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.
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.”