Trailing two games to love in a rare SDA final between a pair of first-time partnerships, Ben Gould and Jonny Smith conjured up an extraordinary mid-match turnaround and rallied to a hair-raising 14-15 10-15 15-4 15-7 15-14 victory Monday evening to win the 40th annual Jim Bentley Cup, hosted as always by the Cambridge Club in downtown Toronto. It marked the fourth Bentley Cup in the last six years for Gould, as well as the first pro title for Smith (who back-hand cross-dropped a winner into the front-right nick on that final exchange), while Stout, the current world rackets champion, was playing in his first SDA final and Leach, who turned 40 during the tournament weekend, has now reached five Bentley Cup finals without ever hoisting the trophy.
He sure came close to doing so on this occasion, though, displaying a dynamism throughout that, complemented by Stout’s fleetness afoot and penetrating salvos, brought them through their three-team Pool B, with first a five-game mid-day Saturday win over Damien Mudge and Greg Park, whose late-match calf injury proved too severe for the team to play their scheduled match against Manek Mathur and Preston Quick later that afternoon, and then a 12-15 15-14 15-12 15-14 tally in what thus effectively became a semifinal Sunday afternoon against Mathur/Quick. That latter match hinged on those two one-point games, with Stout nailing a forehand length past Mathur to account for the second game and Leach delicately feathering a backhand serve-return from the back wall to the front-left to finish off the match.
Meanwhile, Gould and Smith wended their way through Pool A with a pair of competitive four-game Saturday wins over first defending champs Paul Price and Mark Chaloner and then Viktor Berg and Matt Jenson, who were swept by Price/Chaloner in that Pool’s remaining match on Sunday. The two-hour-plus final was terrific, with Leach and Stout, buoyed by a stroke call against Smith at 14-all in the first game, racing to a prohibitive 7-0 lead that clinched the second. Gould and Smith (whose several winners right off the bat in the third game helped change the match’s complexion) then noticeably picked up the pace through the next two single-figure tallies, leading to a climactic fifth featuring alternating brief bursts as it seesawed perilously along. Both Smith and Stout, each sensing the possibility of his first pro-doubles crown, reacted emotively to the game’s undulating flow until finally, on the battle’s ultimate point, Stout’s rail along the left wall left Smith with just enough room to come up with the winning salvo on his team’s third championship-point.