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.
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.
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!”