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Mudge Extends Remarkable David C. Johnson Winning Streak With Seventeenth Title

(l-r): Manek Mathur, Damien Mudge, Bernardo Samper, Chris Callis

The David C. Johnson Memorial already had significant historical context entering 2018 as the world’s oldest professional squash doubles tournament celebrated its octogenarian anniversary at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, New York. The weekend concluded with even more historical weight as world No. 1 Damien Mudge extended the sport’s longest winning streak with a seventeenth consecutive title—and second consecutive with partner Manek Mathur.

Mathur & Mudge’s road to the 2018 title proved to be more arduous than their 2017 campaign, in which they didn’t drop a game all tournament. With a full draw of sixteen teams and no first round bye, Americans Alex Domenick & Aaron Luque nicked a game off of the top seeds 15-14 in the third, ultimately falling in four games.

The top seeds comfortably dispatched Raj Nanda & Greg Park in the quarters, and then fended off in-form Jonny Smith & Clive Leach in the semifinals.

The bottom half of the draw saw a dramatic first-round upset when James Stout & Greg McArthur came back from 2-1 down to defeat two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan in five games. The unseeded pairing continued their main draw push with a quarterfinal victory against Adam Bews & Will Hartigan to reach the partnership’s first career SDA Platinum semifinal.

Stout & McAthur’s run came to an end in the semis, where three seeds Bernardo Samper & Chris Callis advanced to their second final of the season to set up a rematch of the 2017 Big Apple Open final against Mathur & Mudge.

As Samper & Callis did in New York City, the three seeds proved to be difficult opponents for the title favorites losing a close two opening games 12-15, 14-15. Samper & Callis kept their hopes alive taking the third game 15-13, but Mathur & Mudge regained control in the fourth, clinching the title 15-11.

“Bernie and Callis played some of the best squash I have seen them play!” Mudge said. “It took some of our best squash to fend them off. Not only was the quality high, but the camaraderie, respect and sportsmanship was second to none, which made the match that much more enjoyable to play and I would assume to watch.”

“Both of those boys played extremely well,” Mathur added. “They pushed the ball around and create openings well, but more importantly capitalized on those openings and put us under a bunch of pressure. We had to stick with our plan and make sure we countered their attack well, which luckily proved to be positive for us.”

With his streak spans back to 2002, the Australian has won nearly a quarter of the Johnson titles in the tournament’s eighty years. It is the longest title winning streak in squash doubles history. The streak has involved four partners: Gary Waite (2002-2007), Viktor Berg (2008-2010 and 2016), Gould (2011-15) and Mathur (2017-2018).  Waite comes in as the second all-time title holder with ten since the tournament’s inception in 1938.

“I hold this tournament very close to my heart,” Mudge said. “Growing up and playing with all the experienced older guys like Waite, Talbott, etc., they said this was the one to win and I’ve always felt that way myself. I really don’t have the words to describe winning this event seventeen consecutive times. It’s kinda surreal and it also shows how old I am. Just to be a part of this tournament that’s been going for eighty years is just incredible, and I feel privileged just to be involved with the history of the event. There are so many familiar faces over the years and there’s a certain comfort level I feel at the Heights Casino and especially on the court that is difficult to explain.”

In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was renamed after the early death of David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.

“The Heights squash community is second to none,” Mathur said. “They have a stellar junior program but the camaraderie and passion for the game is what truly stands out. What Bobby has done and achieved over there with his doubles program is remarkable, and I look forward to seeing that program grow even further.”

“Big thank you to Bobby Burns, Will Bunn, Emily Lungstrum, John Osnato, Christian Petrina the General Manager for the amazing trophies which he supplies,” Mudge said of the hosts. “They are literally the best trophies I have seen in sport. Congratulations to Christian and his wife who had a child on last Friday. Last but not least my stud partner Manek Mathur! He is such a close friend both on and off the court. The relationship that we have developed is one of the reasons why I play this great game. He is an exceptionally talented player and will have a lot of years to continue the dominance that he deserves.”

Masterclass Mudge Wins Sixteenth Consecutive Johnson Memorial

johnson trophy crop
(l-r) Mike Ferreira, Yvain Badan, Damien Mudge, Manek Mathur

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.

After reaching the main draw via a difficult qualifying final against James Stout & Whitten Morris, Burns & Bamber won a five-game first round match against Raj Nanda & Hamed Anvari, before a major upset against three seeds John Russell & Viktor Berg. Two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan, who narrowly escaped a quarterfinal upset against Imran Khan & Greg Park winning 15-14 in the fifth, eventually ended the young team’s run in a three-game semifinal.

Mudge & Mathur steadily progressed throughout the draw including a quarterfinal against first-time partners Bernardo Samper & Clive Leach and four seeds Jonny Smith & Chris Callis in the semifinals.

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!”

Mudge Wins Unprecedented Fifteenth David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Title

l-r: Viktor Berg, Damien Mudge, Chris Callis, Michael Ferreira.
l-r: Viktor Berg, Damien Mudge, Chris Callis, Michael Ferreira.

David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Draw

Damien Mudge augmented his record as the all-time winningest player of the world’s oldest professional doubles tournament, the David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial, winning an unprecedented fifteenth consecutive title—and fourth with partner Viktor Berg—this weekend at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn.

Mudge & Berg had won three consecutive Johnson titles together from 2008-2010 going into the weekend, and dropped just one game on their way to a fourth title together.

The top seeds eased through two three-game victories in the first two rounds of the tournament, before enduring their toughest test in the semifinals against four seeds Raj Nanda & Clive Leach. After losing the first two games 15-13, 15-8, Nanda & Leach sent the match into four winning the third game 15-14. The fourth stretched to 14-14 once again, but the top seeds pulled out the match 15-14.

The bottom half of the draw saw the tournament’s biggest upset in the form of a dramatic five-gamer that veterans Matt Jenson & Preston Quick pulled out over two seeds Yvain Badan & Manek Mathur, 15-14 in the fifth game.

Jenson & Quick earned an early lead against three seeds Mike Ferreira & Chris Callis in the semifinals, taking the first 15-8. Ferreira & Callis responded to advance to the final 8-15, 15-13, 15-16, 15-14.

The first-time finalists failed to challenge Mudge & Berg in the final, however, as the four-time champions raced to a 15-13, 15-6, 15-6 final victory.

“We are building our team chemistry again from a few years ago,” Mudge said of his partnership with Berg. “It’s a process that is enjoyable to be a part of. Every time we play, we get more and more comfortable with each other and the situations we have to figure out.”

Mudge’s fourth title with Berg adds to five consecutive titles with Ben Gould from 2011-2015, and six consecutive titles with Gary Waite from 2002-2007.

“It is very surreal to win the Johnson fifteen times in a row,” Mudge said. “Especially given the amount of history that is involved with the club and the tournament. Just to be a part of it is special within itself.”

The 2016 title is Berg’s fifth overall, which includes the 2001 title with Michael Pirnak.

“It feels great to win the oldest tournament,” Berg said. “The Heights is one of my favorite tournaments because of the history, the unique court and the general layout of the club.

“One of the keys to our success was our determination. Thank you to everyone involved for making this great tournament!”

The David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial is the oldest professional squash doubles tournament. In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was renamed after the early death of David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.

 

Mudge Continues David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Record Streak

The 2015 David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial final. L-R: Ben Gould, Yvain Badan, Manek Mathur, Damien Mudge.
The 2015 David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial final. L-R: Ben Gould, Yvain Badan, Manek Mathur, Damien Mudge.

For an unprecedented fourteenth consecutive year, Damien Mudge has won the world’s oldest professional doubles tournament, the SDA David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, New York.

Playing with fellow Australian world No. 1 Ben Gould for the fifth year running, Mudge & Gould led the field as top seeds in a full draw of sixteen teams following two rounds of qualifying. Despite the top four seeds comprising the semifinals, the opening rounds were not without upsets.

In the bottom half of the draw, seven of eight quarterfinalists were Trinity alums, including Colombian Bernardo Samper who recruited recent graduate and Mexican international Antonio Diaz for their first SDA tournament together. Samper & Diaz upset world No. 12 Preston Quick & world No. 11 Greg park in the round of sixteen, and pushed eventual finalists and two seeds Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan to four games in the quarterfinals. Mathur & Badan recovered from losing the first game, to defeat fellow Bantams Mike Ferreira & Jonny Smith in four games.

In the top half of the draw, Randy Lim & Steve Scharff upset higher-seeded Freddie Reid & Raj Nanda to set up a quarterfinal against fourth-seeded Clive Leach & John Russell. Leach & Russell, Big Apple Open champions, held off their advance in three games to set up a rematch of their Big Apple semifinal upset against Mudge & Gould. The defending champions avoided any such repeat of their Big Apple semifinal, winning 15-6, 15-9, 15-12.

The top two teams on the SDA tour provided a packed Heights Casino gallery—sustained by food and beverage sponsors Five Acre Farms and Sixpoint brewery—with an enthralling final Sunday afternoon. Mudge & Gould appeared to be on the verge of a three-game victory winning the opening games 15-11, 15-10, and holding a 13-8 advantage in the third. Meanwhile in Hartford, CT, Mathur & Badan’s alma mater secured its fifteenth national title, perhaps unknowingly spurring Mathur & Badan to come back and win the third game 15-14 on a simultaneous game and match ball.

Mathur & Badan continued to press the world No. 1’s in the fourth until both sides were level at 12-12, at which point Mudge went into what Gould described as “Hulk mode” to power the defending champions win the next three points, the partnership’s fifth consecutive Johnson title, and Mudge’s record fourteenth consecutive Johnson title.

L-R: Mudge, Gould, Mathur, Badan. (image: Jean Ervasti)
L-R: Mudge, Gould, Mathur, Badan. (image: Jean Ervasti)

“Manek and Swiss played really well in the final,” Gould said after the final. “In fact, all four of us played well and it was a high quality, fun match with plenty of twists and turns, coupled with power hitting and sharp shooting. They played extremely well to come back and win the third game and almost did it again in the fourth. Fortunately, Mudgie turned into “Hulk” mode at 12-12 to push things in our favor. It made for really exciting squash, and combined with a packed, very vocal gallery, created a super fun environment to play in.”

“I thought that was the best Manek and Swiss had played against us in quite a while,” Mudge added. “I was really impressed with their game. They came back strong to win the third, and almost did the same in the fourth. We managed to hang on.”

Mudge first won the Johnson on the right wall with long-time partner Gary Waite in 2002. Waite & Mudge won six consecutive titles, setting Waite’s then record ten total Johnson titles. Switching the left wall, Mudge then went on to win three titles from 2008-2010 with Viktor Berg, before his last five with Gould.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Mudge reflected. “Obviously, with any tournament you try to put your head down and do the best that you can. I don’t really have words to describe it, it’s just something that I never thought I would be able to do, nor was I really focused on accomplishing it. I had always had my sights on beating Gary Waite’s record of ten titles total. So I always had that record in the back of my mind, but I never thought I’d win fourteen consecutively.”

“Congrats to Mudgie for racking up fourteen consecutive titles,” his partner added. “Very impressive record and one I doubt will ever be broken.”

The now five-time champions Mudge & Gould both praised Heights Casino for maintaining one of the longstanding, highest prize money events on the tour as the professional squash doubles game continues to expand in participation, number of events, and total prize money. As with past editions, the 2015 Johnson offered a full draw of sixteen teams with qualifiers and a prize money purse of $40,000.

“Base events like the Johnson are the foundation of our tour,” Gould said. “We can’t thank sites like Brooklyn Heights enough for their ongoing enthusiasm and support of our game. The entries for the Heights were huge. It speaks volumes to the depth that the tour. Our membership has grown immensely over the past few years. Our next goal and challenge is to field the same size and quality draws at events away from the East Coast.”

For Gould, the Brooklyn club has always held a nostalgic value as the Australian’s first coaching job stateside.

“The Heights Casino was my first coaching job in the U.S. fourteen years ago,” Gould reminisced. “I was only there one season, but formed lifelong friendships with juniors and families. The stands are always packed and loud with familiar faces so it’s always a really exciting atmosphere to play in.”

The David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial is the oldest professional squash doubles tournament. In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was renamed after the early death of David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.

“The Heights Casino takes lots of pride in hosting the Johnson,” said club member and tournament chairman Will Bunn.”First and foremost, we have a large number of squash doubles advocates as a whole. Our primary goal is to provide the players a venue and place to show off their sport and expertise. It’s a really well-grounded, and well-loved tournament spanning generations of club members.”

David C. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Underway at Heights Casino

DJHCpreview
The 2014 David Johnson final. L-R: Clive Leach, Ben Gould, Paul Price, Damien Mudge.

The Squash Doubles Association (SDA) David C. Johnson Jr. Memorial, the oldest professional doubles tournament dating back to 1938, is underway at Brooklyn’s Heights Casino.

Follow all scores live on sdaprotour.com/live powered by www.clublocker.com.

Sponsored by Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery and Five Acre Farms, the David C. Johnson is one of the highest prize money events on the SDA Pro Tour with a prize money purse of $40,000. Two rounds of qualifying played out Tuesday night and Wednesday morning sending four teams to complete the sixteen-team main draw. The first round of the main draw play will be split between Wednesday evening and Thursday.

Defending champions and joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould lead the draw as top seeds in search of their sixth title of the season, and second $40,000 title. Opposing the Australians are Trinity alums Yvain Badan, world No. 3, and Manek Mathur, world No. 4, who look to add their second title of the season to their $40,000 PDC Cup title. Badan and Mathur are seeded to meet fellow Bantams Jonny Smith, world No. 6, and Mike Ferreira, world No. 8, in the semifinals. 2014 finalist Clive Leach, world No. 5, returns as the four seed with his Big Apple Open-winning partner John Russell, world No. 7.

In 1938, Ned Bigelow started an open doubles championship at the Heights Casino. It was the first tournament that allowed professionals to participate and paid them if they won. Until the 1960’s, the the Heights Casino tournament was the only open professional doubles tournament. In 1965, it was memorialized after David C. Johnson, Jr., who was one of the tournament’s driving forces.