Burns & Bedell Achieve Maiden SDA Title Triumph in Denver

The 2018 Hashim Khan final, (l-r): Greg Park, Eric Bedell, Bobby Burns, Matt Jenson.

One of the youngest teams on the SDA Tour, Bobby Burns & Eric Bedell, upset the 2018 Hashim Khan seeding to claim their first career SDA title this weekend at the Denver Athletic Club, while local Meredeth Quick successfully defended her WSDA title with fellow Coloradan Suzie Pierrepont.

The SDA Challenger eight-team main draw saw the return of two retired pros and former partners Matt Jenson and Denver local Preston Quick. Jenson progressed through the top half of the draw  with Greg Park as top seeds, while Quick & Graham Bassett upset two seeds Will Mariani & James Bamber in the first round.

Burns & Bedell, who played together at Bates, began their surprise SDA title run with a first-round upset against three seeds Clinton Leeuw & Aaron Luque, coming back from losing the first game to advance in four.

Burns & Bedell then edged Bassett & Quick in the semifinals, sneaking out all three games on simultaneous game balls to reach the final 15-14, 15-14, 15-14.

In the final, Jenson & Park took a 2-1 advantage 15-12, 8-15, 15-14, when Burns & Bedell completely turned the final on its head, dominating the fourth and fifth games 15-16, 15-6.

“To win our first SDA title feels fantastic, absolutely fantastic,” Bedell said. “This is the culmination of all the hard work, determination, and heart that we put into this sport. We approached each match with the focus of playing to our strengths, fighting for every rally, and trusting each other. Our abilities to extend rallies, pressure our opponents, and improvise allowed us to capitalize on attacking opportunities throughout the weekend. It is a great feeling to see our preparation pay off!”

“I couldn’t be happier,” Burns said. “Obviously, the goal is to win every match you play but it’s hard to envision winning tournaments. We were fortunate that it all came together this past weekend and the result makes me want to do it again.”

(l-r) Eric Bedell, Bobby Burns, Greg Park, Matt Jenson

Since first playing in an SDA event together in 2014, Bedell—twenty-six years old—& Burns—twenty-eight years old—have learned from SDA veterans such as Jenson and Quick.

“Both those players have accomplished so much in their careers, it’s hard to quantify everything they bring to the table as opponents,” Burns said. “Personally, I love watching Matt play squash. As a right-handed left-waller, I’m not as tall as Mudgie or as fast as Bernardo and don’t shoot as well as John Russell, so Matt was someone I studied to learn a lot from. His racquet prep and positioning are consistent and aggressive—that, coupled with a dynamic shot selection makes him a very dangerous player. Preston strikes such a clean ball but the take away playing against him, is his on-court attitude. He competes so hard but appears to have a collected, mindful presence at all times. Both players have had exceptional careers. I am happy to see both on tour when their time allows for it.”

“For me personally, it was a pleasure to share the court with both Matt and Preston,” Bedell said. “I actually try to model some of my game after each of their play styles. Preston’s movement, positioning and shot selection on the right wall are superb. He always positions himself in the right place at the right time and effortlessly moves the ball around the court. As for Matt, I am in awe of his precision into the front of the court. His racquet preparation and technique allow him to fire the ball in with pinpoint accuracy. Even if you read the shot, it seems to be up to him if you will be able to get it.”

After playing together in college, Bedell & Burns honed their squash doubles game while stationed at their home club, the Heights Casino, in Brooklyn.

“Eric and I played our first pro tournament together, I think four years ago at the NAO,” Burns said. “We played opposite walls in that match. Needless to say, we have both worked hard at our games since then. While we had confidence in each other’s abilities, I think the best thing from the weekend was our communication. I think having more of a history, allowed us to self-assess accurately and play without fear or doubt. There is a lot of natural trust between us and it makes playing doubles squash really really fun.”

“While I thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside Bobby this weekend, it’s even greater to have him as a friend,” Bedell said. “I am very grateful to have not only grown professionally on the court with him but also personally off the court. We have been great friends since we met at Bates and that makes it so much more fun to be on court with him. Our first doubles partnership was actually a few years ago when we paired up for the North American Open, albeit with myself on the left wall and Bobby on the right wall. It certainly did not go as well as this past weekend. I think we may have found the better arrangement.”

The WSDA draw saw locals Meredeth Quick & Suzie Pierrepont fulfill their top seeding. The result marked Quick’s third consecutive title in Denver having won the 2017 National Doubles and 2016 Hashim Khan with Natarsha McElhinny. Quick & Pierrepont endured a difficult final against two seeds and recently-crowned National Doubles champions Stephanie Hewitt & Georgina Stoker, prevailing 15-11, 8-15, 10-15, 15-10, 15-8.

“Thank you to John and Anne Lesko at the Denver Athletic Club for hosting and running a great event and to Graham Bassett for organizing the SDA’s operations,” Bedell said. “I look forward to playing in Denver again!”

“I want to thank Anne Lesko and the Denver Athletic Club,” Burns said. “They do an incredible job with the entire tournament. I think there were more than ten divisions competing this past weekend. It’s always great to be part of a large scale event. Graham Bassett also deserves a ton of credit for all the work he does everyday for the tour.”

View images on the SDA Smugmug page. Watch SDA and WSDA match replays below.

March 2018 Rankings

1-Mar Name Country Tournaments Average 1-Feb
1 Damien Mudge Australia 9 4489.583 1
1 Manek Mathur India 9 4489.583 1
3 Scott Arnold Australia 6 3312.500 3
4 John Russell England 7 3072.500 4
5 Yvain Badan Switzerland 12 2726.563 5
6 Mike Ferreira England 10 2642.857 6
7 Chris Callis USA 9 2610.417 7
8 Jonny Smith England 8 2558.333 8
9 Bernardo Samper Colombia 10 2191.071 9
10 Clive Leach England 11 2108.929 12
11 Raj Nanda Australia 13 1697.222 11
12 Will Mariani Canada 9 1691.667 16
13 Greg Park USA 11 1689.286 13
14 Adam Bews Scotland 7 1610.000 17
15 Thomas Brinkman Canada 5 1595.000 22
16 Viktor Berg Canada 4 1565.000 10
17 James Bamber England 8 1489.063 15
18 Imran Khan USA 6 1365.625 19
19 Freddie Reid Canada 9 1355.208 18
20 Robin Clarke Canada 3 1350.000 20


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Mudge Extends Remarkable David C. Johnson Winning Streak With Seventeenth Title

(l-r): Manek Mathur, Damien Mudge, Bernardo Samper, Chris Callis

The David C. Johnson Memorial already had significant historical context entering 2018 as the world’s oldest professional squash doubles tournament celebrated its octogenarian anniversary at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, New York. The weekend concluded with even more historical weight as world No. 1 Damien Mudge extended the sport’s longest winning streak with a seventeenth consecutive title—and second consecutive with partner Manek Mathur.

Mathur & Mudge’s road to the 2018 title proved to be more arduous than their 2017 campaign, in which they didn’t drop a game all tournament. With a full draw of sixteen teams and no first round bye, Americans Alex Domenick & Aaron Luque nicked a game off of the top seeds 15-14 in the third, ultimately falling in four games.

The top seeds comfortably dispatched Raj Nanda & Greg Park in the quarters, and then fended off in-form Jonny Smith & Clive Leach in the semifinals.

The bottom half of the draw saw a dramatic first-round upset when James Stout & Greg McArthur came back from 2-1 down to defeat two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan in five games. The unseeded pairing continued their main draw push with a quarterfinal victory against Adam Bews & Will Hartigan to reach the partnership’s first career SDA Platinum semifinal.

Stout & McAthur’s run came to an end in the semis, where three seeds Bernardo Samper & Chris Callis advanced to their second final of the season to set up a rematch of the 2017 Big Apple Open final against Mathur & Mudge.

As Samper & Callis did in New York City, the three seeds proved to be difficult opponents for the title favorites losing a close two opening games 12-15, 14-15. Samper & Callis kept their hopes alive taking the third game 15-13, but Mathur & Mudge regained control in the fourth, clinching the title 15-11.

“Bernie and Callis played some of the best squash I have seen them play!” Mudge said. “It took some of our best squash to fend them off. Not only was the quality high, but the camaraderie, respect and sportsmanship was second to none, which made the match that much more enjoyable to play and I would assume to watch.”

“Both of those boys played extremely well,” Mathur added. “They pushed the ball around and create openings well, but more importantly capitalized on those openings and put us under a bunch of pressure. We had to stick with our plan and make sure we countered their attack well, which luckily proved to be positive for us.”

With his streak spans back to 2002, the Australian has won nearly a quarter of the Johnson titles in the tournament’s eighty years. It is the longest title winning streak in squash doubles history. The streak has involved four partners: Gary Waite (2002-2007), Viktor Berg (2008-2010 and 2016), Gould (2011-15) and Mathur (2017-2018).  Waite comes in as the second all-time title holder with ten since the tournament’s inception in 1938.

“I hold this tournament very close to my heart,” Mudge said. “Growing up and playing with all the experienced older guys like Waite, Talbott, etc., they said this was the one to win and I’ve always felt that way myself. I really don’t have the words to describe winning this event seventeen consecutive times. It’s kinda surreal and it also shows how old I am. Just to be a part of this tournament that’s been going for eighty years is just incredible, and I feel privileged just to be involved with the history of the event. There are so many familiar faces over the years and there’s a certain comfort level I feel at the Heights Casino and especially on the court that is difficult to explain.”

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.

“The Heights squash community is second to none,” Mathur said. “They have a stellar junior program but the camaraderie and passion for the game is what truly stands out. What Bobby has done and achieved over there with his doubles program is remarkable, and I look forward to seeing that program grow even further.”

“Big thank you to Bobby Burns, Will Bunn, Emily Lungstrum, John Osnato, Christian Petrina the General Manager for the amazing trophies which he supplies,” Mudge said of the hosts. “They are literally the best trophies I have seen in sport. Congratulations to Christian and his wife who had a child on last Friday. Last but not least my stud partner Manek Mathur! He is such a close friend both on and off the court. The relationship that we have developed is one of the reasons why I play this great game. He is an exceptionally talented player and will have a lot of years to continue the dominance that he deserves.”

Smith & Leach Rekindle Partnership to Win Baltimore Cup

The Baltimore Cup final, (l-r): Clive Leach, Yvain Badan, Jonny Smith, Mike Ferreira

Five years after reaching the final of the 2013 World Doubles, Englishmen Jonny Smith & Clive Leach partnered up again to win the 2018 SDA Gold Baltimore Cup at the Baltimore Country Club.

The twelve-team draw played out according to seeding with top seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan setting up their semifinal with Canadian four seeds Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman, and second-seeded Smith & Leach facing off with three seeds Raj Nanda & Greg Park.

The top two seeds set up a final show down, both recording four-game victories in the semifinals.

In the final, Smith & Leach edged a close second game 15-13, before sprinting through the third and final game 15-3 to claim the title.

Just a month ago, Smith had won what had been his largest career SDA title in Delaware with Badan. The world No. 8 now celebrates a new career milestone with his first SDA Gold title. Leach, world No. 12, marks his first full ranking  title of the season and first since the World Doubles Men’s title in September 2017.

“The way we played each match over the weekend it seemed like we had played the last five seasons together,” Leach said. “Our chemistry and strategy was very positive and we just tried to keep it simple. Johnny played very solid and consistent all the way through—especially the final where we kept the relentless pressure on. Our strengths were using different weights of shot, being on the attack and resetting points when needed—and we executed that very well.”

(l-r): Paul McKinnell, Clive Leach, Jonny Smith, Yvain Badan, Mike Ferreira, Jason Sevier

The Baltimore Cup is one of two regular SDA tournaments in Baltimore with the Maryland Club taking a brief hiatus as the club adds a third doubles court. Outside of the SDA draw, the BCC hosted a WSDA exhibition between Natarsha McElhinny & Narelle Krizek and Latasha Khan & Stephanie Hewitt. A men’s singles invitational was also held alongside the doubles, with Luke Forster winning the competition. Local pro Wade Johnstone played in both events and made the final of the singles invitational.

“I personally really enjoy both the Baltimore stops at the BCC and the Maryland Club,” Leach said. “Great clubs with very passionate memberships. Always so hospitable and accommodating to all the players. I would like to thank Jay Bewley and Wade Johnstone for once again for all their hard work putting on such a great event.”

View images on the SDA SmugMug page. Watch Baltimore Cup replays below.

February 2018 Rankings

1-Feb Name Country Tournaments Average 1-Jan
1 Damien Mudge Australia 9 4489.583 1
1 Manek Mathur India 9 4489.583 1
3 Scott Arnold Australia 8 3416.667 3
4 John Russell England 8 2893.750 4
5 Yvain Badan Switzerland 12 2726.563 5
6 Mike Ferreira England 10 2678.571 6
7 Chris Callis USA 10 2480.357 7
8 Jonny Smith England 8 2368.750 8
9 Bernardo Samper Colombia 11 1958.929 10
10 Viktor Berg Canada 5 1820.000 9
11 Raj Nanda Australia 12 1687.500 11
12 Clive Leach England 11 1667.857 14
13 Greg Park USA 11 1617.857 15
14 James Bamber England 8 1576.563 19
15 Will Mariani Canada 8 1571.875 13
16 Adam Bews Scotland 6 1471.000 17
17 Freddie Reid Canada 11 1411.607 20
18 Imran Khan USA 6 1380.000 16
19 Robin Clarke Canada 3 1350.000 49
20 Graham Bassett USA 15 1321.563 21


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