset of the tournament in the form of Will Mariani & James Bamber toppling Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan in a four-game semifinal.

In the final, Russell & Callis recovered from dropping a narrow  second game to claim the title in four 15-10, 14-15, 15-5, 15-13.

“I was extremely lucky to have Chris Callis step in as a last minute sub,” Russell said. “He played really well all weekend. It feels great to get back in the winners circle again!”

“We certainly had a few stretches where we weren’t as comfortable as we’d like on court,which is to be expected,” Callis said, “But thankfully we were able to play tough on the big rallies and pull those matches out. Certainly feeling sore today after all those tough matches!”

Russell, the 2017 world doubles champion, celebrates his first title of the season in Boston, while Callis adds the MSF Pro-Am to his season-opening Maryland Club Open title.

For the first time in tournament history, the MSF Pro-Am Boston offered equal prize money with an eight-team WSDA draw held concurrently. Doubles veterans Suzie Pierrepont & Natalie Grainger defeated the likes of Amanda Sobhy & Fernanda Rocha in the semifinals, and Narelle Krizek and Stephanie Hewitt in the final to claim the historic title.

“The university club of Boston and its members are fantastic hosts,” Russell said. “This year the event was extra special as it joined forces with the Harvard Club and WSDA to host a women’s event with equal prize money.”

The MFS Pro-Am Boston was first held in 1992.

“It’s one of the tournaments we all circle on the calendar before the season, so it’s pretty cool to finally get the title,” Callis said. “You see the list of the guys who have won it in the past and it’s a who’s who of all-time great doubles players. To be on the same list with those guys is pretty cool. Major thanks to the club and all the sponsors for taking such great care of us players.”

Samper & Badan Secure Second Title of the Season in Atlanta

L-r Hameed Ahmed, John Russell, Chad hood, David Bridges, Yvain Badan, Bernardo Samper, Ahmed Hamza

World No. 8 Bernardo Samper & world No. 3 Yvain Badan lifted their second SDA trophy of the season–the SDA Gold PDC Cup–at the Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta, Georgia.

Samper & Badan entered the twelve-team draw as the top seeds with a predicted final against defending champion John Russell and his Finnish first-time partner Hameed Ahmed.

The surprise run of the tournament came courtesy of Bobby Burns & Jordan Greenberg in the top half of the draw. After a three-game first-round win over Joshua Schwartz & Peter Kelly, Burns & Greenberg took out four seeds Mike Ferreira & Aaron Luque 15-12, 8-15, 15-8, 15-12 to reach their first semifinal of the season. Outside of their semifinal foray, the draw played out according to seeding with the top three seeds all progressing to the semifinals.

The first semifinal saw Russell & Ahmed earn a 2-1 lead against three seeds Jonny Smith & Jacques Swanepoel, at which point Smith was forced to concede the match due to injury. The top seeds followed on with a decisive 15-12, 15-13, 15-5 semifinal victory against Burns & Greenberg.

A narrow start to the final saw both sides trade games with Samper & Badan taking the first 15-11, and Russell & Ahmed the second, 15-9. Samper & Badan crucially edged the third 15-13, before pulling away to win in the fourth 15-5.

“JR and Hameed played great and complemented each other well,” Badan said. “We found our groove during the finals and played well at the critical points in games one and three, which gave us the 2-1 lead. In the fourth we got even more comfortable and shot really well.”

The title marks Badan’s third of the season in addition to the Big Apple Open with Samper and the Westchester Country Club with James Stout. Last year, Russell won the PDC Cup with Scott Arnold. Ahmed marks his second final appearance of the season, following up the Denver Club Open in October.

“Swiss and I peaked at the right time in the tournament,” Samper said. “In the first two matches we didn’t feel that comfortable and we were struggling to play our game. In the final we played at a higher pace and took the openings well to finish the points. JR is a great player and it’s always fun to be on court with him. Hameed is very dangerous and is starting to be more confident on court. His name will be moving up the rankings quickly.”

Badan is now level with Damien Mudge with three PDC titles since its inception in 2013.

“It’s a wonderful group of people, which makes it a special place,” Badan said. “And any time you can win somewhere special, it feels great. Ahmed Hamza, Ted Griffith, Julian Mohr and everyone behind the tournament does a terrific job. The players are always grateful and excited to be part of the PDC Cup. We are already looking forward to coming back in 2019.”

The PDC Cup marks the final SDA event of the 2018 calendar year with the tour set to return to action in January 2019 with the MFS Pro-Am Boston, January 10-13.

Badan & Stout Surge to Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles Title

(back row, l-r:) James Bamber, Mike Ferreira, Chris Callis, Adam Bews, Yvain Badan, Bryan Fitzpatrick, James Stout (front row, l-r:) Lume Landman, Natalie Grainger

The second annual Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles platinum draw saw a seismic shift in the days leading up to the tournament.

Following Manek Mathur‘s Achilles injury at the Big Apple Open the previous Monday night, world No. 6 Chris Callis was forced to call up world No. 7 Mike Fereirra to occupy the top seed in Westchester. The following Tuesday, world No. 8 Bernardo Samper unfortunately had to return to his native Colombia for a family emergency, leaving world No. 5 Yvain Badan in search of a new partner to fill in the gap of his Big Apple Open-winning team. As a result, Badan linked up with world No. 9 James Stout in their first ever partnership together, slotting in as the two seeds.

The match of the tournament perhaps came in the quarterfinals between qualifiers Ed Garno & Alex Stait & four seeds Clive Leach & James Bamber. Leach & Bamber squandered a two-game lead as the match progressed to a decisive simultaneous match ball, which the higher seeds executed to advance 15-10, 15-14, 12-15, 12-15, 15-14.

One five-gamer wasn’t enough for Leach & Bamber, as the Englishmen once again went the distance in the semifinals against Callis & Ferreira. After alternating games through to the fifth, the top seeds ended Leach & Bamber’s run 15-9 to reach the final.

Badan & Stout progressed through the bottom half of the draw with a four-game win over Adam Bews & Will Hartigan  in the quarters and a three-game semifinal victory against Jonny Smith & Zac Alexander.

Badan & Stout carried their form into the final, dispatching Callis & Ferreira 15-13, 15-10, 15-13, to claim their first title together and Badan’s second in a week’s span.

“It’s been a tough week for the tour between Manek rupturing his Achilles and this happening to Bernardo,” Badan said. “I was lucky that James was able to step in. You never know how you’re going to gel with someone until you jump on court together, and fortunately it worked out great. We discussed a strategy and implemented it well together. We had good communication and covered for each other, and his style and my style really worked out well together.”

Stout, a Bermudian, is competing in the Racquets World Championships this coming weekend at the Racquet & Tennis Club.

“It can be tough playing with a new partner as you both are trying to figure out each other’s game and determining who should play which shots,” Stout said. “There were a couple of points in our first match where we both left shots for the other, but besides that it was pretty easy getting into a rhythm. We have played against each other on numerous occasions so knew each other’s style of play and were able to adapt pretty quickly. It was a fun weekend partnering with him.”

Westchester marks Badan’s first platinum title since the 2016 Maryland Club Open, while Stout celebrates the largest title of his career to date.

“The Westchester community is really special, I feel very connected to them because I used to be at Apawamis right down the road, so it almost feels like playing at home,” Badan said. “It’s a membership who knows their squash doubles and great to see them so excited and appreciative of the squash.”

“Westchester Country Club and all of the members were fantastic hosts,” Stout said. “It honestly felt like this tournament had been around for years with how smoothly everything ran. It is great to see a new tournament on the calendar and even better with it being a platinum event. Hopefully with Natalie Grainger, the squash committee and incredible membership this event will continue to grow each year.”

Badan & Samper Win First Big Apple Open; Mathur Sustains Achilles Injury

Yvain Badan (l) and Bernardo Samper.

The 2018 Big Apple Open ended in unfortunate fashion as world No. 1 Manek Mathur sustained what appeared to be a severe Achilles injury midway through the second game of the final, forcing an immediate retirement and handing the 2018 title to Yvain Badan & Bernardo Samper Monday night at New York Athletic Club.

The final appeared to be well poised for the NYAC crowd as the top two seeds collided in one of the SDA Tour’s staple events.

Mathur rekindled his Maryland Club Open-winning partnership with Chris Callis and progressed through the draw with the same impeccable form that has seen the Indian international go undefeated for his last nineteen tournaments, spanning three seasons and dating back to the 2016 Maryland Club Open final loss nearly three years ago to the month.

The top seeds made a blistering start to the final with a decisive 15-5 score line, but the two seeds returned more resolute in the second game. At 7-all, Mathur pulled up awkwardly, unsure of what had transpired at first, until the reality of the injury set in. Callis, Badan and Samper as well as members of the crowd rushed to his aid and emergency services arrived shortly after to treat Mathur.

While both Samper & Badan mark their first career Big Apple Open title, both players could only focus on the well-being of their opponent, fellow Trinity alum and friend.

“There’s no celebration for us right now, we just feel horrible for Manek,” Badan said. “There’s no worse way to win a match. You never want to see that happen to anybody, no less someone you’re so close to. We all went to school together, we’re best friends, and it’s even more tough seeing how much of the season is still down the line and knowing how long it will take him to recover.”

The injury will no doubt have re-seeding and draw implications for the rest of the season as the tour prepares to descend on Westchester Country Club with an SDA Platinum draw this weekend.

“It really sucks, especially to see the caliber player he is and everything he’s doing for the tour,” Samper said. “He’s the best player, perhaps in history, and he’s been training really hard for this season, and to see it in the second game of the final is really sad. We wish him the best in his recovery and we need him back on the tour as soon as possible.”

Mathur had won the past two Big Apple Opens with Damien Mudge, including a 2017 final win over Samper & Callis. Badan reached the 2014 final with Mathur and the 2016 final with Mike Ferreira.

“We’re grateful to the Big Apple Open, they’re always a steady event every year,” Badan said. “Pat Canavan and his staff do a wonderful job and we’re grateful to everyone here. We’re just upset for Manek and that we couldn’t give them more of a final.”

 

 

Mathur & Mudge Complete Undefeated SDA Season in Cleveland

Damien Mudge (l) and Manek Mathur

Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge accomplished an undefeated season when the world No. 1’s successfully defended their SDA Gold Tavern Club Invitational title in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mathur & Mudge’s 2017-2018 season ends with a fifty-four match unbeaten streak, six titles and retaining the joint world No. 1 ranking.

While the final was no surprise between the top two seeds, the twelve-team draw produced two shock quarterfinal results that sent both the three and four seeds out of the tournament.

The top half of the draw saw Adam Bews & Colin West dispatch four seeds Clinton Leeuw & Omar El-Kashef in three games to reach their first semifinal together, where they would ultimately fall against Mathur & Mudge.

In a familial affair, John Roberts & Jordan Greenberg opened their tournament by defeating Joey Roberts & Gavan Hitchenor. Roberts & Greenberg nearly squandered a two-game lead in their quarterfinal against four seeds Mike Ferreira & Zac Alexander, who just won a doubles gold medal at the Commonwealth games. After dropping the fourth on simultaneous game/match ball, Roberts & Greenberg pulled off of the upset 15-11 in the fifth to reach the semis.

Two seeds John Russell & Scott Arnold reached their third final of the season without dropping a game, ending Roberts & Greenberg’s run in a three-game semifinal.

Russell & Arnold carried their momentum into the final against the top seeds in their first match up since the Briggs Cup, decisively winning the first game 15-6. Mathur & Mudge regained their composure during the break, however, tipping the match in their favor to claim the title 6-15, 15-10, 15-14, 15-10.

“Russell & Arnold are a great team,” Mudge said of the PDC Cup champions. “They have good ball control and good structure on court, so we had to adjust our games in order to come back from the first game loss. If you are going to beat that team it will take patience and precise structure.”

“Matches against them are always well contested and we were ready for a battle,” Mathur said. “The first game was them really finding their groove and us being on our heels and not pushing up in the court. We had to slow the ball down a bunch and really be disciplined with our game plan for the next few games.”

Mudge now marks his fourth career undefeated season on the pro doubles circuit, having previously recorded one undefeated season with Ben Gould and two with Gary Waite.  Mathur marks his first career undefeated season.

“It’s always great to win, but to finish an undefeated season with Manek was really special,” Mudge said. “These things don’t happen that often in ones career, so to have the opportunity to do it was amazing! It is a pure pleasure playing with Manek. He is such a strong player and such a good person. I feel privileged to be with him for the last two years.”

While the undefeated season is his first, Mathur has now won three consecutive titles at the Tavern Club, the first of which came with Gould in 2016.

“This is my first undefeated season and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it headed into Cleveland,” Mathur said. “Cleveland is a special place for me. I have always enjoyed going out there to see family and in turn, made a lot of great relationships with the members at the Tavern Club. Quick shout out to my pro/am partner, Matt Brinn, who has played with me for the last four years. We finally clinched the coveted title! I am lucky to have Damien on my side and he’s a great mentor and friend through the process. We faced a lot of adversity this season and to manage staying undefeated means a lot to the two of us.”

The Tavern Club Invitational has been held annually since 2006. Mudge has now won all but four of the events with a total of nine titles.

“Big thank you to Ian Sly,” Mudge said. “He does an amazing job at the tavern club and really takes care of the pros.”

“Ian Sly and his team deserves a massive kudos,” Mathur said. “They run such a special tournament, members are very enthusiastic and the club on the whole is very welcoming and respectful to the pros. I speak on behalf of all my fellow pros that we can’t wait to be back out in Cleveland. Rumor has it that soon there will be a Mudgie poster on the building to replace Lebron!”

The 2017-2018 SDA season comes to a close with the SDA Gold Buffalo Pro Doubles, May 10-13.