Continuing the dominance they have displayed since early-February, Ben Gould and Damien Mudge swept to victory this past weekend at the Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, taking this tournament for the third consecutive year and winning their sixth straight SDA tour stop and tenth overall this season. After reaching the Saturday-evening final with straight-set victories over first Fred Reid Jr. and Dan Roberts and then Matt Jenson and Willie Hosey (finalists in this event two years ago and first-round victors over Carl Baglio and Jacques Swanepoel), Gould and Mudge rose superior to second seeds Paul Price and Clive Leach with an 8-15 15-9 15-8 15-13 tally. The top-seeded Australian stars have always found the host venue’s active court much to their liking and they were able to overpower their opponents, concluding with a precisely-executed salvo off Mudge’s racquet on the last exchange of the final’s closely-contested fourth game. All six editions of this tournament have now been won by either Mudge (with Viktor Berg in 2008 and 2009) or Gould (with Price in 2010) or both.

While Mudge and Gould were sweeping through the top half of the draw, Price and Leach, champions in the January tour stops in Boston and Greenwich, were expertly negotiating their way through the highly competitive bottom half. They out-lasted the recently-formed Chris Walker/Raj Nanda pairing, 15-12 (from 12-all) in the fourth, then trailed Mark Chaloner and Imran Khan, two games to one before taking the fourth game and earning a four-point mid-game advantage in the fifth, at which juncture Chaloner incurred a left calf-muscle tear (possibly a recurrence of the injury he sustained on the eve of the U. S. Open that had forced his withdrawal from that early-December tourney) that was too severe for him to continue.

As noted, Price and Leach then out-played Mudge/Gould (who had dropped only one game of their previous 52 during their prolonged winning streak) in the first game of the final and stayed right with them throughout the fourth until at 14-13, with a tiebreaker looming and a fifth game very much a possibility, Mudge nailed a laser from mid-court that nicked out and died in front of Leach before he could react in time to scoop the ball back into play. This was the 12th and final full-ranking tournament on the SDA 2012-13 schedule — there was also the sanctioned but non-ranking round-robin Jim Bentley Cup in Toronto and a Challenger event in suburban Philadelphia — with the prestigious biennial World Doubles set for later this week in New York that will culminate what has been an exciting inaugural campaign.

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