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.
The full main draw of sixteen teams largely played out according to seeding save for one major quarterfinal upset that saw John Russell & Viktor Berg beat two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan 15-8, 7-15, 15-14, 15-13.
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.