Continuing their recent dominance after an unexpectedly rocky mid-winter stretch, Damien Mudge and Ben Gould roared to victory this past weekend in the $20,000 inaugural Baltimore Cup, hosted by the Baltimore Country Club, losing the 15-14 first game in their opening match against Graham Bassett and Imran Khan and then running off nine straight games, including a 15-11, 11 and 11 final today at the expense of Greg Park and Jonny Smith. After mid-January losses to Clive Leach and Paul Price in both Boston and Greenwich, Mudge and Gould have now swept through the draws in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Baltimore, beating a different team in each final (Price/Leach, Matt Jenson/Preston Quick, Smith/Park) and winning 27 of their 28 games. Each of the games this afternoon was decided by a four-point Mudge/Gould run, namely from 8-all to 12-8 in the first, from 11-all to 15-11 (two errors followed by two winners) in the second and from 7-all to 11-7 in the third.
With all that, the most memorable moments of this tournament occurred not in the main draw’s last match but in its first, when qualifiers and first-time partners Dan Roberts and Fred Reid Jr., though held to single digits in two of the first three games and down a match-ball in the fourth, christened this tournament in dramatic fashion by coming up with the biggest upset win so far this entire 2012-13 SDA tour in the form of an 8-15 15-11 5-15 15-14 15-11 gem at the expense of second seeds Price (who was denied a let-call at 14-all in that fourth game) and Leach, who before this outcome had been one of only three tour regulars (Mudge and Gould being the others) to have not been ousted short of the semis in more than two years. Coincidentally, the last Baltimore-based pro-doubles tournament debut, the Maryland Club Open, occurred exactly a decade ago in 2003, and on that occasion as well the very first match of the main draw saw a qualifying team, namely Alex Pavulans and Chris Deratnay, knock off a highly-seeded, heavily favored tandem in the persons of Leach and Blair Horler, who at the time were just months removed from having won the prestigious Kellner Cup.
Not content with their huge breakthrough performance, Roberts and Reid pushed Smith and Park, quarterfinal 3-0 winners over qualifiers Shaun Johnstone and Jacques Swanepoel, deep into a fourth game before the eventual finalists won by a close 15-13 15-14 (on a Park cross-court winner) 13-15 15-9 tally. Meanwhile, Mudge and Gould followed their Bassett/Khan opener by first duplicating their six-day-old straight-set Brooklyn final-round win in the top-half semifinal against Jenson and Quick (quarters four-game victors over Raj Nanda and Chris Walker), and then, as noted, asserting themselves over Smith and Park to notch their seventh title of the season.