Will Mariani & Justin Todd became the first Canadian team to win the Jim Bentley Cup since 1996 Monday night, as both players celebrate their first career SDA titles at the Cambridge Club in Toronto, Canada.
Mariani & Todd’s campaign in the eight-team SDA Bronze draw opened with a three game win over the only all-American team in the draw, Imran Khan & Hamed Anvari, to set up a semifinal match up against fellow Canadians Amar Gupta & Ryan Herden. Mariani & Todd upset the seeding 15-8, 15-13, 15-7 to reach Mariani’s fifth career SDA final and Todd’s second.
The top half of the draw completed an all Canadian semifinal lineup. Tyler Hamilton & Robert Nigro upset top seeds Graham Bassett & Freddie Reid in the first round, while four seeds Robin Clarke & Thomas Brinkman held off a close three game challenge from Joshua Hollings and Cole Osborne. The tournament’s only five-gamer ensued with Clarke & Brinkman just edging Hamilton & Nigro 12-15, 15-12, 9-15, 15-13, 15-5.
In the final, Mariani & Todd were aided by a physically struggling Clarke & Brinkman. Clarke had endured a groin injury picked up in the first round, while Brinkman sustained a rolled ankle in the third game of the final. Mariani & Todd pressed on through the final to clinch the title 15-10, 15-9, 15-10.
As is tradition for the champions, Mariani & Todd donned Cambridge Club robes, representing their new lifetime memberships to the club as they lifted the Jim Bentley Cup.
“It feels great to win the Jim Bentley Cup,” Mariani said. “I’m not sure the first time I met Jim, but as we both aged I continually saw and conversed with him, mostly at the Cricket Club bar. To know our names will be etched on the trophy and painted on the board of the Cambridge is one cool feeling. And to know we are the first Canadian team since Waite & Bentley in 1996 is special.”
Mariani, a Pickering, Ontario, native, praised the Toronto hardball doubles community that was reflected in the all Canadian semifinals.
“To have four Canadian teams in the semis of an SDA event is a great feat and hopefully it encourages more of us to play in SDA events,” Mariani said. “Currently six of the eight of us play out of clubs in Toronto and it is a special city to play hardball doubles in–it is the Mecca of the sport. Thanks must go out to the “old guard”, who whipped us countless times over the past twenty years, but have always been encouraging and supportive of our efforts.”
The Jim Bentley Cup is one of the longest-running events on the SDA tour, dating back to 1973. Jim Bentley, the tournament’s namesake, served as a long-time head professional at the Cambridge Club.
“The club puts on a great event, especially the Friday night black tie dinner which kick starts the weekend,” Mariani said. “I’m sure some members did not make it home til after the finals on Monday night. There is no better club on tour to be locked up in for four nights.”