2012-13 SDA Midseason Summary: Mathur/Badan Emerge As Foremost Challenger To Mudge/Gould

The autumn portion of the 2012-13 SDA pro doubles season witnessed many five-game thrillers, eleventh-hour rallies and simultaneous-game-ball moments; a series of emergent rivalries, several of them involving first-year partnerships; and the undefeated performance and continued dominance of Damien Mudge and Ben Gould, who swept to victory in all four full-ranking tournaments (namely the Maryland Club Open, the St. Louis Open, the Big Apple Open and the inaugural U. S. Open) on the schedule and have therefore won 23 of the 24 tournaments they have entered over the past two and a half seasons, compiling in the process a match record of 73-1.

The authors of that lone setback, former mid-2000’s Trinity College teammates Manek Mathur and Yvain Badan (who attained this distinction in the semifinals of the early-December 2011 Briggs Cup en route to winning that event), reached the finals in all three SDA tour stops — in Baltimore, New York and Wilmington — that they played in this fall. Badan missed the late-October St. Louis stop, in which Mathur and Viktor Berg took Mudge/Gould to five games in the semis, following which The Champs defeated Paul Price and Clive Leach in the final. The latter pair of decorated veterans, who had never teamed up prior to this season, have proven themselves masters at living dangerously, having already eked out five-game wins at the Maryland Club over the similarly-debuting Jonny Smith/Greg Park duo and over James Stout and Greg McArthur in St. Louis, in each case by three points or less, then stormed back from two-love-down against John Russell and John White (yet another first-year tandem) at the Big Apple Open.

Though they came up just short both in that match vs. Price/Leach at the New York Athletic Club and in a taut Baltimore quarterfinal against Preston Quick and Matt Jenson (who won the last two fifth-game points from 13-all), Russell and White avenged this latter result by out-lasting Jenson/Quick in five long games in Wilmington and won a terrific five-game qualifying match against Chris Walker and Mark Price in New York, one of two final-round qualifiers that night (the other being when Steve Sharff and Phil Barker surmounted a two-love deficit against Raj Nanda and Bernardo Samper) to go the distance. Indeed, four of the six matches encompassing that round and the next-day quarterfinals went to a fifth game, as did three of the seven main-draw matches in Baltimore, five of that tournament’s seven qualifying-round matches and three of the seven main-draw matches in St. Louis. Even Mudge and Gould were forced into fifth games on two occasions, namely the Maryland Club Open final against Mathur/Badan and a St. Louis Open semi with Mathur/Berg, while the top contending team of Mathur and Badan had to weather a pair of pre-final five-game battles against Imran Khan and McArthur, who actually led them two games to love in Wilmington before being overtaken from there.

Finally, the non-ranking but highly prestigious Jim Bentley Cup, a six-team invitational round-robin mid-town Toronto tourney that celebrated its 40th holding last month, came down to a simultaneous-championship-point Monday-night  culmination that saw Smith and Gould come through when the former cross-dropped a front-court winner at 14-all that had major ramifications for all four participants by giving Smith his first career pro-doubles title; depriving Stout of what would have been that exact accomplishment; enabling Gould to go five for five thus far this season; and preventing Leach, who turned 40 one day earlier (i.e. that Sunday), from what would have been a singularly compelling 40/40 double-achievement had he been able to celebrate his 40th birthday by winning the 40th Bentley Cup.