In an overpowering display of excellence, Damien Mudge and Ben Gould swept to victory without losing a game in the 65th annual edition of the David Johnson Memorial Invitational at Heights Casino in Brooklyn. Mudge, incredibly, has now won this event TWELVE straight years (six with Gary Waite and three each with Viktor Berg and now Gould) — nearly double the run by any other player in an SDA tournament — and he and Gould were aided by both history’s sustenance and a draw that enabled them to keep playing opponents coming off draining, route-going matches.
After subduing first-time partners John Russell and Mark Chaloner, who had previously rallied from two-one down against qualifiers Josh Schwartz and Hamed Anvari, Mudge and Gould faced Paul Price and Clive Leach, who themselves had been pushed deep into a fifth game by another set of first-time teammates in Raj Nanda and newly-crowned U. S. National Hardball champion Chris Walker before a late Leach shooting spree avoided the upset. Mudge and Gould narrowly won the first two closely-contested, spectacularly well-played games, then raced off to 8-3 in the third at which juncture Price, who had received the brunt of the Mudge/Gould attack and whose body language had grown increasingly negative as the score mounted, announced that he had sustained an upper-leg injury, played one additional point (failing to run for a drop shot) and offered a concessionary handshake while players and spectators alike rolled their eyes in exasperation.
Highlighting the draw’s bottom half was the semifinal advance of James Stout and Greg McArthur, who earned 3-0 victories over first Mark Price and Bernardo Samper and then second seeds Manek Mathur and Yvain Badan, the first time the latter pair, four-time finalists this season, had been stopped short of the semis in more than two years. Stout and McArthur then won the first game against Matt Jenson and Preston Quick (quarters 15-14 fourth-game victors over Jonny Smith and Greg Park on a Quick overhead into the front-left nick on the last point), who however then asserted themselves in the remainder to reach their first SDA final this season.
They had their chances there as well, only to be stymied by late-game Mudge/Gould runs, namely a 3-0 spurt from 11-10 to 14-10 in the first; a 7-1 game-closing run in the second after Jenson/Quick, down 4-0 (the third point of which featured the retrieval of the tournament AND the shot of the tournament, both by Mudge on the same point), had crept to 7-8; and a 6-0 match-ending burst after The Champs trailed 13-9. Appropriately, it was Mudge who delivered the ultimate salvo, a blazing hard serve that provoked a Jenson serve-return that sailed over the back-wall boundary-line to seal Mudge/Gould’s sixth SDA title of the current campaign.