Top seeds Damien Mudge and Ben Gould were ruthlessly efficient in capturing the $20,000 Big Apple Open, hosted as always by the New York Athletic Club. After dropping the third game of what to that point had been a highly competitive quarterfinal match against Jonny Smith and Greg Park, they blitzed through the 15-3 fourth and never looked back, defeating Paul Price and Clive Leach (who one round earlier had rallied from two-love down against John Russell and John White) in a well-contested but straight-set semi and rising superior in the final to second seeds Manek Mathur and Yvain Badan, who played wonderfully well virtually throughout the immensely high-paced hour-long Monday-evening match which however wound up with a fairly convincing 15-8, 9 and 11 stat line. It marked the third straight year that Mudge (who has played in the final of all 10 renditions of this tourney) and Gould captured this event, each time via a 3-0 final-round outcome, and one or the other has wound up in the winner’s circle every year but the inaugural, when Leach and Willie Hosey defeated Mudge and Gary Waite in the final.

Of the six total matches played in the two rounds that encompassed the final qualifying round and the quarterfinals, four went the full five games, on two occasions (the Price/Leach quarter, as noted, plus the Phil Barker/Steve Scharff rally against Raj Nanda and Bernardo Samper) with the winner overcoming a two-games-to-love deficit — yet another tribute to the depth of the SDA tour. In the bottom-half quarterfinals, Matt Jenson and Preston Quick subdued a pardonably fatigued Barker and Scharff, while Mathur and Badan, leading Imran Khan and Greg McArthur two games to love, were forced to a fifth game, a challenge they responded to in no-nonsense 15-6 fashion, generating momentum that they then carried through their straight-game semi against Jenson and Quick.

Their best chance in the final occurred in the second game, whose first 16 points, most of them torturously lengthy and punishing, were evenly divided. But at that 8-all juncture, Mathur tinned a forehand cross-drop, Badan did the same on a reverse-corner, Gould crushed a forehand past Badan, and JUST LIKE THAT the score was suddenly 11-8 and the eventual champs were home free in that game and able to nurse a small but unassailable lead throughout the close-out third, ending with a forehand blast by Gould (who had partnered Alan Kanders to the pro-am title just prior to the pro final) that was too much for Mathur to handle.

By Rob Dinerman

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