World No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge maintained their unbeaten record this season on their way to winning the pinnacle event of the SDA calendar, the biennial Briggs Cup at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York.
The Briggs Cup, named after Apawamis pro and doubles stalwart Peter Briggs, has been held every two years since 2003 as the highest prize money event on the SDA Tour. The 2017 prize purse had $60,000 on offer for the full draw of sixteen teams.
The top seeds’ first win of the weekend came under unfortunate circumstances after John Roberts was forced to retire following an ankle injury. Mathur & Mudge then controlled three-game victories in the quarterfinals against James Bamber & Clive Leach and against surprise semifinalists Raj Nanda & Greg Park.
The bottom half of the draw included the biggest upset of the tournament when unseeded Adam Bews & William Hartigan knocked out two seeds Mike Ferreira & Yvain Badan in a five-game quarterfinal 15-9, 15-10, 12-15, 14-15, 15-6.
After a rare first round default, three seeds John Russell & Scott Arnold progressed to the finals courtesy of two four-game victories over Will Mariani & Zac Alexander in the quarters and Bews & Hartigan in the semis.
It was the three seeds who started on the front foot in the final, speeding to a 6-0 lead and earning four game balls up 14-11. At 14-11, Russell sustained an ankle injury that required treatment, briefly suspending the match. Once wrapped up, the Englishman stepped back on court and slotted home a winner to give the underdogs a 1-0 lead.
A re-calibrated Mathur & Mudge edged out a close second game 15-13 to level the score, before pushing through the third and fourth games to claim the title 15-9, 15-11.
“Right from the start I think Damien and I were a tad uncomfortable,” Mathur said of the final. “We went down 0-6 very quick, but found a way to get some momentum heading into the second. The second game was close, but we won some crucial points at 10-13 down which was the turning point in the match for us. Both of us found our feet a bit more and started moving better and in turn the ball did too.”
The tournament involved an unusual amount of ankle issues, with Roberts, Graham Bassett, Will Mariani and Russell all sustaining injuries of varying severity.
“In the first round it was very unfortunate to see John Roberts go down, it was pretty bad and his ankle swelled up pretty quick,” Mathur said. “In the final I think JR managed to twist it slightly, but his movement through the rest of the match told us otherwise. He is deceivingly quick.”
While both Mathur & Mudge have previously won the Briggs Cup, Monday night marked the first their partnership’s first title. Mathur had previously won in 2011 with Yvain Badan, while Mudge adds to titles with Ben Gould (2015), Viktor Berg (2009), Gary Waite (2005) and Michael Pirnak (2003).
“The Briggs is always a special event for me,” Mathur said. “I learned a chunk of my doubles here working for Pete and have made some of my closest relationships at the club. The members and the staff hold a special place with me and being on that board twice now is a dream come true.”
The Briggs was one of the last titles on tour evading the Mathur & Mudge partnership until this weekend as they continue their second season together.
” I cannot thank City Squash, Briggsy, Peer, Steve Mandel, Tommy Clayton, Artie and Brian Walsh enough for running a first class event,” Mathur said. “We are all getting excited for two years from now to return to Apawamis for the 2019 Briggs Cup. Last but not least to my partner: talking about learning things, I have had the opportunity to learn from one of the game’s best daily. Being on court with Damien is a real treat and I look forward to our next event.”