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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”