The 2018 Big Apple Open ended in unfortunate fashion as world No. 1 Manek Mathur sustained what appeared to be a severe Achilles injury midway through the second game of the final, forcing an immediate retirement and handing the 2018 title to Yvain Badan & Bernardo Samper Monday night at New York Athletic Club.
The final appeared to be well poised for the NYAC crowd as the top two seeds collided in one of the SDA Tour’s staple events.
Mathur rekindled his Maryland Club Open-winning partnership with Chris Callis and progressed through the draw with the same impeccable form that has seen the Indian international go undefeated for his last nineteen tournaments, spanning three seasons and dating back to the 2016 Maryland Club Open final loss nearly three years ago to the month.
The top seeds made a blistering start to the final with a decisive 15-5 score line, but the two seeds returned more resolute in the second game. At 7-all, Mathur pulled up awkwardly, unsure of what had transpired at first, until the reality of the injury set in. Callis, Badan and Samper as well as members of the crowd rushed to his aid and emergency services arrived shortly after to treat Mathur.
While both Samper & Badan mark their first career Big Apple Open title, both players could only focus on the well-being of their opponent, fellow Trinity alum and friend.
“There’s no celebration for us right now, we just feel horrible for Manek,” Badan said. “There’s no worse way to win a match. You never want to see that happen to anybody, no less someone you’re so close to. We all went to school together, we’re best friends, and it’s even more tough seeing how much of the season is still down the line and knowing how long it will take him to recover.”
The injury will no doubt have re-seeding and draw implications for the rest of the season as the tour prepares to descend on Westchester Country Club with an SDA Platinum draw this weekend.
“It really sucks, especially to see the caliber player he is and everything he’s doing for the tour,” Samper said. “He’s the best player, perhaps in history, and he’s been training really hard for this season, and to see it in the second game of the final is really sad. We wish him the best in his recovery and we need him back on the tour as soon as possible.”
Mathur had won the past two Big Apple Opens with Damien Mudge, including a 2017 final win over Samper & Callis. Badan reached the 2014 final with Mathur and the 2016 final with Mike Ferreira.
“We’re grateful to the Big Apple Open, they’re always a steady event every year,” Badan said. “Pat Canavan and his staff do a wonderful job and we’re grateful to everyone here. We’re just upset for Manek and that we couldn’t give them more of a final.”
World No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge entered the 2017 Big Apple Open—the first SDA full ranking event of the 2017-2018 season—with a thirty-match winning streak spanning nine tournaments that started with the 2016 Big Apple Open at the New York Athletic Club.
Of those thirty consecutive victories, not a single one extended to five games. This much changed in Mathur & Mudge’s first match of the new season against Australians Raj Nanda & Zac Alexander, who recently returned stateside after a spell in his home country.
The sides split the first two games with Nanda & Alexander taking the first 15-13 and Mathur & Mudge the second, 15-11. In the midst of Mathur and Nanda jockeying on the left wall, Mathur was hit by a few balls and at one point took a racket to his hand, giving the top seeds an injury scare as they conceded the third 15-11. A nervy fourth game saw Mathur recover and force a fifth game by edging the fourth 15-13. Aided by Nanda cramping up in the fifth, Mathur & Mudge regained control to progress to the semifinals 15-7, after a bumpy start to the season.
Mathur & Mudge’s semifinal opponents were one of the stories of the tournament. Bates graduate and Racquet & Tennis Club pro Eric Bedell teamed up with fellow R&T member and doubles stalwart Whitten Morris in Bedell’s Big Apple Open debut. Bedell & Morris, world No. 56 and 46 respectively, reached the main draw after two qualifying wins where they went on to claim two major upsets. In the first round, the qualifiers took out world No. 28 Shaun Johnstone & world No. 27 Adam Bews in three games, before a three-game upset over World Doubles champion Clive Leach & Will Mariani in the quarterfinals.
Mathur & Mudge ended Bedell & Morris’ surprise run in the semis, closing out the third game 15-14 on simultaneous match/game ball.
In Monday night’s final between Mathur & Mudge and Samper & Callis, it was the underdogs who drew first blood to take the first 15-10. Mathur & Mudge bounced back to take command the second and third games 15-9, 15-5, but found themselves down 10-4 in the fourth game. From 10-4 down, Mathur & Mudge fought back to claim the fourth 15-13, earning their second straight Big Apple Open title and tenth overall SDA title together.
“It’s our first tournament back after both having different preseasons,” Mathur said. “I think a lot of the guys were more prepared than we were, but we luckily were able to pull through each match. We had to dig pretty deep, trust in our instincts and really make sure our defense was good when it needed to be. Luckily for us it was. I told Damien at the end of the final that it was a rough weekend and that we need to go back to the drawing board and make sure we’re good. A lot of the guys have done a lot of work and as the tour grows a lot of people are really going for it, making strides in their games and you could see that this weekend.”
“We struggled a little bit to get our game plan going in both our quarterfinal and final matches,” Mudge said. “Our execution was just a little bit off and both of our opponents really played well. But we fortunately managed to find a way to get through to the other side.”
Mathur praised some of the new partnerships on display this weekend.
“Bernardo and Chris are both great guys and awesome talents,” Mathur said. “I think when Bernie started playing doubles we all knew he would become one of the better guys, same with Chris, he’s such a talent on the singles court and both of their talents translate well to doubles. You can see that now, they beat a really good team yesterday in Mikey and Swiss, two guys who have been at it for a while. It’s just good for the tour to see new faces and partnerships pushing the standard top teams. You have Eric and Whitten reach the semis too, that’s really rare to see qualifiers go so far, it’s amazing to see that the gap is getting closer and closer.”
The Big Apple Open is typically the second full ranking event on the calendar, but this year was the first with the Maryland Club Open—thrice voted tournament of the year—taking a brief hiatus as the club undergoes construction on a third doubles court.
The late start turned out to be advantageous for Mudge, who marked his eighth career Big Apple Open title, just three months after undergoing knee surgery.
The tour resumes November 3 with an inaugural Platinum tournament—the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles Squash Tournament in Rye, New York. Mathur & Mudge enter the draw as the title favorites.
The season’s first SDA gold level event saw world No. 2 Damien Mudge and world No. 3 Manek Mathur win their maiden title together in the thirteenth Big Apple Open Monday night at New York Athletic Club.
After making their partnership debut as top seeds in the Maryland Club Open where they reached the final, Mathur & Mudge went one better in their second tournament winning the Big Apple Open title without dropping a game.
The upset of the tournament came in the form of Chaudhry—fresh off of his Long Island Open title—& Samper as they defeated 2014 Big Apple Open and world doubles champions Russell & Leach in four games to reach the semis against Ferreira & Badan. In the semis, Ferreira & Badan held off a tough challenge from Chaudhry & Samper 15-10, 15-14, 7-15, 15-11, while Mathur & Mudge cruised to the final in three games against four seeds and another new partnership—Jonny Smith & Chris Callis.
In the final, Mathur & Mudge avenged their Maryland Club Open final loss against Ferreira & Badan 15-11, 15-11, 15-7 to clinch Mudge’s seventh Big Apple Open and Mathur’s first.
“It’s an honor to have my name next to all of those already on the trophy,” Mathur said. “There’s a lot of history behind the event and I’m glad I can be a part of it. Throughout the weekend we were pretty adamant on ensuring that we timed the ball well, and hit our zones and targets well which created more space for us and allowed us to control our positions of most of the matches—that’s the biggest strength for us. Damien’s such a big guy, he makes the court look so small when he’s out there and that’s something I’m trying to learn from him and improve. Positioning is so important in this game and if you can stay in front of the other guy, push the ball around and make them move around you, you’re in the where you need to be.”
The partnership has seen Damien Mudge move back to the right wall after playing on the left for ten years with long-time partners Viktor Berg and Ben Gould, whom Mudge overtook in November’s rankings as the new world No. 1.
“On the left he was as much of a backboard as he is now,” Mathur said. “He doesn’t make any errors. With him on the right, he can generate so much more pace and he’s much more aggressive with his attacking and angles. He can really put a good amount of pressure on compared to the backhand side. On the forehand, he’s a big force to reckon with so it’s great to have it on my side after playing against him on the left for years.”
Mudge admitted that he overcame a recent wrist injury that hampered his preparation and time on court, but was able to spend more time preparing for the Big Apple Open.
“Like most things it’s a process,” Mudge said. “With us in particular we have had a lot more challengers than normal. We’re developing our team chemistry as a new partnership and time works on our side and makes us more comfortable knowing how to play with each other and the best ways to work with each other.”
Mudge is now just three Big Apple Open titles away from equaling Ben Gould‘s record of ten.
“Of course it feels great to reverse our loss against Mike and Swiss,” Mudge continued. “That was a difficult loss playing together for our first tournament. We obviously have high expectations for ourselves and to fall short was tough. It’s always great to win in our home town with lots of familiar faces from our respective clubs. It’s a pleasure playing with Manek and hopefully we have many more years together.”
“It’s amazing to play there because it’s so close to home, there are so many friends and family and it’s always nice to play for them,” Mathur added. ” The membership there is very knowledgeable and understands the game well. The quality of the Pro-Am is really high. Off court, Pat, Clinton, Tim and Will all do such a great job running the event and taking care of us all week.”
Mathur, who was recently voted 2015 Player of the Season and Team of the Year with Badan, is excited with the new partnerships this season has brought and direction of the tour.
“I think it’s great for the game.” Mathur said. “It’s great to see new teams and new partnerships, new faces too. As you get new people involved it’s something that’s inevitable. It’s always fun to see a player like Chris Callis regularly in the semis now. He worked on his game a lot over the summer and it’s showing, and now he and Jonny Smith are a top team and doing well. Obviously Mike and Swiss, Bernardo and Baset have all emerged as top teams this season. It’s great to see new rivalries and camaraderie working out. It just goes to show that the game is growing and that there is a lot of depth coming in along with the veterans who have been playing for years. I think the SDA Tour should be very happy with the direction it’s going.”
SDA veteran Ben Gould won an unprecedented tenth Big Apple Open title—and fifth with partner Damien Mudge—over a span of eleven years, defeating first-time partners Manek Mathur & Chris Callis in the final Monday night at New York Athletic Club.
After John Russell & Clive Leach broke Mudge & Gould’s four-year title streak in 2014, the venerable Australian world No. 1’s returned this year to reclaim one of the most iconic trophies on the SDA tour, defeating a 2015 SDA Award-winner in each stage of the tournament.
Canadian national champions and SDA rookies of the year, Robin Clark & Scott Arnold, met the top seeds first in the quarterfinals, after advancing against Philadelphian qualifiers Alex Stait & Ed Garno. Clark & Arnold challenged the champions early on, winning the first game on simultaneous game ball 15-14. Mudge & Gould responded to win the match emphatically in four 15-11, 15-11, 15-3.
Sportsmanship Award winner Jonny Smith & Greg Park were next in the semifinals. Smith & Park took out the tournament’s four seeds and one defending champion, Leach & Raj Nanda, in a four-game quarterfinal. Mudge & Gould found themselves one game down again against Smith & Park, but once again dug themselves out of an early hole to reach the final 7-15, 15-7, 15-13, 15-8.
A familiar final foe in the form of Mathur awaited Mudge & Gould, but this time with first-time partner Callis, the 2015 most improved player of the year. Mathur & Callis topped a bottom half of the draw that saw three seeds Bernardo Samper & Yvain Badan exit the tournament in their first match against Viktor Berg & Hamed Anvari, whom Mathur & Callis defeated in a four-game semifinal.
The two seeds acquitted themselves well in the final. Although the top seeds had a clear edge to win the first 15-9, Mathur & Callis stayed within reach of the world No. 1’s throughout the second and third games, pushing them to decisive simultaneous game balls in each game. Mathur & Callis held game ball in the third, but Mudge & Gould rattled off two points to claim the title.
The twelfth SDA Big Apple Open returns to the New York Athletic Club this weekend with Australian world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould leading the draw as top seeds.
Two rounds of qualifying Thursday and Friday will complete the main draw, which begins at 5pm ET Friday afternoon. All main draw matches are streaming and scoring live on SDA Live powered by www.clublocker.com.
Mudge & Gould are seeded to meet world No. 6 Clive Leach in the semifinals who enters the 2015 tournament with recently-crowned mixed doubles national champion, Raj Nanda. Leach upset the Australians in the 2014 semifinals with partner John Russell, and went on to claim the title.
2014 finalists Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan return to New York City, but with new partners as the two and three seeds respectively in the bottom half of the draw.
Mathur, world No. 3, teamed up with Chris Callis, who won the SDA Most Improved Player of the Year Award last season, as the two seeds. Badan, world No. 4, is joined by fellow Trinity alum Bernardo Samper.