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.”
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.”
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.
The inaugural Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open presented by Sherry-Lehmann SDA Bronze draw saw home hero Greg McArthur & James Stout battle through a competitive draw to win their first title of the season together and third of 2018.
The first round saw two major five-gamers right off the bat. In the top half of the draw, Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris squandered a 2-0 lead when four seeds Clive Leach & James Bamber forced a fifth game, but Ferreira & Morris got the best of Leach & Bamber in the fifth to advance 15-12, 15-13, 13-15, 7-15, 15-12.
Stout & McArthur, the two seeds, opened up their tournament with a difficult draw against world No. 18 Robin Clarke & world No. 14 Zac Alexander. The champions were on the brink of a first-round exit as Clarke & Alexander took the first two games 15-5, 15-14. Stout & McArthur regrouped, however, decisively winning the remaining three games 15-4, 15-7, 15-4.
The top two seeds reasserted their superior rankings in the semifinals as Yvain Badan & Bernardo Samper dispatched Ferreira & Morris in four games, and Stout & McArthur held off three seeds Raj Nanda & Greg Park–also in four games–to reach their second final of the season.
The Sleepy Hollow fans got their money’s worth in the club’s first ever SDA final, as Stout, world No. 6, & McArthur, world No. 10, upset the Badan, world No. 3, & Samper, world No. 8, 9-15, 15-6, 15-14, 14-15, 15-7.
“Of the four tournament victories James and I have together this one was the toughest to achieve,” McArthur said. “Any of our three matches en route to the title could have been finals in most SDA events. Robin and Zac definitely gave us a scare in the first round and we were very relieved to turn things around and win in five games. This was the second match against Swiss and Bernie this season. I’m really enjoying the friendly rivalry against those guys. They are such great players and every time we play them we have to step up our game.”
Stout & McArthur’s final victory against Samper & Badan avenged their five-game loss at the Big Apple Open where they fell 15-13 in the fifth.
“This was such a strong draw with five or six teams that could have won the event,” Stout said. “We knew we had to play well from the first match, having drawn Robin and Zac, and were really pleased to comeback in five games for the win. Swiss and Bernie are such a strong and steady team, we knew we would have to play really well to have a chance in the final. Having lost to them in a close match at the end of last month, we were excited to try to turn the result around. It was a really exciting match and great to be a part of the Inaugural Sleepy Hollow event.”
The Sleepy Hollow Open marked Stout & McArthur’s third tournament of the season, with the pairing reaching the Maryland Club Open final in addition to the Big Apple quarters.
“James and I have always had good chemistry on court,” McArthur said. “Our results really speak for themselves, but I think the biggest factor right now is increased confidence and belief. When you have someone of James’ quality on the left wall it is easy to believe you can win.”
After winning their first SDA event together at the 2013 Graham Company Cup, the duo had a strong end to the 2017-2018 season by winning the R&TC Challenger and Buffalo Pro Doubles. The title marks Stout’s second of the season following his Westchester Country Club triumph with Badan.
“It is always a pleasure being on court with Greg, not only because we are close friends but also because we respect each others game–there aren’t many guys that can run around for 90 minutes and still hit ridiculous winners at the end of it,” Stout said. “We have been playing a few more tournaments recently, which definitely helps with our confidence. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Sleepy Hollow for running an incredible tournament, and especially to Greg.”
For McArthur, the Sleepy Hollow head pro, the occasion of winning in front of his membership was a special one.
“It was such a privilege to be able to compete and win in front of my members,” McArthur said. “I love working with these people day in day out and to have them there sharing my success is a memory I’ll cherish for quite some time. Before stepping on court for the final I was already delighted with how the tournament had went. This is our first time hosting a professional tournament and I hope it’s the first of many. I’d like to thank the squash committee, all the members, patrons and staff at Sleepy Hollow Country Club and especially our title sponsor Sherry-Lehmann. The event simply could not have happened without all their support.”
SDA Tour focus now shifts to Atlanta, Georgia, for the final event of the 2018 calendar year–the PDC Cup, December 5-8.
Will Mariani & Justin Todd became the first Canadian team to win the Jim Bentley Cup since 1996 Monday night, as both players celebrate their first career SDA titles at the Cambridge Club in Toronto, Canada.
Mariani & Todd’s campaign in the eight-team SDA Bronze draw opened with a three game win over the only all-American team in the draw, Imran Khan & Hamed Anvari, to set up a semifinal match up against fellow Canadians Amar Gupta & Ryan Herden. Mariani & Todd upset the seeding 15-8, 15-13, 15-7 to reach Mariani’s fifth career SDA final and Todd’s second.
The top half of the draw completed an all Canadian semifinal lineup. Tyler Hamilton & Robert Nigro upset top seeds Graham Bassett & Freddie Reid in the first round, while four seeds Robin Clarke & Thomas Brinkman held off a close three game challenge from Joshua Hollings and Cole Osborne. The tournament’s only five-gamer ensued with Clarke & Brinkman just edging Hamilton & Nigro 12-15, 15-12, 9-15, 15-13, 15-5.
In the final, Mariani & Todd were aided by a physically struggling Clarke & Brinkman. Clarke had endured a groin injury picked up in the first round, while Brinkman sustained a rolled ankle in the third game of the final. Mariani & Todd pressed on through the final to clinch the title 15-10, 15-9, 15-10.
As is tradition for the champions, Mariani & Todd donned Cambridge Club robes, representing their new lifetime memberships to the club as they lifted the Jim Bentley Cup.
“It feels great to win the Jim Bentley Cup,” Mariani said. “I’m not sure the first time I met Jim, but as we both aged I continually saw and conversed with him, mostly at the Cricket Club bar. To know our names will be etched on the trophy and painted on the board of the Cambridge is one cool feeling. And to know we are the first Canadian team since Waite & Bentley in 1996 is special.”
Mariani, a Pickering, Ontario, native, praised the Toronto hardball doubles community that was reflected in the all Canadian semifinals.
“To have four Canadian teams in the semis of an SDA event is a great feat and hopefully it encourages more of us to play in SDA events,” Mariani said. “Currently six of the eight of us play out of clubs in Toronto and it is a special city to play hardball doubles in–it is the Mecca of the sport. Thanks must go out to the “old guard”, who whipped us countless times over the past twenty years, but have always been encouraging and supportive of our efforts.”
The Jim Bentley Cup is one of the longest-running events on the SDA tour, dating back to 1973. Jim Bentley, the tournament’s namesake, served as a long-time head professional at the Cambridge Club.
“The club puts on a great event, especially the Friday night black tie dinner which kick starts the weekend,” Mariani said. “I’m sure some members did not make it home til after the finals on Monday night. There is no better club on tour to be locked up in for four nights.”