The season’s first SDA gold level event saw world No. 2 Damien Mudge and world No. 3 Manek Mathur win their maiden title together in the thirteenth Big Apple Open Monday night at New York Athletic Club.
After making their partnership debut as top seeds in the Maryland Club Open where they reached the final, Mathur & Mudge went one better in their second tournament winning the Big Apple Open title without dropping a game.
Of the eight Big Apple quarterfinalists, only two teams didn’t include a Trinity College graduate. After suffering an unfortunate injury in the Long Island Open first round, Andres Vargas & Randy Lim recovered in New York City to reach their first quarterfinal of the season in the top half of the draw with a win against Hamed Anvari & Will Mariani. First-round victories from Baset Chaudhry & Bernardo Samper and Jacques Swanepoel & Shaun Johnstone completed the bottom quarterfinals with two seeds Ferreira & Badan and three seeds John Russell & Clive Leach.
The upset of the tournament came in the form of Chaudhry—fresh off of his Long Island Open title—& Samper as they defeated 2014 Big Apple Open and world doubles champions Russell & Leach in four games to reach the semis against Ferreira & Badan. In the semis, Ferreira & Badan held off a tough challenge from Chaudhry & Samper 15-10, 15-14, 7-15, 15-11, while Mathur & Mudge cruised to the final in three games against four seeds and another new partnership—Jonny Smith & Chris Callis.
In the final, Mathur & Mudge avenged their Maryland Club Open final loss against Ferreira & Badan 15-11, 15-11, 15-7 to clinch Mudge’s seventh Big Apple Open and Mathur’s first.
“It’s an honor to have my name next to all of those already on the trophy,” Mathur said. “There’s a lot of history behind the event and I’m glad I can be a part of it. Throughout the weekend we were pretty adamant on ensuring that we timed the ball well, and hit our zones and targets well which created more space for us and allowed us to control our positions of most of the matches—that’s the biggest strength for us. Damien’s such a big guy, he makes the court look so small when he’s out there and that’s something I’m trying to learn from him and improve. Positioning is so important in this game and if you can stay in front of the other guy, push the ball around and make them move around you, you’re in the where you need to be.”
The partnership has seen Damien Mudge move back to the right wall after playing on the left for ten years with long-time partners Viktor Berg and Ben Gould, whom Mudge overtook in November’s rankings as the new world No. 1.
“On the left he was as much of a backboard as he is now,” Mathur said. “He doesn’t make any errors. With him on the right, he can generate so much more pace and he’s much more aggressive with his attacking and angles. He can really put a good amount of pressure on compared to the backhand side. On the forehand, he’s a big force to reckon with so it’s great to have it on my side after playing against him on the left for years.”
Mudge admitted that he overcame a recent wrist injury that hampered his preparation and time on court, but was able to spend more time preparing for the Big Apple Open.
“Like most things it’s a process,” Mudge said. “With us in particular we have had a lot more challengers than normal. We’re developing our team chemistry as a new partnership and time works on our side and makes us more comfortable knowing how to play with each other and the best ways to work with each other.”
Mudge is now just three Big Apple Open titles away from equaling Ben Gould’s record of ten.
“Of course it feels great to reverse our loss against Mike and Swiss,” Mudge continued. “That was a difficult loss playing together for our first tournament. We obviously have high expectations for ourselves and to fall short was tough. It’s always great to win in our home town with lots of familiar faces from our respective clubs. It’s a pleasure playing with Manek and hopefully we have many more years together.”
“It’s amazing to play there because it’s so close to home, there are so many friends and family and it’s always nice to play for them,” Mathur added. ” The membership there is very knowledgeable and understands the game well. The quality of the Pro-Am is really high. Off court, Pat, Clinton, Tim and Will all do such a great job running the event and taking care of us all week.”
Mathur, who was recently voted 2015 Player of the Season and Team of the Year with Badan, is excited with the new partnerships this season has brought and direction of the tour.
“I think it’s great for the game.” Mathur said. “It’s great to see new teams and new partnerships, new faces too. As you get new people involved it’s something that’s inevitable. It’s always fun to see a player like Chris Callis regularly in the semis now. He worked on his game a lot over the summer and it’s showing, and now he and Jonny Smith are a top team and doing well. Obviously Mike and Swiss, Bernardo and Baset have all emerged as top teams this season. It’s great to see new rivalries and camaraderie working out. It just goes to show that the game is growing and that there is a lot of depth coming in along with the veterans who have been playing for years. I think the SDA Tour should be very happy with the direction it’s going.”