Liam Kenny Surges Past Callis As Hyder Cup Main-Draw Gets Underway

May 2, 2013 - 8:40am
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Rocked by a fast-charging opponent who swiftly barged to a 9-3 first-game lead, former PSA N. 31 Liam Kenny nearly made up that deficit, then inexorably established full control en route to an 8-11 11-4 11-1 11-1 win over Chris Callis Wednesday night at the Sports Club/LA in mid-town Manhattan in the round-of-32 of the 45th annual Quentin Hyder Cup, the longest continually running softball singles tournament in the United States.

Both players were coming off memorable recent performances, with Callis, a co-captain of the Princeton squad that won the 2012 Potter Cup emblematic of the college national team championship, ending Trinity College’s 13-year title run, having defeated Richard Chin nine days ago in the deciding match of the New York Squash A League playoff meet between the Princeton Club and the Harvard Club, and Kenny having won the U. S. National 35-and-over crown in late March. Callis, as noted, powered out of the gate with a burst of sustained energy that caught Kenny off guard, blasting the ball off both flanks, aggressively cutting everything off and hitting winners, especially to the left-front nick, while Kenny, a six-time Irish national champion, looked a bit overwhelmed in the early going, over-hitting his drives and giving Callis time and room to set up and establish position.

But Callis advantage was only temporary, as by the end of that game Kenny had flattened out his drives and become accustomed enough to the lively court conditions to cut well into Callis’s lead, creating a momentum that he with ruthless efficiency carried into the games that followed. In addition to swiping over his drop shots in a way that takes inches off the ball, causing it to die extremely close to the front wall, Kenny also gets remarkable power even when hitting off his back foot, and, by keeping his elbow very close to his side on his forehand, he is able to “hold” the ball much longer than most players, then deliver a decisive blow with late arm action.

Callis is strong and extremely athletic, but his opening-game frenzied attack exacted a substantial price in subsequent fatigue, leaving him constantly flailing, reversing direction and under siege as an increasingly on-target Kenny, his confidence and ability to anticipate Callis’s shots growing with every passing point, kept slicing away and sprinted to the finish and an intriguing round-of-16 match that awaits him Thursday evening against fourth seed Ryan Cuskelly, whom Kenny seems fully capable of defeating if he can play up to the standard he attained tonight.