England’s John Russell & James Bamber join the prestigious Tavern Club Open winners list after a successful partnership debut in Cleveland, Ohio.
Both Russell & Bamber entered the tournament with positive momentum on the SDA Pro Tour. Russell, world No. 5, had won the previous tour event leading up to the Tavern Club–the Graham Company Cup with Greg Park. Meanwhile, Bamber entered the tournament with a career high ranking of world No. 11 on the heels of inaugural SDA title in February–the Tompkins Cup.
The Englishmen entered the Tavern Club draw as the two seeds, opposing top seeds Bernardo Samper, world No. 7, & Yvain Badan, world No. 4.
The draw largely played out according to seeding with the top four seeds progressing to the semifinals, although the three and four seeds had to earn it in five-game quarterfinals. John Roberts & Hameed Ahmed, the four seeds, came back from 2-1 down to defeat Matt Domenick & Travis Judson 15-13 in the fifth, while Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold, the three seeds, held off a five-game comeback against Adam Bews & Colin West.
Saturday, April 13, made for an intense slate of doubles squash with both the semifinals and finals scheduled for the early afternoon and evening. The top two seeds both advanced to the final in four games. First, Russell & Bamber escaped 15-14 in the fourth to beat Clarke & Arnold. Samper & Badan then followed on to take down Roberts & Ahmed 15-8, 14-15, 15-9, 15-8.
In the final Russell avenged his PDC Cup final loss against the top seeds with Bamber, clinching the title 15-13, 13-15, 15-13, 15-8.
Russell celebrates his third title of the season, and first Tavern Club title having lost in the past two finals against Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge.
“It feels great to finally win this event after losing in the two previous finals,” Russell said. “Playing with James was a pleasure, he brings a lot of energy on the court with him and has the potential to carry on improving and being one of the best around.”
Bamber, twenty-three years old, continues his improving form with his second and largest career SDA title. The result also marks the first year that neither Damien Mudge or Ben Gould won the tournament since 2007.
“JR is a legend of the game so I was just trying to let him take the lead this weekend and help out where I could,” Bamber said. “I feel I’ve learnt a lot from playing with JR in just one weekend. It feels great to have another title in the bag for this season. I was looking back on the previous winners of the event and it’s a honor to be on the same board as them.”
The Tavern Club Open was first held in 2006.
“Ian Sly doses a fantastic job running an extremely organized event,” Russell said. “The Tavern Club members are very knowledgeable about the game and the size of the crowd made for a great atmosphere.”
Former Germantown Cricket Club regular Greg Park extended his Graham Company Cup title record with his fifth on St. Patrick’s Day, after rekindling a partnership with John Russell for their second event this season.
Having spent two seasons together nearly seven years ago, Russell & Park reunited ahead of the David C. Johnson Jr. Memorial last month. In Brooklyn, Russell & Park put together a successful semifinal run as the three seeds.
In Philadelphia, Russell & Park once again entered the draw as the three seeds, but this time went one better. Like Brooklyn, Russell & Park opened up their tournament with a difficult five-setter, holding off a comeback from Adam Bews & Hamed Anvari 15-13, 15-7, 7-15, 3-15, 15-10. Russell & Park then edged two seeds Robin Clark & Scott Alexander in a close semifinal 15-13, 15-13, 13-15, 15-12.
In the final, the SDA veterans pulled through to clinch the title 15-10, 15-9, 8-15, 15-12.
While Russell adds his name to the Graham Company Cup winners list for the first time, Park marks his fifth, following up his 2014 title with Jonny Smith, 2012 and 2010 titles with Imran Khan and 2007 title with Shane Coleman. Coleman is second on the winners list having won three titles from 2004-2007.
“Playing with JR is always a lot of fun,” Park said. “A tremendous player on the court and a great guy off. Our families are very close throughout the year not just with squash. That helps to make a solid team. Plus JR, as everyone knows, is one of the best players of all time.”
Russell’s second title of the season came just days before his fortieth birthday on Wednesday, March 20.
“It feels good to be answering questions about a tournament win on my fortieth birthday,” Russell said. “Greg played really well this weekend, continuing to improve after playing great three weeks ago at the Heights event. His style compliments my game greatly. Feels good to have finally won this event as I’m pretty sure I had reached four finals there. It was also great to have my son and wife there watching.”
The Graham Company Cup may be the end of his established SDA Pro Tour career, Park admits. At thirty-six years old, Park–the 2012 and 2013 U.S. National Doubles champion and 2011 ISDA Rookie of the Year–played eight events this season.
“This was a special one for both of us,” Park said. “JR was able to get the win and have his wife and son there to watch. My fifth time winning is a great feeling. Germantown is where I started playing so I am glad to have won the most titles there, and this time I had my wife and three kids to cheer me on. My “lucky charms” that day. It was also special because it was most likely my last event and a great way to go out–a win with a great friend of mine and we had our families there to share it with.”