Damien Mudge continued his unprecedented David C. Johnson Memorial record title run with an incredible sixteenth consecutive title—and first with Manek Mathur—this weekend at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.
In a full sixteen-team draw, Mathur, the world No. 1, and Mudge, world No 2, pulled off a perfect title run with four, three-game victories to claim the iconic bottles of Moet & Chondon champagne.
While Mudge & Mathur stole the headlines, the secondary story of the tournament came in the form of world No. 29 Bobby Burns & world No. 35 James Bamber, whose tournament began on Tuesday in the first of two rounds of qualifying.
The top seeds continued their momentum in the final to win 15-12, 15-8, 15-14.
“It was a pretty strong performance going through the strength and depth of a tourney like that without dropping a game,” Mudge said. ” Number sixteen is pretty crazy to wrap my head around. Hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Mudge’s record streak spans four partners: Gary Waite (2002-2007), Viktor Berg (2008-2010 and 2016), Gould (2011-15) and now Mathur. Waite comes in as the second all-time title holder with ten since the tournament’s inception in 1938.
“The Johnson has always been such a special event with so much history and a lot of familiar faces in the crowds,” Mudge added. “I just feel privileged to be a part of it. Will Bunn, Emily Lungstrum, Christian, the manager of the Heights, all did a spectacular job from start to finish. Thanks to everyone involved.”
“The tournament was an all round success for us,” Mathur said. “We went in playing well and our performance got better and better as we spent more time out there together. We had some tough matches, but managed to find ways to stay in front and keep the pressure on our opponents.”
Since their season-opening final loss against Ferreira & Badan at the Maryland Club in September, Mathur & Mudge have been undefeated on the season and won all six tournaments they have played in.
“The Heights is one of the most historic and prestigious events on tour,” Mathur added. “The community it has created is second to none and you just get embraced into it. Will Bunn did a tremendous job in organizing the event with the help of Bobby Burns. The guys in the pro-am were extremely excited and enthusiastic to be out there, which makes it fun for us to play in that draw as well.”
With National Doubles slated for this weekend, the tour will have a month off before heading to Philadelphia where Mathur & Mudge will lead the $25,000 Graham Company Cup draw, March 24-26.
“We have another month until our next event so between resting and fixing the bodies to preparing for the next event, we will be pretty busy,” Mathur said. “Looking forward to getting back out there!”
Australian’s Matt Jenson & Scott Arnold won their biggest career SDA titles and first as partners this weekend—the SDA Gold Baltimore Cup at the Baltimore Country Club.
Jenson, world No. 9, & Arnold, world No. 8, defeated the top two seeds on their way to the title in what were their biggest upsets on tour to date.
The partnership’s debut season has already included four major semifinal runs at the North American Open, Jim Bentley Cup, PDC Cup and St. Louis Open. World No. 1 Manek Mathur & world No. 2 Damien Mudge ended three of those runs, and world No. 3 Yvain Badan & world No. 4 Mike Ferreira defeated Jenson & Arnold in Atlanta.
In their first match up since the PDC Cup defeat, Jenson & Arnold took out Ferreira & Badan in three games, 15-13, 15-12, 15-12, to shake up the draw.
In the bottom half of the draw, two seeds Jonny Smith & Chris Callis progressed to the final without dropping a game, including against Graham Bassett & Fred Reid, who marked their second major semifinal appearance of the season in addition to the Bentley.
A close final saw Jenson & Arnold recover from losing the first game to take the title in four, 8-15, 15-11, 15-10, 15-13.
“I feel like Scott and I played the way we have always thought we could. It just all came together this weekend,” Jenson said. “Obviously, both of those teams are extremely talented which probably increased our motivation to test ourselves.”
Jenson has been pleased with the way the partnership has developed in their first season together.
“It’s been great playing with Scott,” Jenson added. “He is an immense talent. Like any team sport it takes some time to develop the right/best chemistry. I think this weekend showed what we are capable of doing and it was great to finally put it together.”
The Baltimore Cup title is Jenson’s first since the 2015 Hashim Khan, and Arnold’s first since the 2016 Ridley Windows and Doors Cricket Club Open.
“It’s tough winning any event,” Jenson said. “The opportunities don’t always come your way so you have to take your chances when they come. I was just really impressed with Scott and his ball striking and shot selection. The Baltimore Cup comprises a membership that are knowledgeable about the game. Glad we got our first win together.”
World No. 16 Baset Chaudhry signed off his 2016-2017 SDA Pro tour campaign with his third title of the season, and second title at the $15,000 Pittsburgh Golf Club Challenger with first-time partner Jonny Smith.
The Trinity graduates entered the main draw seeded second, and pulled off a perfect tournament without dropping a game, including a three-game victory against top seeds Raj Nanda & Greg Park in the final.
Chaudhry praised his first-time partner and world No. 10, Smith, for a strong performance over the weekend.
“This was our first SDA tournament together, I was finally able to persuade Jonny to partner up with me,” Chaudhry said of his partner, Smith. “I think the key over the weekend was that we kept our intensity up through every single point. We wanted to play aggressive steady squash and I think we were able to execute that quite nicely. Like any other sport, doubles squash is all about momentum and confidence. Our plan was to get to a solid start right from the beginning of the tournament and carry it through till the end of the weekend, and luckily we were able to achieve that.”
Pittsburgh marks Chaudhry’s final tournament of the season before the thirty-one-year-old returns to his native Pakistan, but revealed his desire to represent his home country in the recently-announced 2017 World Doubles this September in St. Louis.
“This was my last SDA tournament for the season,” Chaudhry said. “As many of you know, I’m heading back to Pakistan for a few months for personal reasons, but I will be back in the summer and would definitely like to compete in the world open later this year. We don’t have hardball there so will have to figure out a way to stay sharp. It’s remarkable to see the tour grow over the past few years. The addition of new events and live streaming has been very refreshing and I believe with continued support of the patrons, sponsors and the squash community, it will only get better.”
“It was great to play with Baset and even sweeter to win in his last tournament before he heads back to Pakistan, he will be missed in the U.S. SQUASH circles,” Smith said.
Chaudhry won his first Pittsburgh title in 2014 with Nanda, and adds Pittsburgh to his Missouri Athletic Club Open and Long Island Open titles this season.
“Pittsburgh has been really kind to me for sure,” Chaudhry said. “This was my second time here and both times I have been lucky enough to clinch the title. I guess I just need to keep coming back each year.”
“The Pittsburgh doubles community was very hospitable,” Chaudhry said of the hosts. “A lot of the members had offered their residences to the players and made sure we were well taken care of, so can’t thank them enough for their support. The crowd was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which makes it even more fun for the players. Thanks again to Jim Shields for running such an amazing event.”