In his first SDA tournament since winning the World Doubles title for England in September, John Russell and new partner Scott Arnold both claimed their first career PDC Cup title at Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta, Georgia.
Russell & Arnold first experimented with their partnership in the final tournament of the 2016-2017 SDA season, in which they stormed to the Buffalo Club Pro Doubles without dropping game.
The Russell & Arnold partnership would make it two for two in Atlanta, enduring a grueling Saturday that saw them come back from 2-1 down both in the Semifinals against four seeds Jonny Smith & Viktor Berg, and again just three hours later against top seeds and defending champions Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan.
In total, Russell & Arnold’s court time on Saturday clocked in around four and a half hours.
“Saturday was a marathon day of squash for us,” Russell said. “We had a game plan going into both matches and we believed that if we could keep focused on that and not get sucked into something different, we’d have a great chance of winning. Our team chemistry definitely improved as the event progressed and we definitely figured out each others strengths weaknesses.”
Arnold rekindles his Canadian championship-winning partnership with Robin Clarke at the Jim Bentley Cup this weekend, which Russell will sit out.
“It feels great to win in our first event of the season,” Russell added. “I’d like to thank Ahmed hamza and all the tournament committee members for running such a fantastic event. It’s my first time playing the event and will definitely be back next year.”
A brand new SDA Tour Platinum event—the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles Squash Tournament—yielded familiar champions in the form of world No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge, who continued their momentum from last weekend’s Big Apple Open triumph.
After a couple of narrow matches in the season opener last weekend, Mathur & Mudge returned to the tour more refined and clinical in Rye, New York.
Elsewhere in the top half of the draw, new Australian partnership Raj Nanda & Zac Alexander reached a second consecutive quarterfinal but fell short of the semis at the hands of Reid & Leach.
After two, two-hour long qualifying finals Friday night, three of the four qualifiers progressed to the main draw thanks to a lucky loser position opening up following a last-minute Russell & Arnold withdraw.
Two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan avenged their Big Apple Open four-game loss against Samper & Callis with a four-game victory to reach their first final of the season.
In the final, Mathur & Mudge sped ahead 15-7, 15-5, but Ferreira & Badan earned new life the third 15-11. Mathur & Mudge emphatically closed out the inaugural tournament 15-5 in the fourth.
Mudge said he was pleased with their improved their performance from last weekend. Mathur & Mudge’s winning streak now spans eleven tournament titles and thirty-six matches.
“I feel we executed our a games well individually and as a team this weekend,” Mudge said. “We sorted through the kinks we had last weekend and that gave us confidence moving into this event. Big thank you to my partner, Manek, he played great throughout the entire weekend.”
The pros warmly received the new location on tour, which joins the Rye-area’s epicenter of squash doubles in addition to the $60,000 Briggs Cup at Apawamis and $40,000 North American Open in Greenwich.
“Being first time hosts Westchester did an amazing job,” Mudge said. “The large bottles of champagne were a great touch as well! The galleries were always packed with high energy throughout all the matches. It was great to see.”
World No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge entered the 2017 Big Apple Open—the first SDA full ranking event of the 2017-2018 season—with a thirty-match winning streak spanning nine tournaments that started with the 2016 Big Apple Open at the New York Athletic Club.
Of those thirty consecutive victories, not a single one extended to five games. This much changed in Mathur & Mudge’s first match of the new season against Australians Raj Nanda & Zac Alexander, who recently returned stateside after a spell in his home country.
The sides split the first two games with Nanda & Alexander taking the first 15-13 and Mathur & Mudge the second, 15-11. In the midst of Mathur and Nanda jockeying on the left wall, Mathur was hit by a few balls and at one point took a racket to his hand, giving the top seeds an injury scare as they conceded the third 15-11. A nervy fourth game saw Mathur recover and force a fifth game by edging the fourth 15-13. Aided by Nanda cramping up in the fifth, Mathur & Mudge regained control to progress to the semifinals 15-7, after a bumpy start to the season.
Mathur & Mudge’s semifinal opponents were one of the stories of the tournament. Bates graduate and Racquet & Tennis Club pro Eric Bedell teamed up with fellow R&T member and doubles stalwart Whitten Morris in Bedell’s Big Apple Open debut. Bedell & Morris, world No. 56 and 46 respectively, reached the main draw after two qualifying wins where they went on to claim two major upsets. In the first round, the qualifiers took out world No. 28 Shaun Johnstone & world No. 27 Adam Bews in three games, before a three-game upset over World Doubles champion Clive Leach & Will Mariani in the quarterfinals.
Mathur & Mudge ended Bedell & Morris’ surprise run in the semis, closing out the third game 15-14 on simultaneous match/game ball.
In Monday night’s final between Mathur & Mudge and Samper & Callis, it was the underdogs who drew first blood to take the first 15-10. Mathur & Mudge bounced back to take command the second and third games 15-9, 15-5, but found themselves down 10-4 in the fourth game. From 10-4 down, Mathur & Mudge fought back to claim the fourth 15-13, earning their second straight Big Apple Open title and tenth overall SDA title together.
“It’s our first tournament back after both having different preseasons,” Mathur said. “I think a lot of the guys were more prepared than we were, but we luckily were able to pull through each match. We had to dig pretty deep, trust in our instincts and really make sure our defense was good when it needed to be. Luckily for us it was. I told Damien at the end of the final that it was a rough weekend and that we need to go back to the drawing board and make sure we’re good. A lot of the guys have done a lot of work and as the tour grows a lot of people are really going for it, making strides in their games and you could see that this weekend.”
“We struggled a little bit to get our game plan going in both our quarterfinal and final matches,” Mudge said. “Our execution was just a little bit off and both of our opponents really played well. But we fortunately managed to find a way to get through to the other side.”
Mathur praised some of the new partnerships on display this weekend.
“Bernardo and Chris are both great guys and awesome talents,” Mathur said. “I think when Bernie started playing doubles we all knew he would become one of the better guys, same with Chris, he’s such a talent on the singles court and both of their talents translate well to doubles. You can see that now, they beat a really good team yesterday in Mikey and Swiss, two guys who have been at it for a while. It’s just good for the tour to see new faces and partnerships pushing the standard top teams. You have Eric and Whitten reach the semis too, that’s really rare to see qualifiers go so far, it’s amazing to see that the gap is getting closer and closer.”
The Big Apple Open is typically the second full ranking event on the calendar, but this year was the first with the Maryland Club Open—thrice voted tournament of the year—taking a brief hiatus as the club undergoes construction on a third doubles court.
The late start turned out to be advantageous for Mudge, who marked his eighth career Big Apple Open title, just three months after undergoing knee surgery.
The tour resumes November 3 with an inaugural Platinum tournament—the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles Squash Tournament in Rye, New York. Mathur & Mudge enter the draw as the title favorites.
The Squash Doubles Association, the men’s North American pro doubles tour, handed out its coveted Tournament of the Year Award at the 2017 United States Open to the Maryland Club.
Graham Bassett, the SDA’s tour director, handed out the award to Andrew Cordova, the head squash pro, Hugh McGurk, tournament chairman and Stewart Shettle, squash committee chairman of the Maryland Club.
For the third year in a row, the downtown Baltimore men’s club was honored with this award as voted by SDA players. It has long been an anchor of squash doubles, hosting the famous Baltimore Invitational Doubles for decades and more recently adding a major stop on the pro tour.
Renowned for hospitality, a lucrative purse and avid, knowledgeable fans, the Maryland Club Open is a favorite among the tour’s players.
More than forty Maryland Club members took traveled north to watch U.S. Open matches Thursday night.
The Maryland Club hopes to open a third doubles court next year.