Still riding the momentum of their recent victories in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Baltimore, top seeds Damien Mudge and Ben Gould steamrolled an over-matched field while earning the $20,000 Hashim Khan Invitational crown this weekend without the loss of a single game. The power-hitting game that has served them so well over the years was so perfectly suited to the court conditions at the host Denver Athletic Club that none of the three pairings they conquered — namely first the young Canadians Fred Reid Jr. and Thomas Brinkman, then first-time partners Imran Khan and Mark Chaloner and finally second seeds Manek Mathur and Yvain Badan — were able to slow the pace down or find any other antidote to the withering Mudge/Gould attack, abetted as it was by Denver’s mile-high altitude and the club’s “fast” walls, off which hard-hit balls appeared to accelerate like line drives caroming off of Astroturf, making them even more difficult to handle.
By far the most captivating match of the weekend, and the only one to exceed the three-game minimum, was the bottom-half semifinal between Mathur/Badan and the third seeds Preston Quick (who grew up learning the game at the host venue) and Matt Jenson, in what was a rematch of an airtight four-game semi in Greenwich seven weeks ago. Both teams entered the fray having already demonstrated their quality in their respective straight-set quarterfinal wins over potentially dangerous foes, with Quick and Jenson having subdued Shaun Johnstone and Jacques Swanepoel (most notably in a 14-0 game-closing run from 1-8 in the first game of their eventual 15-8, 5 and 7 triumph) while Mathur and Badan did the same to Chris Walker and his former mid-2000’s pro partner Viktor Berg. In a back-and-forth battle marked by alternating streaky play, Mathur and Badan, chastened by a sub-par performance in a rare first-round loss in Brooklyn 14 days earlier and by the two-games-to-one deficit that confronted them here in Colorado, raced off with the 15-7 fourth and grabbed an imposing 10-4 lead in the deciding game as well. Quick and Jenson courageously closed to 11-13, but a top-of-the-tinned Jenson backhand reverse-corner that would have been a winner was a huge swing (14-11 instead of 13-12) and gave the 2011 Briggs Cup champs Mathur and Badan the impetus they needed to reach their fifth final of the season.
However, they found themselves still looking for their first tournament WIN of the season after being held to 12, 6 and 9 in Sunday’s final. Since losing to Paul Price and Clive Leach in the semifinal round of the mid-January North American Open, Mudge and Gould have now won not only 12 straight matches but 36 of 37 games, amassing a level of momentum that may well carry them through the upcoming spring schedule and its mid-April culmination with the World Doubles in Manhattan.