Mudge And Gould Power Their Way To Men’s World Doubles Crown

In an overwhelming display of relentless firepower and ruthless efficiency, the top-seeded defending-champion Australians Damien Mudge and Ben Gould defeated British stars Clive Leach and Jonny Smith 15-8, 9 and 9 Monday night at Racquet & Tennis in mid-town Manhattan in the final round of the biennial Netjets World Squash Doubles Championships. It was actually the third straight time that Gould won this event (also in 2009 with Paul Price) and a record fourth overall title for Mudge, whose 2002 and 2004 editions he had earned with Gary Waite. Though a dozen-plus countries were represented in the 32-team draw, the four final-round participants all live in metropolitan New York, with Mudge and Gould just three blocks from each other as the head pros at the University and Racquet & Tennis Clubs respectively.

The eight seeded teams all reached the Saturday-afternoon quarterfinals, though the fourth-seeded Americans (and recently-crowned U. S. National Doubles champs) Preston Quick and Greg Park trailed the Irish-born, Boston-based Roberts brothers Dan and John two games to one and 14-9 in the fifth in the round-of-16 before winning the final six points, with Park powering a forehand cross-court that Dan Roberts couldn’t handle at 14-all. Incredibly, the subsequent Quick/Park quarter against John Russell and Chris Walker of England ALSO came down to simultaneous-match-ball, on which Quick hit an overhead winner into the front-right nick. Later that same day, he and Natalie Grainger fell just short (15-13 in the fourth) against Price and Narelle Krizek in the World Mixed Doubles final. The Sunday-afternoon semifinal against Mudge and Gould (quarterfinal winners over the Pakistani pair of Imran Khan and Baset Chaudhry) represented Quick’s 10th match in four days (counting pro-ams) and by then he was hampered by a left-hip injury that grew increasingly worse as the four-game match progressed and preventing him from playing in the scheduled third-place playoff.

Meanwhile, in the bottom half, first-time partners Leach and Smith, their confidence growing with each succeeding day, were outstanding in four-game wins first in the quarters over Aussies Raj Nanda and Mark Price and then in a contentious semi over second-seeded Paul Price and Matt Jenson, quarters winners over Canadians Viktor Berg and Fred Reid Jr., that pivoted on a third-game 14-all point in which  a Leach rail clung too tightly to the right wall for Price to steer it back into play.  Despite the final-round trio of single-digit scores, it must be said that Leach and Smith played extremely well, defending beautifully under duress and trying everything they could think of to alter the match’s flow — that they still lost was totally due to the brilliance of their opponents’ play. The Champs were in the attacking position at least two-thirds of the time, attaining a territorial superiority that inevitably eventually showed on the scoreboard as well, highlighted by demoralizing runs of points —- 7-0 to start the match, 8-1 to close out the second after Smith/Leach had rallied from 1-5 to 8-7, the one time where they had a chance to turn the match in their favor, and 5-0 from 1-2 to 6-2 in the third — that effectively clinched the outcome.

Had there been any drop-off in the Mudge/Gould production, Leach and Smith would have taken advantage, but that never happened. Mudge closed it out with a blast right into the crack where the front wall joins the right wall, a calling-card conclusion to a February-to-April stretch in which he and Gould, after January losses in Boston and Greenwich to eventual champs Leach and Paul Price, ran off the last seven tournaments — in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Denver, Atlanta, Cleveland and now New York — to close out this inaugural 2012-13 SDA season in memorable fashion.