THE CAMBRIDGE DOUBLES FINAL. MONDAY NOV 21
Report From Martin Bronstein
Damian Mudge may be the old man of the doubles circuit but tonight at the Cambridge Club he showed why he has been top man for so long with so many tournament notches on his belt. Yes, he had a partner, Manek Mathur, a new match this season, but as Michael Ferreira and Yvain Badan had decided on targeting the older man in an attempt to wear him out, it seemed Mudge had to hit most of the balls and Mathur (Badan’s former partner) was reduced to that of a supporting role.
The first game was no indication of what was in store for Ferreira & Badan as they more than held their own, probably encouraged by their first meeting this season when they beat Mathur & Mudge 15-13 in the fifth. (Mind you, at their next meeting they lost 3/0)
Mudge was firing a barrage of balls back at Ferreira on the left wall and his two-handed backhand was given a lot of work. On some shots Ferreira added a sort of snapped slice, sending the ball into the front right nick – it was unreadable and promised much grief for his opponents – but ultimately caused grief to himself with a high error count.
There were few long rallies as both teams were looking for opportunities to go short. There were some wonderfully dynamic rallies with displays of lightning reaction that caused cheers from the packed bleachers. At 13-13, it was still anybody’s game when the ball broke. The warmed up ball was Mudge’s lucky charm – he won the next points with a fluke nick off the frame and then an outright winner on a reverse nick – 15-13 after 18 entertaining minutes.
Sadly that was about it. The first point of the second game was another lucky nick, the next point went to him and his partner when Badan was denied a let and from that moment they just raced away. Mudge was hitting screaming cross-courts that were too fast for Ferreira to scrape off the wall: he was cutting in surprise drops and disguised drops for which his opponents had no answer. And always Mathur was there as solid backup. Mathur & Mudge were 8-3 up and with the help of eight outright winners took the game 15-6 in 16 minutes – which included time out for a broken ball.
Now Ferreira & Badan are known for their determination, their never-say-die attitude and coming back from match ball down, so there was anticipation for the third game, despite the evidence of the second game.
Alas, it was not to be and once again Mathur & Mudge raced away to lead 8-2 and although Badan hit three winners to give hope at 5-8, the race was virtually over and after just 13 minutes Mathur & Mudge had the game (symbolically the last point was on an unforced error from Ferreira ) and the match as well as then their names on the Jim Bentley Cup.
In the changing room Mudge said he’d had a good work out during the day “…and opened my hips. So when I’m feeling good in my body, I’m more confident.” Tomorrow he will be undergoing his third knee operation: he certainly did not play like a one-legged man.
For Mike and Yvain it was a bad day at the office, and scant reward for all the hard work of the weekend when they had to ground out victories, in contrast to the winners who had a comparatively easy route to the final. Roll on 2017.