The ninth Tavern Club Invitational began with a spring in its step thanks to a newly-renovated, sprung floor on its doubles court, which hosted its ninth iteration and final full-ranking tournament of the 2013-2014 season this weekend.
Top seeds and joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould charged to their eleventh final appearance in their eleventh and final tournament of the season with two, three-game victories in the top half of the draw.
The 2013 World Doubles champions first eliminated former ten-time Irish national champion, Willie Hosey, and partner Matt Jenson 15-8, 15-7, 15-11. In the semifinals, the Australian powerhouse defeated Manek Mathur & Bernardo Samper 15-9, 15-6, 15-13.
Two casualties shook up the bottom half of the draw as two seeds Jonny Smith & Greg Park were forced to withdraw due to an ill Smith, allowing Carl Baglio & Travis Judson to advance to the semifinals via a default.
Canadians Will Mariani & Fred Reid met Baglio & Judson in the semis after advancing due to quarterfinal opponent Ian Power fracturing his hand through contact with Reid’s follow-through at the end of the second game. Not knowing the extent of his injury, Power attempted to continue with partner Graham Bassett until conceding the match midway through the fourth game.
Playing together for the second time this season since exiting the Putnam Pro Am against Mudge & Gould, Mariani & Reid reached their first final of the season respectively with a 15-2, 15-14, 15-11, semifinal victory against Baglio & Judson.
Leading 2-0 in their final against Mariani & Reid and before a packed gallery, joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould made an unexpected adjustment: switching sides—the first shift in sides during their partnership.
“That was the first time in seven years that I played on the right since Gary Waite,” Mudge revealed. “We had some fun with it to make it a little interesting for the crowd in the last game. My shoulder doesn’t feel so great about it.”
“I have been wanting to do this [switch sides] for some time and thought it could be our last chance to try it this season,” Gould said. “It definitely created some fun and interest, although I did feel like a fish out of water. More practice over there is definitely needed!”
Switching sides was fun Mudge & Gould could afford to have in their final appearance the season. In edging out the third game 15-13 to win their tenth tournament this season, successfully defending their Tavern Club title, Mudge & Gould complete the season with a 35-1 record having only lost December’s Brigg’s Cup final against Paul Price & Clive Leach. Twenty-eight of Mudge & Gould thirty-five wins were in straight sets.
“It was a long and almost perfect season apart from a slight blip on the radar in mid-December,” Mudge reflected. “Ben and I played well throughout the year. I was happy for the season to come to a close and it was great that Cleveland was the last full-ranking event of the season. Ian Sly does a great job running the tournament and he is always looking at improving the event.”
After Mudge & Gary Waite lost in the inaugural final to Chris Walker & Victor Berg in 2006, either Mudge, Gould, or both have won every edition of the tournament. Mudge & Gould look forward to a possible fourth consecutive Tavern Club Invitational as well as a new season next year.
“The Tavern Club has always been a really fun event,” added Gould, who has played in each of the tournament’s nine iterations, of which he has now won five. “It is an intimate venue and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the memberships over the past nine years. The support for the event has grown each and every year and the dinner and crowd for the final was the largest ever for them. They have also made significant upgrades to their facility over the years given player feedback and can now boast to having one of the the best Doubles courts in the country. Ian Sly has become a good friend to all the players over the years and we thank him again for taking care of us in every aspect from start to finish.
“This season has been, by far, the largest for the Pro Doubles Tour,” Gould continued. “We had 18 ranking events and over $500,000 in prize money. In the last two seasons, we have seen amazing growth and next year we are already looking at 22+ ranking events. It’s an exciting time for our game and I’m proud to be part of it all.”
“I’m excited to see quite a few changes in teams for next season,” Mudge added. “Should be interesting to see exactly what players decide to team up. It seems like it’s shaping up for a very packed season with a lot more stops then last year, which is great for the game and SDA Tour.”
Although the Tavern Club Invitational was the final full-ranking tournament of the season, the final tournament of the season takes place in two weeks at the Racquet & Tennis Club of New York City. Two qualifying draws of eight teams will vie for two qualifying positions in the R&T Challenger $15,000 main draw, April 24-28.