John Russell & Scott Arnold both hit career milestones by lifting the biennial $50,000 Kellner Cup for the first time in their careers–their largest career titles on the SDA Pro Tour–Monday night, April 29, at the Racquet & Tennis Club of New York.
The result also marks Russell’s third consecutive title following up the recent Graham Company Cup and Tavern Club Open–another career first. The string of results sends the Englishman up to career high world ranking of No. 2 in May’s Tour rankings.
The SDA Diamond draw attracted a full field of sixteen partnerships, four of which progressed through qualifying draws. The quarterfinals produced one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when recently-crowned U.S. National Doubles champions Mike Ferreira & Whitten Morris took out top seeds James Stout & Greg McArthur 15-12, 12-15, 15-11, 15-13.
Russell & Arnold entered the draw as the four seeds in what was their first appearance together this season. After dropping a game against qualifiers Alex Stait & Ed Garno in the first round, Russell & Arnold righted the ship to win their quarterfinal against Will Mariani & James Bamber and semifinal against Ferreira & Morris in three games to reach the final.
The bottom half of the draw largely played out according to seeding. Three seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan pulled off a five-game escape after going 2-0 down against Jonny Smith & Jacques Swanepoel to reach the semifinals. Two seeds Robin Clarke & Chris Callis, world No. 1, progressed through the draw efficiently without dropping a game on their way to the final, including a 15-8, 15-12, 15-10 semifinal victory over Samper & Badan.
The final proved to be a close contest with Clarke & Callis taking the opening game 15-14. Russell & Arnold rebounded to take the second 15-10 before narrowly taking the third 15-14 and fourth 15-13 to claim the title.
While the Kellner Cup marked Russell & Arnold’s first tournament together this season, the duo picked up where they left off last season.
“This was our first event together for eleven months, but it felt as if we practice together everyday,” Russell said. “Our playing styles really compliment each other, we’ve now played seven events together, winning three and losing in four finals. “I recently turned forty and know that I probably only have a couple of years left at being able to compete at this level. I’ve definitely felt more focused than ever on the court.”
Russell, a two-time World Doubles champion for England, celebrates his fourth title of the season–all coming with different partners–and eleventh overall title, while Arnold collects his seventh career title.
Arnold returns to the rankings’ top ten for the first time since December 2018 following the result, while Russell bests his previous career high ranking of No. 3 with the No. 2 position. Russell & Arnold will close out the season together as the three seeds in the Buffalo Club Pro Doubles draw, May 9-12.
The tournament’s namesake, George Kellner, presented the trophy to Russell & Arnold in front of a packed R&T gallery.
“Winning the Monday night final on a packed R&T court for the Kellner Cup would be the highlight of anyone’s career,” Russell said. “Jonny Smith, Damien Mudge and Manek Mathur all combined to make the event run extremely well with lots of extra perks for the players.”
2019 was the thirteenth iteration of the Kellner Cup, which was first hosted in 2000. The tournament was co-hosted by three New York City clubs: the University Club, Union Club and Racquet & Tennis Club.
Seventeen years since claiming the inaugural Kellner Cup in 2000 with Gary Waite, Damien Mudge earned a record tenth title in the twelfth staging of the biennial $50,000 tournament co-hosted in New York City by the Union Club, Racquet & Tennis Club and University Club. Racquet & Tennis Club head professional and left-waller Manek Mathur adds his name to the Kellner Cup for the first time alongside Mudge on his home R & T court.
Australian four seeds Matt Jenson & Scott Arnold fought off a first-round scare against one of the surprise teams of the season, Bobby Burns & James Bamber, coming back from two games down to reach the quarterfinals in five—the only main draw five-gamer of the weekend.
The tour bids Andres Vargas farewell after the Colombian reached the main draw with fellow Trinity graduate Randy Lim, eventually bowing out against Mathur & Mudge. Vargas returns to his native Colombia this summer before relocating to Madrid, Spain in the fall where he will pursue a business degree.
The tournament culminated with a packed gallery for the final Monday night at the Racquet & Tennis Club. For the first final in tournament history, all three host clubs were represented by their head professionals in Mathur (R&T), Mudge (University Club) and Smith (Union Club).
The top seeds emphatically captured their eighth title of the season, defeating Callis & Smith 15-8, 15-12, 15-7, completing their tournament run without dropping a game all weekend.
“This is obviously a very special tournament for all of us,” Mudge said. “It’s special to have your R&T head pro Manek, Jonny from the Union Club, myself, and someone like Chris Callis all on court in the final is remarkable, and hasn’t happened before.”
Mudge’s incredible record of ten titles now spans seventeen years and four partners: six with Gary Waite (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006), one with Viktor Berg (2008), two with Ben Gould (2013, 2015) and now his first with Mathur.
“A big shout out to the Kellners, they are such a class act,” Mudge said. “I’ve known George for nearly twenty years, and what they’ve done professionally for squash, and personally, from the smallest to the largest things. Gary Waite reached out to George back in 2000 about starting this event, so thank you so much George for leading the charge ever since and starting this great tradition.”
The final marked the end of season for both Callis & Smith, who sit out of the two remaining events, the Tavern Club Invitational and Buffalo Club Pro Doubles. The new partnership enjoyed a successful season having frequently reached semifinals, and making three final appearances at the PDC Cup, Baltimore Cup and Kellner.
“Congrats to Damien and Manek, they were so good tonight,” Smith said. “As everyone mentions, Damien is so phenomenal and has his name everywhere and so many times. He’s an incredible athlete on court, and great guy off court. Manek, you are so young, I can’t imagine the future you have ahead of you. It was really special for the three head pros to be on court together tonight, it’s an amazing achievement. Thanks to my partner, Chris. We’ve had an amazing season together and thanks to the Kellners for making all of this happen.”
Mathur’s status on the tour has drastically changed since his Kellner Cup final loss against Mudge & Gould in 2015. Since that final, Mathur has taken up both Gould’s former position as the Racquet & Tennis Club head professional and as Mudge’s partner.
“When you start playing doubles you hear about the Kellner Cup, and by far it’s the one event that you want your name on. I’m absolutely honored to have my name on there with players like Damien, Ben Gould, Gary Waite and all of the legends of squash doubles. Thanks to the SDA, we have a lot of board members here. The brain power behind this board is just tremendous, and the game has grown so much in the past five years thanks to them.”
Mathur & Mudge will aim to end their season with a ninth title out of ten tournaments this weekend in Cleveland at the Tavern Club Invitational.
“Chris and Jonny did well to get to the final, so congrats to them on a great tournament,” Mathur said. “Last but not least, thanks to my partner, Damien. Every event you go to, you see his name on every wall—and not just once. It’s an absolute pleasure playing with you, I’ve grown so much on and off the court this season playing with you so thanks so much for this season.”
The penultimate event of the season, the $35,000 Tavern Club Invitational, will take place this weekend April, 27-29.
One of the highest prize money events on the SDA Pro Tour, the biennial $50,000 Kellner Cup, returns to its perennial home in New York City this weekend at the Racquet & Tennis Club, University Club and Union Club.
Four qualifying draws kick off Thursday evening to complete the full sixteen-team main draw, which will be contested over four days at the three host venues. Select matches will be live streaming on Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday, and all matches live scoring throughout the weekend on www.sdaprotour.com/live.
The team of the season so far, world No. 1 Manek Mathur & world No. 2 Damien Mudge, lead the draw as the top seeds in search of their eighth title of the season in their ninth tournament. Mudge is in search of his tenth Kellner Cup title since 2000, which would be with his fourth partner.
Two seeds Yvain Badan & Mike Ferreira will hope to earn their third title of the season, which would be their first since November’s PDC Cup. The joint world No. 3’s handed Mathur & Mudge their only loss of the season at the Maryland Club Cup in October.
With the 2015 J.P Morgan and Trunk Club World Doubles Championships looming next week, defending world and Kellner Cup champions Damien Mudge & Ben Gould made a strong statement of intent to retain both titles by first claiming the $50,000 Kellner Cup in the SDA season finale Monday night.
Unlike the 2013 World Doubles hosted in New York City, which absorbed and incorporated the biennial Kellner Cup, the tournaments separated in 2015 with the Kellner Cup maintaining its perennial host clubs—The University Club, Union Club, and Racquet & Tennis Club—and the biennial World Squash Federation World Doubles—a non-ranking event—moving to Chicago for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Regarded as one of the most prestigious SDA events on the calendar with one of the highest prize money purses since its inception in 2000, the Kellner Cup aptly marked the close of the 2014-2015 SDA season with one of the most competitive fields of the season including four qualification draws and a sixteen-team main draw.
Of the four qualifiers, recently-crowned Canadian national doubles champions Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold reasserted their ascendency in their first season as regular fixtures on the tour. The joint world No. 31’s dubbed “the two towers” were the only qualifiers to reach the quarters, pulling off a decisive three-game upset over world No. 12 Imran Khan and world No. 15 Freddie Reid. Clarke & Arnold’s season then came to an end in the quarters after falling to eventual finalists Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan.
New Yorkers and Trinity Alums Shaun Johnstone & Jacques Swanepoel produced a second significant upset in the first round over Saint Louis Open and Graham Company Challenger champions, Viktor Berg & Hamed Anvari. Johnstone & Swanepoel recovered from 2-1 down to advance to the quarterfinals in five games, where the Zimbabwe and South African natives nearly caused another five-game upset over fourth-seeded Big Apple Open champions John Russell & Clive Leach.
Russell & Leach survived a quarterfinal scare, however, winning the fifth game 15-13 to reach the semifinals against top-seeded Damien Mudge & Ben Gould. In what could be a precursor for the anticipated World Doubles final, England’s world doubles two seeds provided the Australian world champions with their most difficult challenge of the tournament, losing the first game on simultaneous game ball 15-14, and winning the second game 15-9. The world No. 1’s recovered drastically in the third 15-3, before claiming their place in the Monday’s final.
The second semifinal saw an all-Trinity showdown between third-seeded Mike Ferreira & Jonny Smith and Mathur & Badan in their fifth semifinal against one another this season. Joint world No. 3’s Mathur & Badan maintained their perfect record against Ferreira & Smith this season, claiming their fifth victory 15-11, 12-15, 15-13, 15-10.
The last final of the season fittingly came down between the tour’s top two teams over the past two seasons. The two sides had previously met in nine finals against one another this season, with Mudge & Gould winning all but the PDC Cup final in November.
Playing in front of a packed, vocal Racquet & Tennis Club gallery—including the tournament’s namesake George Kellner who was presented with R & T’s Tony Adams Award before the match—the final started with blistering pace from both sides with Gould shooting a number of impressive winners to claim the first game 15-13. The Australians pulled away early in the second game as Gould continued to shoot out the lights with volley nicks, and trademark drives to win the second 15-9. Mudge & Gould produced a similar third game pulling ahead through winners and unforced errors by Mathur & Badan to claim the title in three games.
With their win, Mudge augments his title-holding record with nine Kellner Cup titles in eleven iterations, while Gould adds his third consecutive title, and second consecutive title with Mudge. Mudge & Gould end the season with nine titles in ten final appearances, and only two losses.
After the final, the finalists took to the court for a trophy presentation where each side paid their respects to one another upon the completion of the third professional doubles season under the SDA aegis.
For both India’s Mathur & Switzerland’s Badan, the Kellner Cup marks the end of the doubles season with neither player entered in the world doubles.
“It just speaks very highly of these guys, they’re true gentlemen on and off court and what they’re doing for the game right now is extremely incredible,” Mathur said. “They dominated this season, they dominated today, so I just want to congratulate them on a phenomenal season. You guys are too good.”
Mudge & Gould reciprocated their praise for who have become regular final opponents over the past two seasons.
“It just goes to show these guys are an absolute class act,” Mudge said of Mathur & Badan. “Ben and I are the seniors on tour so when we’re done and dusted, these guys will be holding the mantle, and I suspect they will be for a long time. They have a great respect for the game, and a great respect for the membership that supports this great game of ours. So well done to them on a great season.”
“Thanks to the one and only Mr. Kellner,” Mudge continued. “He’s a very special man. His accolades and what he’s done for this club and sport is quite mind-blowing, and he does it in such a sincere, nice, humble way. I think we could all learn something from the way George conducts himself professionally and personally. I hold you in a very high regard, George, thank you very much.”
Mudge & Gould marked the end of their fifth season playing together, and now target their second world title together next week.
“Thanks to my very best friend in the world, Ben Gould. He’s a fantastic guy, and it makes these experiences that much better. Playing by each other’s side, hand in hand literally, mentally, physically. We’re always on the same page, and it’s an absolute treat and pleasure to be on court with Ben. So thanks for our friendship, on and off court.”
Gould reflected on the past three seasons of the SDA tour after the transition from the ISDA to SDA, and the subsequent growth of the professional doubles tour.
“About three years ago, the tour had a major makeover, and there are six guys, most of them here tonight, who helped make that transition happen: Mark Dowley, Mark Hayden, Kevin Luzak, Peer Pederson, Patrick Turner, and Morris Clothier,” Gould said. “They all stepped up at the beginning of that, and now our tour has tripled in prize money, tripled in number of events, and almost quadrupled in number of members. Those guys were at the beginning, and we’re still growing, so we can’t thank them enough for putting together this tour.”
“To my partner, Damien, we’ve known each other since we were twelve years old, so twenty-six years now. It’s funny, I said this last week, but now we’re the seniors on tour, which is hard to believe. This is our fifth season together. As Damien said, our years are getting shorter that we’re able to play this game, so I’m happy to be on court every second with you, alongside a friend I’ve known for that long and respect that much. Well done again today, you were an absolute animal on court. Thirty-eight-years old and he’s probably the fittest guy on tour, which you have to admire and respect.”
Qualifying for the biennial Kellner Cup, the largest prize money event of the 2014-2015 season with a $50,000 prize money purse, begins Thursday evening at the University Club of New York, Union Club of New York, and Racquet & Tennis Club in New York City.
Top seeds and world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould enter the draw with momentum behind them having won the $40,000 Tavern Club Invitational and their eighth title of the season last weekend in Cleveland.
The final is seeded to be a rematch of Cleveland with World No. 3’s Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan seeded second on the other half of the sixteen-team main draw.
Four qualifying draws will decide four spots in the main draw, with the first round of qualifying set to take place Thursday night, and the qualifying finals and first round of main draw play set for Friday.