All posts by Chris McClintick

Callis Clinches World No. 1 in Historic David C. Johnson Jr. Memorial Alongside Alexander

(l-r): Adam Bews, Greg McArthur, James Stout, Chris Callis, Zac Alexander, Cristian Petrina, Whitten Morris

The 2019 David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial–world’s first professional hardball doubles event dating back to 1938–yielded a historic result in the form of a new world No. 1, Chris Callis, who captured the SDA Platinum title for the first time with Zac Alexander at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.

The sixteen-team draw played out largely according to seeding with all four top seeds reaching the semifinals. Three seeds John Russell & Greg Park took the toughest route to the semis out of the top four sides. Russell & Park had to come back from 2-1 down against qualifiers Elroy Leong & Parth Sharma to win their opener in five, only to do it again in the second round, coming back from 2-1 down against Eric Bedell & William Hartigan to reach the semis in five.

After two, three-game wins to reach the semifinals, Callis & Alexander met their first hurdle in the form of top seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan. Callis & Alexander earned the advantage in a close first two games 15-12, 15-13, but Samper & Badan came back to take the third 15-5. Callis & Alexander regained the edge in the fourth to reach the final 15-13.

Fresh off their Baltimore Cup title and with their highest career top five rankings this month, Stout & McArthur came back from 1-0 down to brush aside Russel & Park 14-15, 15-9, 15-13, 15-8.

A close final saw the first two games split and a simultaneous game/match ball in the fourth, at which point misfortune struck for McArthur a broken string sent his shot into the tin to hand the title to Callis & Alexander 15-7, 14-15, 15-7, 15-14.

While both players have now won multiple titles with different partners this season, the Johnson marked their debut together on the SDA Pro Tour.

“Playing with Chris was great,” Alexander said. “I think we complement each others game really well. I like to control the pace, placement and movement of the game and with Chris’ pure power and accuracy we gelled and made it tough for the other boys to break us down.”

Alexander shifted over to the left wall to accommodate the new partnership.

“I definitely felt like Zac and I were a pretty natural fit,” Callis said. “We’re both pretty patient out there and felt confident we would be a tough team to beat so long as we’re stayed disciplined with our game plans. Credit to Zac for playing such solid squash all weekend long in his first $40k on the left wall. Many of us right wallers can attest to the fact that it’s like having to learn a whole new sport when you go over to the left. Shows how much talent Zac has to pick it up that quickly.”

The 2018-2019 SDA season has been characterized by the absence of former world No. 1’s Manek Mathur and Damien Mudge due to injuries, which has created a competitive void for experimental and talented partnerships to emerge.

“It’s super tough to win an event these days,” Alexander said. “We all know it’s wide open right now so everyone pushes harder! I’ve been lucky enough to be on the winning end of the last few and personally I challenged myself to win on both walls left and right and to have two of those be top tier events is all the more special.”

“While there’s an undeniable void with Damien and Manek out of the draws, I think we’ve seen a bunch of guys really step their games up this year,” Callis said. “The top teams are separated by razor thin margins right now and it feels like we all bring the best out in one another. Both Samper/Badan and Stout/McArthur pushed us right to the edge.”

Callis will now become just the fourth world No. 1 in the SDA era since the professional tour’s reformation in 2012 in March’s rankings, following the likes of Ben Gould, Mudge and Mathur.

“It’s pretty amazing to be world No. 1,” Callis said. “I’m not sure it’s fully sunken in yet, to be honest. I certainly didn’t think I’d be at this point back in November when Manek tore his Achilles and I was really struggling with my knee. I’m so used to seeing Mudge, Mathur, or Gould at the top of the list that I’m not sure I’ll believe it when the rankings change over. It’s an honor to know you’re sharing a place with those guys who have set the standard for our sport.”

The historic nature of the 2019 David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial observes the end of the sport’s longest continuous title-winning streak–Mudge’s unparalleled Johnson seventeen-title streak spanning 2002-2018. Mudge was honored over the weekend for his indelible tournament legacy.

In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was renamed after the early death of David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.

“A major thank you to everyone at Heights Casino for putting on another stellar event,” Callis said. “Every year they seem to find a way to one up the last. The members are all so enthusiastic and the energy is so much fun for all the players.”

Bamber Celebrates First SDA Title in Philly with Alexander

(l-r): Greg Park, Graham Bassett, Rob Whitehouse, Zac Alexander, James Bamber

England’s James Bamber celebrated his first career SDA Tour title in his third full-time season on the SDA Pro Tour, lifting the Tompkins Cup with Aussie partner Zac Alexander at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia.

The fifth edition of the biennial SDA challenger tournament saw Alexander & Bamber lead the draw as top seeds, opposed by Americans Graham Bassett & Greg Park.

The tournament’s sole upset was courtesy of Kyle Martino & Adam Perkiomaki, who held off a five-game comeback against three seeds Alex Domenick & John Roberts, advancing to the semis 15-9 in the fifth.

Alexander & Bamber advanced to the final without dropping game, dispatching locals James Asher & Ricky Weisskopf in the first round and Canadian four seeds Carl Baglio & Robert Nigro in the semifinals.

Bassett & Park also recorded two three-game wins to reach the final, first against Sujat Barua & Ben Hughes in the first round followed by Perkiomaki & Martino in the semis.

The final proved to be all Alexander & Bamber, who after edging a close second game 15-12, emphatically clinched the title 15-2 in the third.

“It’s been a good past two seasons learning more and more about the game with each tournament I play,” said Bamber, who earned a career-high ranking of world No. 12 this month. “Partnering with Zac this past weekend was a great experience and it’s nice to win my first event with a very good friend!”

While the Tompkins Cup marked their first proper appearance on tour together, Alexander & Bamber are well acquainted with each other having worked together at the Round Hill Club in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“We’ve played many times together since we worked at Round Hill so we had a good understanding of each other’s game and personality,” Bamber said. “It’s great to play with a player of Zac’s caliber as you know he won’t be making many errors throughout the match and reads the game so well–even on the left wall.”

Alexander, who also reached a career-high ranking this month at world No. 8, marks his third title of the season.

“The Racquet Club of Philadelphia took great care of us this weekend,” Bamber said. “I had a lot of fun playing in the Pro-Am and ended up winning it with my partner Rob Gundlach.”

The Tompkins Cup has been hosted as a full ranking event every other year since 2012.

 

 

 

Stout & McArthur Continue Ascent in Baltimore

(l-r): James Stout, Greg McArthur, Bernardo Samper, Yvain Badan, Wade Johnstone

Boasting their highest career rankings of world No. 3 and 5, James Stout & Greg McArthur continued their ascent on the SDA tour with their second title of the season—the SDA Gold Baltimore Cup at the Baltimore Country Club in Maryland.

Stout & McArthur, who won Sleepy Hollow in December, nearly collected their second title of the season two weeks prior to the Baltimore Cup at the North American Open as the top seeds, falling just short in a five-game final against Robin Clarke & Zac Alexander.

“It’s always nice to bounce back from a loss with a victory like this,” McArthur said. “I was really disappointed after the NAO final loss. I felt like I wasn’t at my best, so was determined to prepare better for this tournament and it seems to have paid off.”

“After playing a great tournament in the North American Open and falling just short in the final, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do one better in this event,” Stout said.

The motivation to improve on their NAO result shone through as Stout & McArthur entered the draw as two seeds, opposing top seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan.

Stout & McArthur progressed to the final without dropping a game, including a semifinal win over Canadian three seeds Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman.

Americans Graham Bassett & William Hartigan pulled off the tournament’s biggest upset in the quarterfinals, taking out four seeds Omar El Kashef & Jordan Greenberg in three games. Bassett & Hartigan continued their momentum against Samper & Badan in the semis, earning a 2-1 advantage, but the top seeds bounced back to reach the final in five games 15-13, 12-15, 14-15, 15-7, 15-8.

The final set up a rematch of the Sleepy Hollow final between the top two seeds, and yielded the same result with Stout & McArthur clinching the title in four games 15-12, 11-15, 15-10, 15-7.

“We had a couple of close games in the earlier matches and went into the final excited to play Bernardo and Swiss in another final,” Stout said. “Greg has been playing some of the best doubles I have seen from him over the past couple of months, and he continued that form throughout the final, moving the ball around and hitting winners from some ridiculous positions. Bernardo and Swiss were great opponents and will surely come back stronger with a couple of big events coming up in the near future.”

The result will bolster the top five rankings that both players achieved this month, after edging Badan, world No. 4, and Samper, world No. 6.

“It’s been an exciting season so far,” McArthur said. “I feel like every event has had three or four teams that could potentially win it. I’m just happy that James and I keep giving ourselves chances to win. James and I have good chemistry on the court. We play to each other’s strengths and feel that when we are at our best we can beat any team. Big thank you to Wade Johnston and all the members at Baltimore Country Club for a fantastic tournament.”

Stout & McArthur enjoyed a successful end to the 2017-2018 season, earning two titles in April and May. In addition to their Sleepy Hollow title this season, Stout marks his third title of the season having won the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles with Badan.

“We are both excited to have broken into the top 5 in the world this month, and join a distinguished list of players that have gotten that high,” Stout said. “We are enjoying being on tour with a great group of pros, at all of the different events, and meeting the local players and supporters that make the game possible.”

Clarke & Alexander Battle Through NAO Draw to Win Partnership’s First Title

(l-r): Zac Alexander, Robin Clarke, Greg McArthur, James Stout

In their fourth appearance of the season together, Robin Clarke & Zac Alexander went the distance to their first title, battling through two, 2-hour matches in the semifinals and final of the SDA Diamond North American Open at the Field Club of Greenwich, Greenwich Country Club and Round Hill Club in Connecticut.

Clarke & Alexander’s first major hurdle came in the quarterfinals against three seeds Chris Callis & long-time SDA veteran Matt Jenson, who made a return in Greenwich. Clarke & Alexander squeezed through in three games, winning on simultaneous game balls at 14-all in the first and third games.

Clarke & Alexander had come through at 14-all once again in the semifinals, this time in the fifth game against two seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan, completing a five-game comeback from 2-1 down.

The top half of the draw saw in-form James Stout & Greg McArthur overcome a four-game first-round test, to reach the final courtesy of three game wins over Clive Leach & Kyle Martino in the quarters, and Will Mariani & James Bamber in the semis.

The final staged a rematch of the Sleepy Hollow quarterfinals, where Stout & McArthur came back from 2-0 down to defeat Clarke & Alexander in five. Clarke & Alexander were up 2-1 with match balls in hand, when Stout & McArthur staged a comeback to force a fifth game on simultaneous game ball. This time in the fifth, Clarke & Alexander came through to clinch their first career title together 15-9, 6-15, 15-4, 14-15, 15-10.

“It could’ve been a very different story if we had have lost that 14-14 in the 5th point against such a tough team in Bernie and Swiss,” Alexander said. “But to back up a 2+ hour match with another 2 hour battle in the final and having match points to close it out in the 4th, it shows our physical and mental strength is there to compete and beat any team and sustain quality throughout a whole event. Even our quarter against Callis and Jenson was tough with 2 games being 15-14 in our favor.”

Both players mark their first time winning the historic North American Open, which dates back to 1931. Alexander celebrates his second title of the season, adding to his Denver Club Open win in the fall, and Clarke collects his first of the season.

“It was a great weekend for Robin and I,” Alexander said. “Our fourth time pairing up and everything clicked. Amazing to capture such a prestigious title like the NAO, especially for me being based in Greenwich over the last several years and even working at Round Hill as an assistant for two of them.”

The tour heads south to Maryland next week for the SDA Gold Baltimore Cup, February 6-10.

Roberts & West Win First SDA Title in Pittsburgh Debut

(l-r): Jim Shields, Graham Bassett, Adam Bews, Colin West, John Roberts

First-time partners John Roberts & Colin West went the distance to win their first career SDA titles at the sixth Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger in Pennsylvania.

Roberts, a Yale graduate, and West, a Harvard graduate, had a difficult first match together on the SDA tour, defeating Western Ontario graduates Ryan Herden & Mark Porter 15-9 in the fifth.

“We had a hard first match against Ryan and Mark and managed to squeak it out in five,” Roberts said. “I guess it was the first time on court together so it always takes a little time to get comfortable enough to know which balls to leave and take. As the tournament progressed, the matches were still long and tough but we got a little more comfortable with the court and each other so everything became more fluid which helped a lot.”

Roberts & West then went on to upset both of the tournament’s top seeds. In the semifinals, Roberts & West took out two seeds Clinton Leeuw & Omar El Kashef 15-12, 9-15, 15-10, 15-11. Roberts & West then dethroned top seeds Graham Bassett & Adam Bews to clinch the title 15-10, 12-15, 15-8, 15-9.

The Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger was first held in 2014.

“It’s great to win our first tournament in Pittsburgh,” Roberts said. “This is always one of my favorite events and was one of the first I started playing every year. Jim, the members and the staff do an incredible job of making the pros feel so welcome at the club and ensuring we all have a fantastic weekend. I look forward to being back again next year.”