Former Princeton Stars Chris Callis and Maria Elena Ubina Shine In 2023 MFS Pro-Am Doubles Championship in Boston  
by Rob Dinerman

Dateline March 27, 2023 --- For the first time in the history of the SDA, there were members of the winning teams in both the same-site  men’s and women’s pro doubles events who are alums of the same college. This past weekend at the MFS Pro-Am Doubles, hosted as always by the University Club of Boston, Chris Callis, a co-captain of the Princeton men’s team that won the 2012 national team championship (in the process finally ending Trinity College’s 13-year reign from 1999-2011), teamed up with Zac Alexander to win the men’s championship, while Maria Elena Ubina, Princeton Class of 2017, a two-time team co-captain and the only person, man or woman, to win the Intercollegiate Doubles title all four years, and her longtime doubles partner (and former Greenwich Academy teammate) Kayley Leonard handily won the women’s draw. The joint achievements by Callis and Ubina --- coming as they did in the same week that the Princeton men’s basketball team reached the NCAA round of 16 and Princeton’s star wrestler Patrick Glory became the school’s first NCAA wrestling champion in 72 years by capturing the 125-pound division --- made it a landmark week for Princeton athletes past and present.

In the eight-team MFS women’s tournament, both the top-seeded Leonard/Ubina pairing and Elani and Lume Landman, the second seeds, swept through their pre-final matches without dropping a game. Leonard and Ubina had won two of the three prior matches this season --- all in finals --- against their main rival, and they again demonstrated their propensity for winning the crucial points at the end of close games by saving double-game-ball against them to take the first game 15-14 (when Elani Landman tinned on the 14-all point) and the third 15-13 to take a two games to one lead. The Landman sisters then led 6-4 in the fourth but lost the next five points, part of a 9-2 Leonard/Ubina run to 13-8 that effectively sealed the eventual 15-11 outcome. The Landmans’ strategy of having Lume play a “high tee” on the right and Elani covering behind her on balls hit over Lume’s head accounted for a number of points won during much of the match, but it proved costly in the close-out game when Ubina hit four front-left winners in the closing stretch when Elani was not able to get back into position in time after she had roamed to the deep-right part of the court. Leonard was solid and error-free throughout (other than in the letdown second game, in which she and Ubina started poorly and fell behind 10-1), while Ubina’s deadly racquet-work --- which, as mentioned, had enabled her to win two women’s college titles with current PSA top-10 Olivia Fiechter and one each with Rachel Leizman and Alexandra Toth, as well as two mixed doubles events with Samuel Kang, hence actually six college doubles championships overall --- was on full display, especially in the final game.

The men’s tournament had a total of 22 teams, six five-game matches, two matches where the winning team surmounted a two-games-to-love deficit and two consecutive-round five-game matches that were decided by a combined three points when Clinton Leeuw and Jaymie Haycocks first defeated David Letourneau and his former Princeton teammate Kelly Shannon (the last-match-on-court hero of the 2012 Potter Cup final-round 5-4 win over Trinity College), 15-13 in the fifth (winning the last six points from 9-13), and then lost, 15-14 in the fifth, to Adam Bews and Colin West on the latter’s winning forehand cross-court. While all these riveting matches were going on in the middle portion of the draw, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds James Stout/Scott Arnold and Alexander/Callis advanced to the finals with four-game semis wins over Ryan Cuskelly/Cameron Pilley and Bews/West respectively. Stout and Arnold, winners of the Briggs Cup a few months ago, won two of the first three games and had a chance to take the fourth as well when they drew to 13-14. But Callis nailed a forehand reverse-corner winner to rescue that game, and, after he and Alexander had earned a split of the first eight points of the fifth game, they surged through the remainder, winning 11 of the final 12 points on the strength of a host of consecutive-point, mid-game front-court winners, primarily off Alexander’s racquet, that provided too much momentum, and too big a cushion, for Stout and Arnold to overcome. Final tally: 15-10, 10-15, 10-15, 15-13, 15-5 for Callis and Alexander, who are now two for two after having won their only previous tournament as partners, the 2019 David C. Johnson Memorial in Brooklyn Heights. Callis is now a four-time MFS Boston winner, having taken this event with John Russell in 2019 and the recently-retired Manek Mathur in 2020 and 2022. Both the men’s and women’s SDA tours resume in mid-April with tour stops in Los Angeles for the women and Cleveland for the men.