Forced to a fifth game in their semifinal round against a pair of first-time partners who had rampaged through the fourth 15-7, top-seeded two-time St. Louis Open defending champions Damien Mudge and Ben Gould rose to that severe Saturday-afternoon challenge by subduing Manek Mathur and Viktor Berg 15-9, then pressed on with a 15-8, 10 and 14 victory several hours later in the final against Paul Price and Clive Leach. Mudge and Gould, who had opened with a straight-set win against Chris Walker and Mark Chaloner, thereby consolidated their triumph in the 2012-13 season-opening Maryland Club Open and recorded their 21st tournament title in 22 attempts over the past two-plus seasons.

Repeating what had occurred two weeks earlier in Baltimore, three of the seven main-draw matches went to a fifth game, namely the aforementioned top-half semi (a strikingly streaky affair in which every game other than the 15-10 first went to the winning team in single digits, with Mudge/Gould racing out to 5-1 in the fifth and never looking back) and both matches played by James Stout and Greg McArthur, who had first had to weather a four-game qualifying-round match with 2011 Tompkins Cup Challenger semifinalists Graham Bassett and Dan Roberts. Stout and McArthur, unfazed by a daunting early deficit (8-15, 3-9) and later on by the loss of a fourth-game match-ball opportunity, persevered to a 8-15 15-13 15-7 14-15 15-9 quarterfinal upset win over second seeds Matt Jenson (who rifled a rail down the left wall on that fourth-game 14-all point) and Preston Quick, with the key being the Stout/McArthur comeback in that second game. They then rallied from two games to love down (the first of them being by a single point) to push Leach and Price (first-round 3-0 winners over qualifiers Jacques Swanepoel and Shaun Johnstone) to a fifth game before the latter third-seeded duo barely prevailed 15-14 15-7 9-15 10-15 15-12.

Perhaps somewhat drained by that route-goer, which ended barely three hours before they were due back on court for the final, Leach and Price dropped the opening pair of games but clung close in the third, which seesawed to 14-all. But on the ensuing exchange, Price’s attempt to nail a mid-court forehand drive down the middle between his two opponents instead rang loudly off the tin, ending the match and allowing Mudge and Gould to exit the host Racquet Club Of St. Louis with yet another tournament win.

By Rob Dinerman

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