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Mathur & Callis Make Triumphant Return in Boston; Leonard & Ubina Earn Third Title of the Season

Manek Mathur & Chris Callis marked their first tournament together since September with their second title of the season, while Kaley Leonard & Maria Elena Ubina continued their strong season with their third title at the Boston Pro Am, March 27.

The top half of the draw saw top seeds James Stout & Scott Arnold exit the tournament in the semifinals as four seeds Greg McArthur & Zac Alexander pulled off a narrow win 15-13, 15-14, 11-15, 15-14.

Just like they did on their last Boston title run in 2020, Mathur & Callis nearly exited the tournament in the semifinals, escaping their match against three seeds James Bamber & Mike Ferreira on simultaneous match ball in the fifth game 12-15, 15-8, 7-15, 15-8, 15-14 in ninety-one minutes.

Mathur & Callis went on to clinch the title against McArthur & Alexander 15-9, 13-15, 15-12, 15-9 in in seventy-six minutes. Mathur & Callis have now won both tournaments that they have competed in together this year, in a season that has otherwise been disrupted by injuries and covid.

In the women’s draw, Leonard & Ubina continued their strong form this season with another final upset over top seeds Lume and Elani Landman. The two seeds clinched their third title of the season 15-10, 11-15, 15-7, 15-11 in forty-four minutes.

“We’ve tried to play a full season together ever since 2018, but constantly have hiccups, but being on court with Chris is a real treat and I am lucky to do so often enough,” Mathur said. “Hope to finish this season with him injury and covid free. I think at this stage in our careers, winning is always fun but being able to do it with a good friend and spend a weekend together makes things that much more special.”

“It was a brutal effort all the way through, but it really shows you that doubles is still in a great place after two plus years of covid-related difficulties,” Callis said. “Credit to Greg and Zac as well as Mikey and Jim — both matches could have gone either way and both of those teams played great all tournament long. The semi was one of the most exciting games I’ve been of part of in a while and the finals was incredibly high quality from the start. There wasn’t much a difference between the teams in either the semi or the final, but if there was a difference I think what Manek and I did best was change our strategy and style of playas the matches went on. Proud of the way we continued to adjust as the matches went along.”

“Just want to reiterate how great the event turned out from top to bottom,” Callis continued. “The quality of play was top notch, the pro-am was a blast, and of course everything went off without a hitch thanks to Lenny, Chris Spahr, and all of the event sponsors. They really didn’t miss a beat after so much time off and I’m happy they got such a great event quality and sportsmanship-wise — they definitely deserve it.”

“Excited to have the tour back, even more pumped to be back out there doing this with Chris,” Mathur said. “Big thank you to Lenny, Amrit, Tom Poor, Chris Spahr etc. for all their hard work in putting this Boston event together and taking such great care of the players. It’s one of my favorite events and most successful events and I look forward to being back next year!”
View tournament photography here.

Cuskelly & Pilley Win Maiden SDA Title at Ox Ridge

Australian former PSA touring professionals Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley won their first professional doubles title in their second season on the SDA Pro Tour at the second Ox Ridge Open, March  17-20, in Darien, Connecticut.

The eight-team Bronze draw saw an early exit of top seeds Graham Bassett & Clive Leach at the hands of Josh Hughes and B.G. Lemmon. PSA pros Chris Hanson & Chris Binnie pulled off another first-half upset in the bottom half of the draw over four seeds Travis Judson & Alex Domenick after going 2-0 down 12-15, 11-15, 15-10, 15-10, 15-10 in ninety-six minutes.

Elsewhere in the bottom half of the draw, two seeds Hamed Anvari & Clinton Leeuw reached the final courtesy of a four-game, seventy-nine-minute win over Hanson & Binnie 15-11, 12-15, 15-11, 15-9.

Cuskelly & Pilley’s only dropped game of the tournament was their first against surprise National Doubles finalists Lockie Munro & Lyell Fuller. The Aussies were perfect from there on out, dispatching Hughes & Lemmon in a three-game semifinal and Anvari & Leeuw in the final 15-10, 15-5, 15-7.

The title held special meaning for Cuskelly, who recently based himself at the Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet club.

“It’s been great to meet many people and hadve some really tough matches this weekend,” Cuskelly said. “I’d like to thank all of the sponsors and amateurs for making this event possible. I’m new here and super excited to win my first SDA event with Cameron at my home club.”

First-Time Partners Arnold & Stout Capture First David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Title

(l-r): Cameron Pilley, Scott Arnold, James Stout, Ryan Cuskelly

First-time partners Scott Arnold & James Stout enjoyed immediate success in their first event together, pulling off two dramatic semifinal and final comebacks to win the David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Sunday, March 6, at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.

Following a brief COVID-induced hiatus, the SDA Pro Tour resumed with one of its most prestigious and historic events—the first SDA event held since November’s Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open.

For the first time in his career, Arnold entered a tournament with the world No. 1 ranking following his Big Apple Open triumph in Manhattan with Manek Mathur against Stout, his new partner in Brooklyn.

After two three-game victories to reach the semifinals, Stout & James prevailed in the match of the tournament in the semifinals against Australian former PSA pros Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley, who upset four seeds Adam Bews & Clive Leach in the quarterfinals. Arnold & Stout narrowly dropped the first two games 13-15, 14-15, before mounting a comeback to win the two hour and three minute match 15-11, 15-13, 15-9.

“Coming back against Ryan and Cameron, two of the best new players on tour, from 2-0 down was tough physically,” Stout said. “Scott and I knew we had a chance if we were able to control the play, but even then we still needed to get a little lucky. Scott showed his pedigree by stepping up in the fifth game and proving why he is world No. 1.”

In contrast to the two-hour semifinal in the top half of the draw, Sleepy Hollow champions James Bamber & Michael Ferreira advanced to the final after just twenty minutes following an unfortunate Achilles injury sustained by Joshua Hollings.

Arnold & Stout once again found themselves down early in the final as Bamber & Ferreira took the first game 15-6. The top seeds then pulled off yet another comeback to clinch the title 15-12, 15-10, 15-13 after an hour and twenty-seven minutes.

“I think in both matches it was a combo of us starting just a little slow, and the teams we played against playing really well at the beginning of each match,” Arnold said. “Against Cam and Ryan I found we were just struggling to put the ball down early and they were playing really solid while also countering well. Against Mikey and Jim they were both really hot to start the match. Both times we made a couple tactical adjustments that seemed to sway things a little in our favor and in the process gave us a bit more confidence in what we were doing.”

With their first Johnson and SDA title together, Stout celebrates his second consecutive at Heights Casino and first of the season.

“To win back-to-back Johnson titles is incredible and to win with Scott in our first event together was even more special,” Stout said. “It felt great being back on court in a professional tournament, especially in front of one of the loudest, most supportive groups of spectators on the tour. The Heights Casino always makes us feel so welcome and appreciated. A huge thank you to Jim Bamber and the squash committee for putting on such a great event.”

Arnold backs up his new world No. 1 achievement with his first Johnson title and second of the season.

“Obviously it’s always great to win, but for me it’s a first Johnson win, one which I’ve always wanted to get a win in previously,” Arnold said. “This was also the last event we played before all of the chaos, so it’s kind of nice to circle back and have a win here at an event with a ton of history and that is also one of the my favorites to play. It’s also nice to feel like you’re somewhat defending that No. 1 position, even if it’s coming after such a strange and inconsistent time where the rankings perhaps need some time to sort themselves again. After all that’s happened the past two years, and despite some lingering uncertainty, the membership at the Heights Casino dove straight back in to supporting the event and the tour the way they did, and made it feel just like any other Johnson. It was great to be back playing there.”

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.

View tournament photography on the SDA SmugMug page.

Ferreira & Bamber Capture Second Title Together in Sleepy Hallow

James Bamber & Mike Ferreira

Mike Ferreira & James Bamber won their partnership’s second SDA title and first since the 2020 Ox Ridge Open in January 2020 at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open Sunday, November 21, in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

The Englishmen entered the draw as the tournament’s four seeds and opened up their tournament with a four-game win over Canadians Joshua Hollings & Matthew Henderson to set up a semifinal against top seeds Manek Mathur & Chris Callis. Mathur & Callis endured a difficult four-game opening match against former Australian PSA professionals Cameron Pilley & Ryan Cuskelly. The top seeds’ hopes of a second title this season ended abruptly, however, as an injury forced retirement in the third game of their semifinal against Ferreira & Bamber.

Three seeds Greg McArthur & Zac Alexander took part in two of the matches of the tournament. After a four-game opening win over John Roberts & Robby Berner, McArthur & Alexander met two seeds James Stout & Suzie Pierrepont in the semifinals. McArthur & Alexander pulled out a five-game marathon over the two seeds 12-15, 15-14, 15-8, 10-15, 15-12.

The final proved to be another five-game battle, but this time it was Ferreira & Bamber who emerged victorious over McArthur & Alexander 12-15, 15-10, 15-14, 7-15, 15-12.

“It was a very tough final against Greg and Zac and frankly at 10-10 all in the fifth, it could have gone either way,” Ferreira said. “But the momentum swung a little more in our favor as we were able to win a hand full of big points by upping the pace and being a little more patient. It feels great to win another tournament together and it will certainly give us more confidence as a team. Special thank you to the Sleepy Hollow members, Chairman Rob Gutheil and of course Greg McArthur for all the work involved with putting together such a terrific event!”

The tour resumes in the new year as Ferreira & Bamber have the opportunity to defend their Ox Ridge Open title, January 7-9.

Manek Mathur And Scott Arnold Capture Big Apple Open Doubles Crown

by Rob Dinerman

Thoroughly out-played throughout the opening game and just two points from losing the second as well, top seeds and first-time partners Manek Mathur and Scott Arnold responded to the exigency of the moment like the champions they are by winning nine consecutive points (and 16 of 18), then staged a five-point run from 9-10 to 14-10 en route to a 10-15, 15-13, 15-4, 15-11 victory over defending champs James Stout and Yvain Badan Monday evening in the final round of the Big Apple Open, sponsored by JLL and held as always at the New York Athletic Club. At 13-all in that crucial second game, Arnold smashed a forehand cross-court into Stout’s body, forcing a return that sailed over the front-wall boundary line, following which Mathur blazed a forehand down the middle for a clean winner at a juncture in the all-court point when both of his opponents had been maneuvered too close to their respective side walls to react in time.

The outcome of the third game became preordained after Mathur and Arnold shot out to a 7-0 lead, but the fourth was a point-for-point dogfight, with the pace, intensity and quality of play all at an extremely high level and neither team able to muster more than a two-point advantage. Badan, a two-time defending Big Apple Open champion (having won in 2018 with Bernardo Samper and 2019 with Stout), played as well as he ever has during his entire outstanding career, making some spectacular retrievals and alternating power and depth with plenty of excellent corner-work, while Stout, who committed the fewest errors of the foursome, hit a multitude of daring winners and engaged in some prolonged and high-octane cross-court battles with Arnold. The latter’s powerful presence impacted virtually every rally, and Mathur, the SDA tour’s most lethal and creative shot-maker, scored repeatedly with a variety of his imaginative salvos and was cat-quick in his court coverage, as were the three other players as well. Three of the five-straight points that brought the eventual champs from 9-10 to quintuple-match-ball in the final stretch were nick-finding winners from Mathur’s racquet, following which he barely caught the top of the tin with a daring cross-drop from deep in the court. However, the ensuing exchange ended when Arnold buried a forehand reverse-corner to cap off a scintillating performance by both teams.

It marked the second tournament win in as many SDA tour stops this season for Mathur, who captured the season-opening event in St. Louis with Chris Callis in mid-October. It was also the second consecutive time that the Big Apple Open was won by a makeshift team that had to be hastily cobbled together due to injury. Callis, who had been scheduled to play with Mathur in New York this past weekend, suffered an ankle sprain a few days prior to the opening round, necessitating an emergency call to Arnold, the reigning Kellner Cup and North American Open champion (in each case with John Russell), who had not entered the tournament but willingly came down from Toronto to team up with Mathur. Badan and Stout had similarly not planned to partner up in the 2019 edition of this event but agreed to do so when each of their scheduled partners — Samper (hamstring) and Greg McArthur (wrist) respectively — were sidelined with injuries. Stout and Badan had actually won all three tournaments they had entered — the 2018 Sleepy Hollow Open, 2019 Big Apple Open and 2020 David C. Johnson Memorial at the Heights Casino Club in Brooklyn — prior to their narrow loss in this Big Apple Open final.

Although the top four seeded teams — Mathur/Arnold, Stout/Badan, Zac Alexander/McArthur and Michael Ferreira/James Bamber — all reached the semis, the top two seeds attained the final and the No. 1 seeded team ultimately made it to the winner’s circle, this couldn’t have been further from a business-as-usual “totem-pole” tournament. Mathur and Arnold were pushed to the absolute brink in their torrid 100-plus-minute semifinal with Alexander and McArthur, who led 11-6 in a fifth game that later was tied at 13-all before Arnold was able to first power a cross-court drive into the front-left nick and then volley a three-wall into the exact same spot to close out that 38-minute game on a memorably emphatic note. Mathur and Arnold had also salvaged the first game of that streak-filled match with a 10-2 burst from 5-11 prior to letting a 12-6 second-game lead get away, following which they won the third from 7-all with an 8-0 burst but lost the fourth. Ferreira and Bamber, winners at the tour stop at the 2020 Ox Ridge Club in their first foray together, barely (15-12 in the fifth, with a pair of split 15-14 games earlier on) survived their quarterfinal match against Adam Bews and Eric Bedell, round-of-16 victors over qualifiers Bobby Burns and Lyell Fuller. Ferreira and Bamber then lost, 15-12 in the fourth, to Stout and Badan, whose quarterfinal match with Graham Bassett and Clive Leach (15-14 fourth-game round-of-16 winners over Alex Domenick and Travis Judson) also lasted four games.

In the draw’s top half, Chris Binnie and Jamie Haycocks, leading Lockie Monroe and Kyle Martino two games to one but trailing 14-12 in the fourth game of the final qualifying round, rescued that game by winning the next three points and then prevailed in three games over two-time Massachusetts State champions Hameed Ahmed and John Roberts to advance to a quarterfinal match-up against Mathur/Arnold, while recently-retired former PSA standouts Ryan Cuskelly and Cameron Pilley edged out Clinton Leeuw, the head pro at the host club, and Will Hartigan, 15-14 in the fourth, before losing in four games to Alexander and McArthur. There was a total of nine games in the tournament’s main draw (and three in the qualifying) that were decided by 15-14 scores, including all four close-out games in the quartet of round-of-16 matches and two of the close-out games in the qualifying, as well as, for that matter, the close-out fourth game of the Pro-Am final, in which Bews and Alan Kanders eked out a victory over Arnold and Will Heffernan. Of the tournament’s 11 main-draw matches, all but one was either extended to at least a fourth game or had at least one game that was decided by two points or fewer. There remains one more Calendar 2021 ranking tournament, the Sleepy Hollow Open in two and a half weeks, before the schedule really picks up with four tour stops in January that will jumpstart a full slate throughout the winter and spring months of 2022.