A Look Back At The 2012-13 SDA Pro Doubles Tour

When the Australian superstars Damien Mudge and Ben Gould defeated the English pairing of Clive Leach and Jonny Smith three games to love in mid-April at the Racquet & Tennis Club in mid-town Manhattan before a packed gallery in the final round of the biennial World Doubles, they capped off two and a half months of perfection during which they ran off the last seven tournaments of the SDA’s inaugural 2012-13 tour. After suffering consecutive-tournament mid-January losses in both Boston and at the North American Open in Greenwich to Leach and Paul Price, Mudge and Gould emphatically righted themselves, sweeping to sequential victories in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Denver, Atlanta, Cleveland and finally New York, and dashing off 23 straight matches, all but five of them in straight sets. In light of their wins in each of the four autumn tour stops (the Maryland Club Open, the St. Louis Open, the Big Apple Open and the inaugural U. S. Open in Wilmington) prior to their pair of setbacks, Mudge and Gould finished off the season having won 11 of the 13 tournaments held under the SDA aegis this season, compiling in the process a record of 30-2, and lifting the overall totals of their three-year partnership to a won-loss record of 99-3, with 30 tournament wins in 33 attempts.

However this remarkable record should not obscure the performance of a number of the other top teams and players, particularly Leach, who reached a total of eight SDA finals, seven of them coming after his November 18th 40th birthday. As noted, he and Price, partners for the first time this past season, emerged triumphant first in Boston — swatting aside match-balls against them in the fourth game of their semi with Manek Mathur and Yvain Badan and the third game of their final with Mudge/Gould —- and then two weeks later in Greenwich, this time beating both of those teams in inverse order and in each case in much less dramatic four-game fashion. Price, who last month partnered Narelle Krizek to the World Mixed Doubles title, and Leach also advanced to the finals in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Cleveland, and Leach reached three other finals as well, in each case with a first-time partner, namely the Jim Bentley Cup in Toronto (where he and James Stout won the first two games against Gould and Smith, who rallied for a 15-14 fifth-game victory), the inaugural Atlanta Open with Imran Khan and, as mentioned, the World Doubles with Smith. Altogether Leach, the only player other than Mudge to reach at least two ranking-tournament finals during each of the past 12 years, has now won eight career titles and reached 44 finals with 14 different partners during that extended span.

Mathur and Badan, former mid-2000’s Trinity College teammates and winners of the biennial Briggs Cup in 2011, quietly attained the finals in Baltimore, New York, Wilmington, Greenwich and Denver and split their four matches against Price and Leach in what became an intriguing season-long battle for the No. 2 team ranking. It should be noted, however, that there were a number of teams right at their heels, any of which proved fully capable of rising to the fore on any given weekend, as witness a prolonged mid-winter five-tournament span in which Mudge and Gould their finals against five different teams composed of nine different players, just one short of the theoretical maximum, having opposed, sequentially, Price and Leach in Philadelphia, Preston Quick and Matt Jenson in Brooklyn, Smith and his season-long partner Greg Park in the final of the Baltimore Cup (one of several new stops on the pro-doubles circuit), Mathur and Badan in Denver and Leach (the only multiple runner-up during this period) and Khan in Atlanta. This was similar to what happened throughout the autumn of 2010, when Mudge and Gould successfully contested their four finals against four completely different teams and eight different players. It should be noted as well, however, in a compelling testimony to the quality and depth of the SDA tour group, that every one of the half-dozen or so contending teams behind Mudge and Gould had at least one tournament in which they lost in the opening round, including Mathur/Badan, who nearly lost to Stout and Greg McArthur twice in late-autumn and then DID lose (three games to love, no less) to them in Brooklyn, and even Price and Leach, who failed to convert an opening-round fourth-game match ball at the Baltimore Country Club in early March en route to an eventual 15-11 fifth-game defeat at the hands of qualifiers Fred Reid Jr. and Dan Roberts in what may have been the biggest upset of the entire season.

In addition to their march to the Brooklyn final, Quick and Jenson were six-time semifinalists, with each also getting to that stage (Quick with his fellow American Park and Jenson with his Aussie compatriot Price) of the World Doubles and Quick and Park successfully defending their U. S. National Doubles crown in a final-round win over Gould and Morris Clothier. Stout and McArthur, who several months earlier had out-played Quick and Jenson in a St. Louis quarterfinal, followed up their big win in Brooklyn by earning the Graham Cup, the only Challenger event on the schedule, at the Germantown Cricket Club in suburban Philadelphia, with a 15-13 fourth-game final-round victory over John Russell and John White, who had a praiseworthy first season as partners themselves, highlighted by a marathon early-December five-game U. S. Open quarterfinal win over Quick and Jenson and, two months later, a win over Smith and Park en route to the semis in Philadelphia. All told, well over a dozen players made significant marks in professional doubles this past season and, with even more new sites solidly in the pipeline for next season, the 2013-13 SDA campaigns figures to be even better.