World No. 1 Damien Mudge and world No. 2 Manek Mathur ended the first half of the SDA season with a third title in four events this fall, holding off recent PDC Cup champions Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan in the Jim Bentley Cup final at the Cambridge Club in Toronto, Canada.
The 2016 edition of the Bentley offered increased prize money of $30,000, which made this year’s Jim Bentley Cup the only sanctioned gold level event on tour with an eight-team draw.
The main draw saw one major first-round upset in the form of American-Canadian partnership Graham Bassett & Fred Reid, who knocked out all-Canadian three seeds Robin Clarke & Viktor Berg 12-15, 15-12, 15-11, 15-8 to reach the partnership’s first semifinal. One week after winning the Platinum PDC Cup in Atlanta, two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan survived a first-round scare against Jonny Smith & Raj Nanda, coming back from 2-1 down in games to squeak out the match at 14-all in the fifth game. Bassett & Reid pushed the two seeds in a close semifinal, but Ferreira & Badan held on to reach their fourth final of the season 15-14, 9-15, 15-11, 15-12.
The eventual champions reached the final dropping just one game in the semifinals against Aussies Matt Jenson & Scott Arnold, and continued their momentum into the final, taking the title in a clean sweep of the two seeds 15-13, 15-6, 15-7.
“The final was the best I’ve seen Damien play, it was really impressive,” Mathur said of his partner. “It was like watching eighteen-year-old Damien Mudge absolutely demolishing the ball. He was controlling the court and the angles really well. He seemed to suck the play towards him and then he absolutely controlled the match. It was great to watch and amazing to experience with him on my side for sure. He was hitting such good angles so much that they had to defend even more and couldn’t react and execute their game plan.”
Both sides of the new partnership are pleased with their start to the season with the month of December off and the tour resuming with full ranking events in January with the MFS Pro-Am in Boston.
It’s a great start for us, it’s an honor to have my name on all of these trophies, especially this weekend at the Camridge Club, the event has so much history,” Mathur said. “When you first walk into the club, the Cup is the first thing you see and then you walk further inside and you see the board with so many great names of the game on it. It’s a great feeling and one of those events I wanted to win since I first started playing. You couldn’t ask for a better start of the season and hopefully we can continue this momentum into the second half of the year and finish the season strong.”
While Mathur celebrates his maiden Jim Bentley Cup title, the 2016 title marks Mudge’s sixth since 1999 with this fourth partner, and third consecutive since winning in 2014 and 2015 with Ben Gould.
“It’s a very good way to finish 2016 off on a note like winning the Cambridge Club event,” Mudge said. “It’s a very special event with a lot of history associated with it and great guys behind it such as Clive Caldwell, Dean Brown and Jamie Bentley.”
“We got off to a shaky start in Baltimore, but we have been putting some good time on court since then and feeling confident about what we should be doing out there,” Mudge continued. “We are building better and better chemistry every time we step out on court and go to an event. That’s an absolute must in any successful team.”
“The event is a testament to the way Clive, Dean and Jamie run the event,” Mathur added. “All of them have been in our shoes at some point in their lives, and so they understand the trials and tribulations of being a squash professional. So as soon as you get up there, you’re treated with such professionalism and like you’re a part of their family and club member. They make you feel so welcome. The event has been around for so long and so it has so much history and prestige. By winning it, you become a part of that rich history which is really unique.”
The Jim Bentley Cup—namesake of the Cambridge Club founder—has a long tradition of elite squash doubles with a history that has included a variety of unique events. For many years, the Bentley was held as an invitational, where the club determined the pairings, matching top PSA softball singles professionals from around the world with the best in hardball doubles.
The Bentley’s winners list is an illustrious one with rich history, including names such as Mo Khan, Gul Khan, Aziz Khan, Peter Briggs, Gary Waite, Mark Talbott, Stuart Boswell, Martin Heath, Paul Price and the son of the tournament’s namesake, Jamie Bentley.