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Maryland Club Open Given SDA Tournament of Year Award

l-r: Andrew Cordova, Stewart Shettle and Hugh McGurk

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.

U.S. Open Celebrates Doubles Community

2016-2017 U.S. doubles national champions.

Doubles came to singles, as a new tradition at the 2017 United States Open Squash Championship started today.

Doubles Day celebrated the game of doubles. A hugely popular and growing game in the U.S., squash doubles was originally created in 1907 at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, less than twenty blocks from the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Doubles Day included a look at the future of the game, with the U.S. Intercollegiate Squash Doubles Championships in full swing at Germantown Cricket Club.

The SDA, the men’s pro doubles association with a continent-wide, twenty-event tour, celebrated their 2016-17 awards at Doubles Day. They included the team of the year Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge; player of the year Manek Mathur; most improved player Bobby Burns and James Bamber; sportsmanship honoree Chris Callis; and rookie of the year Clinton Leeuw.

Doubles Day also honored all the national champions from last season. Honorees in attendance included Barry Abelson (men’s 80+), Jed Burde (junior boys U17) Ed Chilton (men’s 50+), Ed Garno and Narelle Krizek (mixed open), Rachel Mashek (junior girls U19), Andrew and Maxwell Orr (father & son 15 and under) and Emily and Abigail Schuster (junior girls U15).

Watch the 2016-2017 SDA Awards presentation below:

Mudge & Mathur Close Out First Season Together With Ninth Title in Cleveland

TCI trophy
l-r: Joe Juster, Jack Turben, Matthew Brinn, John Russell, Raj Nanda, Damien Mudge, Manek Mathur, Ian Sly.

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.

CLEAN SWEEP FOR THE NEW PAIR IN TORONTO

THE CAMBRIDGE DOUBLES FINAL.  MONDAY NOV 21

Report From Martin Bronstein

Damian Mudge may be the old man of the doubles circuit but tonight at the Cambridge Club he showed why he has been top man for so long with so many tournament notches on his belt. Yes, he had a partner, Manek Mathur, a new match this season, but as Michael Ferreira and Yvain Badan had decided on targeting the older man in an attempt to wear him out, it seemed Mudge had to hit most of the balls and Mathur (Badan’s former partner) was reduced to that of a supporting role.

The first game was no indication of what was in store for Ferreira & Badan as they more than held their own, probably encouraged by their first meeting this season when they beat Mathur & Mudge 15-13 in the fifth. (Mind you, at their next meeting they lost 3/0)

Mudge was firing a barrage of balls back at Ferreira on the left wall and his two-handed backhand was given a lot of work. On some shots Ferreira added a sort of snapped slice, sending the ball into the front right nick – it was unreadable and promised much grief for his opponents – but ultimately caused grief to himself with a high error count.

There were few long rallies as both teams were looking for opportunities to go short. There were some wonderfully dynamic rallies with displays of lightning reaction that caused cheers from the packed bleachers.  At 13-13, it was still anybody’s game when the ball broke. The warmed up ball was Mudge’s lucky charm – he won the next points with a fluke nick off the frame and then an outright winner on a reverse nick – 15-13 after 18 entertaining minutes.

Sadly that was about it. The first point of the second game was another lucky nick, the next point went to him and his partner when Badan was denied a let and from that moment they just raced away. Mudge was hitting screaming cross-courts that were too fast for Ferreira to scrape off the wall: he was cutting in surprise drops and disguised drops for which his opponents had no answer. And always Mathur was there as solid backup.  Mathur & Mudge were 8-3 up and with the help of eight outright winners took the game 15-6 in 16 minutes – which included time out for a broken ball.

Now Ferreira & Badan are known for their determination, their never-say-die attitude and coming back from match ball down, so there was anticipation for the third game, despite the evidence of the second game.

Alas, it was not to be and once again Mathur & Mudge raced away to lead 8-2 and although Badan hit three winners to give hope at 5-8, the race was virtually over and after just 13 minutes Mathur & Mudge  had the game (symbolically the last point was on an unforced error from Ferreira ) and the match as well as then their names on the Jim Bentley Cup.

In the changing room Mudge said he’d had a good work out during the day “…and opened my hips. So when I’m feeling good in my body, I’m more confident.”  Tomorrow he will be undergoing his third knee operation: he certainly did not play like a one-legged man.

For Mike and Yvain it was a bad day at the office, and scant reward for all the hard work of the weekend when they had to ground out victories, in contrast to the winners who had a comparatively easy route to the final. Roll on 2017.

Qualifiers Garno & Stait Storm to R&TC Challenger Title

lolol
l-r: Greg McArthur, Imran Khan, Manek Mathur, Addison West, Alex Stait, Ed Garno

R&TC Challenger Draw

Before playing their first qualifying match in the 2016 Racquet & Tennis Club Challenger—the final event of the 2015-2016 SDA Tour season—Ed Garno was planning on flying to Florida Saturday or Sunday for a business meeting on Monday. Garno went on to foil his own plans as he and partner Alex Stait shocked the $15,000 R&TC draw to go on and become the first qualifiers to win a title during the SDA era.

The champions began their title run in what could be considered the deepest qualifying pool on the SDA tour with twelve teams vying for two sports in the eight-team main draw. Their first-round opponents were Germantown Cricket Club finalist James Stout, who Garno faced just a few weeks ago in the Mixed Doubles Open final, and partner Barney Tanfield.

“James is such a great player so we were really just hoping to get through that,” Stait said of the world racquets champion and world No. 35. “We did, but we were 14-11 down in the first game against them. If we lost that who knows what could have happened. We were pretty relaxed the whole way through. We just wanted to play and enjoy it. I hadn’t actually played since the last tournament because I had shoulder problems, so we really didn’t expect too much. To get past James, that was really the best we could have expected before the tournament.”

Stait, thirty-six, & Garno, forty-seven, then advanced to the main draw in three games over a significantly younger side in the form of James Bamber & Travis Judson.

In the top half of the main draw, both qualifiers wreaked havoc on the one and four seeds. Qualifiers Gilly Lane & Fred Reid recovered from losing the first two games to upset four seeds Andres Vargas & John Roberts in five. Stait & Garno shocked top seeds Randy Lim & Hamed Anvari in three games to set up an all-qualifier semifinal. Stait & Garno dropped their first game of the tournament against Lane & Reid, but turned the semifinal around to reach the final in four.

In contrast, the bottom half of the draw played out according to seeding until three seeds Imran Khan & Greg McArthur took down two seeds Bernardo Samber & Antonio Diaz in four games to reach the final.

A see-saw final put the qualifiers at an early disadvantage, dropping the first game 15-11. Stait & Garno stormed back by winning the second and third games at 14-14 on simultaneous game balls. Khan & McArthur forced a fifth game, in which Stait & Garno played their best squash of the tournament according to Stait.

“I think we just got on a roll,” Stait said. “We felt qualifying would be as hard as the main draw so we just got on a roll. We had a strategy and stuck to it. In the fifth game of the final we played our best squash of the weekend, and actually felt better then compared to the rest of the tournament.”

“We wanted to win a couple of qualifying matches as we always aim for, and just take it one match at a time,” Garno said. “We seemed to be playing pretty well winning each in three and kept building. After playing together for a few years now, we’ve noticed that we just can’t hit the ball hard so we need to use our shots and lobs to play smart so I think we’re finally starting to find that rhythm. Half of the fun was just being there and playing together. It’s thrilling for us because we never set the expectation of winning the tournament. We’ve really just been trying to get better as a partnership to tell the truth.”

Philadelphia-based Stait & Garno learned doubles together under the tutelage of Ned Edwards & Bill Doyle at Merion Cricket Club, and have played exclusively with each other on the SDA tour for the past few seasons.

“I think the most satisfying thing about it is the fact that Ed and I learned doubles together from Ned Edwards,” Stait said. “He and Bill Doyle taught us how to play a few summers ago at Merion. We learned together and have played together ever since. I think that’s really the key for us, playing together all of the time and enjoying it. It’s so much fun for us. R&T is probably the most prestigious club in America. The tournament was really well run. Manek did a great job. The crowd is always very knowledgeable. If you look at the winner’s boards there, it’s absolutely outrageous. Some of the best players in the world are on there so to win a tournament there is extremely special.”

“I’m speechless, it’s really hard to believe,” said Garno, who is also an R & T member. “For me personally, over the last three and a half years, the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve made, the clubs I’ve visited traveling all over the country. That’s almost bigger than squash. I’ve enjoyed playing the game and learning the game. I’ve endured a few final losses recently in the Mixed, Century and William White, but I get right back on court on Monday. I truly love the game and the people associated with it. For me, I just enjoy it. It was an incredible event thanks to the professionalism of the staff, Manek Mathur and Addison West, the facilities and the fan support. I’ve never seen so many people stay so late for these matches. We couldn’t thank the pro staff and tournament committee enough.”