Category Archives: Featured

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 & Callis Clinch Season-Opener at Expanded Maryland Club

Manek Mathur & Chris Callis opened the 2018-2019 SDA season with a dominant display in Baltimore, clinching the SDA Diamond Maryland Club Open title Monday night.

Mathur, world No. 1, had been forced to shuffle partners this season due to an injury keeping Damien Mudge off court—his partner for the past two seasons. Mathur rekindled his 2015 Big Apple Open finalist partnership with Chris Callis, Princeton graduate and 2016 SDA rookie of the year. Callis stepped into Mudge’s role on the right wall as Mathur & Callis led the draw as top seeds.

Mathur & Callis blew past Peter Kelly & Joshua Schwartz 15-5, 15-8, 15-7 in the first round, and put in another strong performance in the quarterfinals against Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris, 15-9, 15-3, 15-3.

Commonwealth Games doubles gold medalist Zac Alexander & Robin Clark upset the seedings in the quarterfinals, defeating England’s Clive Leach & James Bamber 15-14, 15-4, 15-5 to set up a semifinal against the top seeds. Mathur & Callis proved to be too much for Alexander & Clarke in the semis with the top seeds once again progressing to the final in three games.

2018 Buffalo Pro Doubles champions James Stout & Greg McArthur claimed the biggest upset in the bottom half of the draw. Two seeds John Russell & Yvain Badan had come back from 2-0 down to win their quarterfinal match up in five games against Raj Nanda & Greg Park. The two seeds found themselves 2-0 down once again in the semis against Stout & McArthur and appeared to be on the brink of another come back by winning the third and holding a simultaneous game/match ball at 14-all in the fourth. Stout & McArthur claimed the pivotal point to take the match 15-14 in the fourth.

Mathur & Callis continued their strong form into the final against Stout & McArthur, dropping just five points in the first and third games to claim the title in three. The title marks the largest of Callis’ SDA career and Mathur’s first at the Maryland Club.

“It was a treat to be out there with Chris,” Mathur said. “We go so far back that our friendship and understanding showed through with our on court communication, which was a massive plus. When you have someone new to play doubles with, no matter who they are or how good, the meshing aspect can be tricky. I think we understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses to a T.”

The Maryland Club Open event returns to the SDA Tour with its highest prize money to date following a brief hiatus last season. The club underwent renovations that added a third hardball doubles court—the only club in the United States with three courts.

“The Maryland Club is a special place,” Mathur said. “They’ve got some of the best members and now the best squash doubles facility in the world. It was a treat to be a part of their event and history and I am already counting down the days to their next event. Andrew Cordova is a class act. What he does for the game and the sport is unparalleled and consistently pushes us pros to raise the bar at our home clubs. Can’t thank the club, membership and the staff enough for treating us like family all through the weekend.”

Profile Of Ed Garno, US National Doubles Champion

Dateline June 7, 2018 — One of the most noteworthy developments in US doubles squash in recent years has been the ascent of Ed Garno, who this past March became, at age 49 years, 5 months and 21 days, the oldest player ever to win the U.S. National Doubles championship when he teamed up with his six-year partner Alex Stait to defeat, sequentially, Ricky Weisskopf and Richard Dodd, Alex Luque and Imran Khan and the Round Hill Club pairing of Steve Scharff and Zac Alexander in a four-game final in Philadelphia that ended with Garno knifing a forehand reverse-corner winner at match-ball. The previous oldest-ever winner of this tournament, the late Victor Elmaleh, was also 49 when he and Vic Niederhoffer won in St. Louis in 1968, but Garno was two months older when he and Stait triumphed than Elmaleh was when the tournament was held 50 years ago.

Remarkably, Garno did not take up squash until he was well into his 30’s. Although he attended Haverford School during the mid-1980’s, a time throughout which the school squash team, featuring such future stars in college and beyond as Morris Clothier, Russ Ball and Chris Spahr, was in the midst of a dynastic run that extended from the late 1970’s until the early 1990’s, Garno’s primary sports during his middle-school and high-school years were football (as the team’s starting quarterback and punter), baseball (he played shortstop) and tennis. He then went to the University of Virginia, where he was the first-string punter on teams that played in bowl games in each of his last three years (namely the Florida Citrus Bowl against Illinois in 1990, the Sugar Bowl against Tennessee in 1991 and the Gator Bowl vs. Oklahoma in 1992) and made all-Academic ACC all of those three years, as well as all-ACC and Honorable Mention all-America during his senior year. He then returned to tennis and spent the next dozen-odd years winning numerous (more than two dozen) Merion Cricket Club, Waynesborough Country Club and regional singles and doubles championships on both grass and clay in that sport.

Although Garno started playing squash midway through the first decade of the 2000’s, initially more as a way of keeping fit during the winter months than as a game to pursue with competitive aspirations, it was his connection with former WPSA superstar and US SQUASH Hall of Famer Ned Edwards approximately seven years ago which caused the sea-change in Garno’s improvement in and commitment to doubles squash that led to his stellar recent results. Fortuitously, it was also right around this time frame that the British-born Stait, a former PSA pro singles player who had attained a ranking just outside the top 50 before a recurring knee injury forced him to retire from the tour and shift his energies to coaching, moved to America after being hired as an assistant coach at Merion in January 2012. A standing game developed featuring Edwards/Garno against Stait and former WPSA standout (and extraordinarily successful Harvard squash coach from 1992-99) Bill Doyle during the spring and summer of 2012, throughout which this foursome would play several times per week. Garno and Stait made swift and steady progress in learning the nuances of doubles from the two decorated veterans Edwards (a three-time North American Open Doubles Champ from 1989-91 with Alan Grant) and Doyle, a North American Open finalist with Hugh Labossier in 1987).

The following autumn, Doyle relocated to Boston and Edwards was forced by a lingering knee injury to reduce his playing, but by then Stait and Garno felt they were ready to join forces and enter Open tournaments. Although their SDA debut at an event at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia in February 2013 had a disappointing ending — with a 15-14 fifth-game loss to Carl Baglio and Gilly Lane — they played well enough in that match and those that followed to convince them that they belonged at this level. It took them a few years to learn their way around the tour, absorbing some close losses along the way but also starting to earn their way into main draws and occasionally attaining the quarterfinals. Throughout that time, Garno doggedly tracked down games with top-level players, occasionally even traveling back and forth to New York when an especially strong practice game presented itself, and by Spring 2016 they were ready for a breakthrough performance at the season-ending Challenger tournament at the Racquet & Tennis Club in midtown Manhattan.

With Garno having come up short three times in the finals of Open events earlier that season — with Stait in the William White to Josh Schwartz/Tim Wyant, with Edwards in the Century event to Dominic Hughes/Nigel Thani and with Narelle Krizek in the US Mixed Doubles in five games against James Stout and Suzie Pierrepont — and with Stait having recently missed some time with a shoulder strain, the pair entered the Challenger event just hoping that they would be able to get through the tough qualifying draw that awaited them. They did, surmounting a 14-11 first-game deficit en route to a straight-game win over Stout and Barney Tanfield and then out-playing Travis Judson and James Bamber. Building on the momentum they thereby generated, Stait and Garno ambushed the top-seeded Randy Lim/Hamed Anvari duo in the quarters and followed up with a semifinal win over qualifiers Lane and Fred Reid Jr., five-game first-round upset winners over fourth seeds Andres Vargas and John Roberts.

In the final against Imran Khan and Greg McArthur, Stait and Garno, after dropping the opening game, took both the second and third 15-14. Khan and McArthur rallied to force a fifth game, but Stait and Garno raced off to an early lead and never looked back, sprinting to the finish line with a 15-8 tally that made them the first qualifying team to win a ranking event since the pro doubles association was renamed the SDA (after a 12-year run as the ISDA) in 2012. Afterwards, they explicitly praised and thanked Edwards and Doyle for having, as Stait phrased it, “taught us how to play a few summers ago at Merion. We learned together and have played together ever since. That’s really the key for us, playing together all the time and enjoying it.” Indeed, they are the team on the SDA tour that has stayed together the longest as partners by a substantial margin: no other SDA team has been intact even as long as TWO years, let alone six, other than the top-ranked pairing of Manek Mathur and Damien Mudge, who have only been partners dating back to September 2016, three and a half years after Stait and Garno became teammates.

During the subsequent 2016-17 season, after losing in the final of the William White the previous two years, Stait and Garno captured this prestigious title in a three-game final over Merion pros Scott Devoy and Dane Sharp, which made Garno, who had teamed with Rob Whitehouse to win the William White 40-and-over flight in 2012, perhaps the only player to have won the White Open division AFTER having won a White age-group category. Later that winter they achieved perhaps their best SDA win at the Baltimore Cup at the expense of the highly regarded Jacques Swanepoel and Shaun Johnstone, which elevated them to the cusp of the top 20 in the SDA rankings. A few months after that, Garno and Krizek won the US Mixed Doubles with a four-game triumph over Dave Rosen and Victoria Simmonds in the defining match-up of that five-team round-robin.

This past season, after winning the US National Doubles, Stait and Garno reached the semis of the Racquet & Tennis Challenger event via a 3-0 quarterfinal over Baglio and Kyle Martino. Their attempted title defense in this biennial event was then foiled by the eventual champs Stout and McArthur, who would go on to defeat Swanepoel and Jordan Greenberg in the final. Although Stait and Garno play a somewhat limited SDA schedule (seven tournaments this past season) due to Stait’s commitments as Director of Squash at Agnes Irwin — a position he has held for the past five years at this private all-girls school in suburban Philadelphia, which he led to the Inter-Ac pennant and a second-place finish at the US National High School Championships in 2018 — they are nevertheless both listed in the top 35 of the SDA rankings and fully plan to be an active partnering presence on the 2018-19 tour (which begins shortly after Garno’s 50th birthday this coming September 11th) and for the foreseeable future.

Second SDA Combine Primes Two Dozen Prospects

The second SDA Pro Tour Combine drew two dozen prospects to the doubles courts on Sunday, June 3, at Apawamis in Rye, New York.

The combine aims to expose experienced singles players to professional-level hardball doubles in hopes of attracting competitors to the SDA Pro Tour.

The twenty-four players included current and recent college graduates, current and former PSA players and teaching professionals. The coaching staff consisted of world No. 1 Manek Mathur, Commonwealth Games gold medalist Zac Alexander, veterans Steve Scharff and Travis Judson, and SDA Tour Director Graham Bassett.

“Having twenty-four young doubles players make the trip to Rye from locales ranging from Toronto to South Carolina was really a neat thing to experience,” Scharff said. “All the participants showed a passion and enthusiasm for doubles that made the day fly by. While everyone had a strong squash background, the amount of doubles that each player had experienced varied. Everyone took advantage of having the coaches there and you could see remarkable improvement in the strategies and tactics being utilized by the end of the day.”

The players were divided into four teams consisting of three pairs with a coach leading each team. At the end of the day, the Grey team topped the standings thanks to Chris Fernandez & Alexander Ma, Ryan Mullaney & Greg Crane and Dane Sharp & Freddy Hernandez, each earning SDA rankings points as a result.

“I took a lot away from the combine, it was great to be able to get coaching in between games and matches from some very good and established doubles players,” said Fernandez, a recent graduate of St. Lawrence. “They definitely see the game from a completely different perspective and to have them share their knowledge and wisdom with us was something I don’t take from granted. I will definitely look Into playing more events next year.”

The top two teams with the best records, Tim Lasusa & Elroy Leong and Fernandez & Ma, also received bonus rankings points for the best games won record.

“The main take away for me from the combine for me was just having the opportunity to meet other great doubles players who are also interested in joining the tour,” said Ma, a recent graduate of Harvard. “Getting on court with such high-quality players, combined with the advice of the coaches, really helped me understand the areas where I need to improve my game in order to win matches on the doubles tour. It was a great experience that will me develop further as a player and more importantly, expand my network in the doubles scene.”

In addition to exposure to elite coaching, the participants were provided with the full network of SDA professionals in hopes of securing future partnerships.

Overall it was a very inspiring day and I will definitely be playing some more events this coming season as a result,” said Tim Lasusa, a recent St. Lawrence graduate and PSA player. “Hopefully we can get more young guys playing after they graduate. It’s an amazing game and it’s a great time to join. Eventually the top guys are going to retire and it’s up to us to step up and create a great product.”

Watch match replays below. View images in the SDA SmugMug gallery.