John Russell & Scott Arnold ended the 2016-2017 SDA season on a high note with a perfect run to the inaugural SDA Silver Buffalo Club Pro Doubles title in upstate New York.
The Buffalo Club’s doubles court is only four years old, and in addition to hosting the 2016 National Doubles, brought professional doubles back to Buffalo for the first time in the SDA era with this $25,000, eight-team main draw event.
Russell, world No. 6, & Arnold, world No. 9, led the draw as the top seeds and ran away with the title with three, three-game victories. The draw did have a big upset in the form of Canadian’s Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman, who upset two seeds Bernardo Samper & Raj Nanda in a five-game, first-round comeback after going down 2-0. The Canadians needed another five games in the semifinals to upset three seeds Imran Khan & Greg Park. In the final, Russell & Arnold halted their run 15-12, 15-3, 15-12.
The title marks Russell’s first title of the season in his fourth final appearance, and Arnold’s second in addition to February’s Baltimore Cup.
“It felt great finishing the season with a victory,” Russell said. “Scott played great all weekend and we gelled very well considering we’ve never played together before. Buffalo is a great squash town and we were treated like kings. Tom Hayes, head pro at the buffalo club, did a fantastic job organizing the event with all our possible needs catered for.”
Russell faced his fellow Englishman and 2015 World Doubles partner Clive Leach in the semifinals and will hope to defend his title at the 2017 World Doubles in St. Louis, September, 21-24.
“I’m looking forward to getting some summer training under my belt to get in the best possible shape to try and retain the world championship in September,” Russell said.
New joint world No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge ended their first, nearly flawless season together with a ninth title out of ten tournaments—the $35,000 Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, Ohio.
Four days after emphatically winning the $50,000 Kellner Cup in New York City Monday, April 24, Mathur & Mudge returned to the court with a three-game quarterfinal win over Alex Domenick & Aaron Luque. Elsewhere in the draw, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals with only Canadians Will Mariani & Fred Reid needing more than three games to progress.
A difficult Saturday included both semifinals in the early afternoon and final later that evening. Mathur & Mudge stepped up in the first semifinal to handily defeat Mariani & Reid 15-7, 15-7, 15-8. The ensuing second semifinal went the full distance, however, as two seeds John Russell & Raj Nanda came back from two games down to defeat three seeds Imran Khan & Jacques Swanepoel 12-15, 10-15, 15-8, 15-11, 15-8.
In the final, Russell & Nanda took the second game off the top seeds, but it wasn’t enough as Mathur & Mudge bounced back to claim the title 15-11, 11-15, 15-7, 15-8.
The final ended what had been an exhausting fortnight for Mathur & Mudge.
“Organizing and playing in the Kellner was extremely fatiguing,” Mathur said. “Damien and I were sitting at dinner on Monday night after the Final and both our shoulders dropped and we embraced our exhaustion. It took a good two days to feel refreshed and it was time to head to Cleveland.”
“It was quite challenging to get up for it mentally and physically,” Mudge said. “At this stage of the season, it was our last push knowing we have almost five months off.”
Mathur successfully defended his 2016 title with Mudge’s long-time partner Ben Gould, while Mudge augments yet another tournament record with his eighth Tavern Club title since his first in 2008. Mathur & Mudge complete their ten-tournament season just one loss all season, the season-opening Maryland Club final in October.
“I think we’re lucky to be able to have such good experiences off the court,” Mathur said. “There’s nothing better than traveling around with one of your best friends and exposing yourselves to new cities. We both really enjoy Cleveland and the Tavern Club so we were looking forward to finishing our season up there. Ian Sly and his members make us feel at home and do a great job with the tournament. Maryland was obviously a tough loss, but we were not the better team that Sunday. I still feel that this has been an unbelievable season with a couple dominant and solid performances on our end. I can say we are both pretty excited to have some time off and enjoy the off season, but at the same time, I am looking forward to getting back out there with the 215lbs, 6’4” Australian next season!”
“I think our season was very strong, Manek was a stud all season and played amazingly well,” Mudge said. “We very rarely dropped many games during the season, which is challenging to do within itself let alone winning nine events. It’s a little bitter-sweet not to have an undefeated season. They are very special and don’t happen much in one’s career, but all in all extremely happy!”
The 2016-2017 SDA Pro Tour season concludes with the $25,000 Buffalo Club Pro Doubles, May 12-14.
One year after facing off against each other in the 2016 Tavern Club Invitational final, world No. 1 Manek Mathur & world No. 2 Damien Mudge return to Cleveland as the title favorites as they near the end of a dominant SDA Tour season.
Last year, Mathur earned his first Tavern Club title in a one-off pairing with former world No. 1 Ben Gould—Mudge’s partner of five years—while Mudge reunited with his partner from 2009-2010, Viktor Berg, for much of the 2015-2016 season. Mathur & Gould’s marathon five-game final victory sent Gould level with Mudge as the all-time Tavern Club title leaders with seven each.
In the offseason, Mathur & Mudge joined forces to and returned to the tour in the fall as a new power partnership. In their first season together, Mathur & Mudge have lost just one match all season—the season-opening Maryland Club Open final—and have won seven titles in seven tournaments since that loss in October. If the top seeds earn the title this year, Mudge would move past Gould with his eighth title since his first in 2008.
A diverse draw will aim to thwart the top seeds’ title hopes, however. Canada’s Will Mariani & Fred Reid enter the draw as the four seeds with a predicted semifinal against Mathur & Mudge. Reid has enjoyed his most successful SDA season to date with two major semifinal runs in the Jim Bentley Cup and Baltimore Cup.
Local favorites Iago Cornes & Joe Russell will hope to entertain the home crowd with a first-round match against Graham Bassett & John Roberts, with the winner set to face Mariani & Reid in the second round.
England’s 2015 world doubles champion and world No. 8 John Russell & world No. 13 Raj Nanda oppose Mathur & Mudge as the two seeds in the draw’s bottom half. Russell has played with six different partners this season and will aim for his fourth final appearance and potentially first title of the season.
Russell & Nanda could face one of the most promising partnerships this season in the second round in the form of Bobby Burns & James Bamber. Burns, twenty-seven years old, and Bamber, twenty-one years old, reached the David C. Johnson Memorial semifinals as qualifiers, which included a quarterfinal upset against Russell & Berg. Burns & Bamber will play Scotsman and Missouri Athletic Club pro Adam Bews & Australian journeyman Jeff Osborne in their tournament opener.
The sole qualifying spot will be occupied by either Joshua Hollings & Jonathan Hyett or Mark & Ray Lindsay, and will slot in for a first-match against South African Clinton Leeuw & Jordan Greenberg. The winner of which will face the tournament’s three seeds, Imran Khan & Jacques Swanepoel.
The twelfth Tavern Club Invitational will prove to be historic by either augmenting its all-time title record, or welcoming two new names onto the tournament’s roll of champions.
Seventeen years since claiming the inaugural Kellner Cup in 2000 with Gary Waite, Damien Mudge earned a record tenth title in the twelfth staging of the biennial $50,000 tournament co-hosted in New York City by the Union Club, Racquet & Tennis Club and University Club. Racquet & Tennis Club head professional and left-waller Manek Mathur adds his name to the Kellner Cup for the first time alongside Mudge on his home R & T court.
Australian four seeds Matt Jenson & Scott Arnold fought off a first-round scare against one of the surprise teams of the season, Bobby Burns & James Bamber, coming back from two games down to reach the quarterfinals in five—the only main draw five-gamer of the weekend.
The tour bids Andres Vargas farewell after the Colombian reached the main draw with fellow Trinity graduate Randy Lim, eventually bowing out against Mathur & Mudge. Vargas returns to his native Colombia this summer before relocating to Madrid, Spain in the fall where he will pursue a business degree.
The tournament culminated with a packed gallery for the final Monday night at the Racquet & Tennis Club. For the first final in tournament history, all three host clubs were represented by their head professionals in Mathur (R&T), Mudge (University Club) and Smith (Union Club).
The top seeds emphatically captured their eighth title of the season, defeating Callis & Smith 15-8, 15-12, 15-7, completing their tournament run without dropping a game all weekend.
“This is obviously a very special tournament for all of us,” Mudge said. “It’s special to have your R&T head pro Manek, Jonny from the Union Club, myself, and someone like Chris Callis all on court in the final is remarkable, and hasn’t happened before.”
Mudge’s incredible record of ten titles now spans seventeen years and four partners: six with Gary Waite (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006), one with Viktor Berg (2008), two with Ben Gould (2013, 2015) and now his first with Mathur.
“A big shout out to the Kellners, they are such a class act,” Mudge said. “I’ve known George for nearly twenty years, and what they’ve done professionally for squash, and personally, from the smallest to the largest things. Gary Waite reached out to George back in 2000 about starting this event, so thank you so much George for leading the charge ever since and starting this great tradition.”
The final marked the end of season for both Callis & Smith, who sit out of the two remaining events, the Tavern Club Invitational and Buffalo Club Pro Doubles. The new partnership enjoyed a successful season having frequently reached semifinals, and making three final appearances at the PDC Cup, Baltimore Cup and Kellner.
“Congrats to Damien and Manek, they were so good tonight,” Smith said. “As everyone mentions, Damien is so phenomenal and has his name everywhere and so many times. He’s an incredible athlete on court, and great guy off court. Manek, you are so young, I can’t imagine the future you have ahead of you. It was really special for the three head pros to be on court together tonight, it’s an amazing achievement. Thanks to my partner, Chris. We’ve had an amazing season together and thanks to the Kellners for making all of this happen.”
Mathur’s status on the tour has drastically changed since his Kellner Cup final loss against Mudge & Gould in 2015. Since that final, Mathur has taken up both Gould’s former position as the Racquet & Tennis Club head professional and as Mudge’s partner.
“When you start playing doubles you hear about the Kellner Cup, and by far it’s the one event that you want your name on. I’m absolutely honored to have my name on there with players like Damien, Ben Gould, Gary Waite and all of the legends of squash doubles. Thanks to the SDA, we have a lot of board members here. The brain power behind this board is just tremendous, and the game has grown so much in the past five years thanks to them.”
Mathur & Mudge will aim to end their season with a ninth title out of ten tournaments this weekend in Cleveland at the Tavern Club Invitational.
“Chris and Jonny did well to get to the final, so congrats to them on a great tournament,” Mathur said. “Last but not least, thanks to my partner, Damien. Every event you go to, you see his name on every wall—and not just once. It’s an absolute pleasure playing with you, I’ve grown so much on and off the court this season playing with you so thanks so much for this season.”
The penultimate event of the season, the $35,000 Tavern Club Invitational, will take place this weekend April, 27-29.