The Squash Doubles Association, the men’s North American pro doubles tour, handed out its coveted Tournament of the Year Award at the 2017 United States Open to the Maryland Club.
Graham Bassett, the SDA’s tour director, handed out the award to Andrew Cordova, the head squash pro, Hugh McGurk, tournament chairman and Stewart Shettle, squash committee chairman of the Maryland Club.
For the third year in a row, the downtown Baltimore men’s club was honored with this award as voted by SDA players. It has long been an anchor of squash doubles, hosting the famous Baltimore Invitational Doubles for decades and more recently adding a major stop on the pro tour.
Renowned for hospitality, a lucrative purse and avid, knowledgeable fans, the Maryland Club Open is a favorite among the tour’s players.
More than forty Maryland Club members took traveled north to watch U.S. Open matches Thursday night.
The Maryland Club hopes to open a third doubles court next year.
Doubles came to singles, as a new tradition at the 2017 United States Open Squash Championship started today.
Doubles Day celebrated the game of doubles. A hugely popular and growing game in the U.S., squash doubles was originally created in 1907 at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, less than twenty blocks from the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Doubles Day included a look at the future of the game, with the U.S. Intercollegiate Squash Doubles Championships in full swing at Germantown Cricket Club.
Doubles Day also honored all the national champions from last season. Honorees in attendance included Barry Abelson (men’s 80+), Jed Burde (junior boys U17) Ed Chilton (men’s 50+), Ed Garno and Narelle Krizek (mixed open), Rachel Mashek (junior girls U19), Andrew and Maxwell Orr (father & son 15 and under) and Emily and Abigail Schuster (junior girls U15).
Watch the 2016-2017 SDA Awards presentation below:
New joint world No. 1’s Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge ended their first, nearly flawless season together with a ninth title out of ten tournaments—the $35,000 Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, Ohio.
Four days after emphatically winning the $50,000 Kellner Cup in New York City Monday, April 24, Mathur & Mudge returned to the court with a three-game quarterfinal win over Alex Domenick & Aaron Luque. Elsewhere in the draw, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals with only Canadians Will Mariani & Fred Reid needing more than three games to progress.
A difficult Saturday included both semifinals in the early afternoon and final later that evening. Mathur & Mudge stepped up in the first semifinal to handily defeat Mariani & Reid 15-7, 15-7, 15-8. The ensuing second semifinal went the full distance, however, as two seeds John Russell & Raj Nanda came back from two games down to defeat three seeds Imran Khan & Jacques Swanepoel 12-15, 10-15, 15-8, 15-11, 15-8.
In the final, Russell & Nanda took the second game off the top seeds, but it wasn’t enough as Mathur & Mudge bounced back to claim the title 15-11, 11-15, 15-7, 15-8.
The final ended what had been an exhausting fortnight for Mathur & Mudge.
“Organizing and playing in the Kellner was extremely fatiguing,” Mathur said. “Damien and I were sitting at dinner on Monday night after the Final and both our shoulders dropped and we embraced our exhaustion. It took a good two days to feel refreshed and it was time to head to Cleveland.”
“It was quite challenging to get up for it mentally and physically,” Mudge said. “At this stage of the season, it was our last push knowing we have almost five months off.”
Mathur successfully defended his 2016 title with Mudge’s long-time partner Ben Gould, while Mudge augments yet another tournament record with his eighth Tavern Club title since his first in 2008. Mathur & Mudge complete their ten-tournament season just one loss all season, the season-opening Maryland Club final in October.
“I think we’re lucky to be able to have such good experiences off the court,” Mathur said. “There’s nothing better than traveling around with one of your best friends and exposing yourselves to new cities. We both really enjoy Cleveland and the Tavern Club so we were looking forward to finishing our season up there. Ian Sly and his members make us feel at home and do a great job with the tournament. Maryland was obviously a tough loss, but we were not the better team that Sunday. I still feel that this has been an unbelievable season with a couple dominant and solid performances on our end. I can say we are both pretty excited to have some time off and enjoy the off season, but at the same time, I am looking forward to getting back out there with the 215lbs, 6’4” Australian next season!”
“I think our season was very strong, Manek was a stud all season and played amazingly well,” Mudge said. “We very rarely dropped many games during the season, which is challenging to do within itself let alone winning nine events. It’s a little bitter-sweet not to have an undefeated season. They are very special and don’t happen much in one’s career, but all in all extremely happy!”
The 2016-2017 SDA Pro Tour season concludes with the $25,000 Buffalo Club Pro Doubles, May 12-14.
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.
The final full ranking event of the 2015-2016 SDA Pro Tour season ended in climactic fashion, as world No. 1 Ben Gould returned to the tour in a first-time partnership with world No. 3 Manek Mathur to defeat his partner of five years and world No. 2 Damien Mudge & Viktor Berg in a five-game Tavern Club Invitational final in Cleveland, Ohio.
Mathur & Gould weren’t the only new partnership making waves in the $35,000 draw. Twenty-year-old and 2015 Mixed Doubles finalist James Bamber entered the draw in qualifying with first-time partner Robert Burns. After reaching the main draw, Burns & Bamber went on to recover from 2-1 down in games and upset Canadians Fred Reid & Justin Todd.
The main draw seeding held otherwise with three seeds Jonny Smith & John Russell meeting two seeds Mudge & Berg in the semis, and four seeds Jacques Swanepoel & Shaun Johnstone meeting Mathur & Gould in the semis. The top two seeds then recorded three-game semifinal victories to set up a historic final between the two players that had been the most dominant partnership of the past five years.
“It was a tough one,” Mathur said of the final. “I think that was the best I’ve seen Damien and Viktor play since they started playing together this year. Damien was himself, making himself three times bigger to cover so much of the court. Viktor was very sharp with his attacking game, and very precise moving the ball around. Going into it, the two of us wanted to insure that we picked up the pace pretty high, and give them as little time as possible to shoot the ball. That worked well and we won the first game pretty confidently. The second was completely different, they came out with a different game plan and slowed the pace down, trying to work Ben up and down to see how match fit he was.”
“The third and fourth was a good mix with some good hard points at a faster pace, but also some with lots of lobs and drops moving everyone around the court,” Mathur continued. “Ben and I adjusted late on so I was covering more of the back court to relieve him of some pressure and allow him to hold his position where he’s most dangerous moving forward and finding the openings. Those two boys didn’t give us much and we had to work really, really hard to win. In the fifth at 10 all or so, Ben started to cramp so we decided that he should take a neutral position in the back of the court because he couldn’t lunge. That forced Damien to put some balls in the front right which I was able to cover. We shot off a few winners when we needed to and were able to win the match by the skin of our teeth. I think that was one of the most fun and high quality matches that I’ve ever played in.”
“I have played against Damien and Victor many times in the past,” said Gould, recalling their past match ups with former partner Paul Price. “We’ve had some incredible battles over the years and this was no exception. Having so much time off definitely took it’s toll. Everything felt like it was off; timing, fitness, movement, ball control, confidence. I struggled the entire match so it was a difficult day on court for me. It was great to win, but it was a mentally difficult to try and stay composed when I felt like nothing was right with my game. I’m fortunate that Manek played so well and was able to insert himself enough to make up for my performance.”
“It was awesome playing with Manek,” Gould said of his first-time partner. “He is an exceptional player. One of the best I’ve ever seen play the game. He is very aggressive, stays forward, moves brilliantly and can hit the ball extremely hard and accurately.”
“Even though we’re friends, it’s always different communicating on court,” Mathur said of Gould. “He was really easy to talk to and understand. We had a couple of really close moments in the final where we really had to dig deep, communicate clearly, and really understand each other at a deep level. He was very motivating, which gave me a lot of confidence. It was a lot of fun.”
Mathur ends what has been his most successful season to date, collecting three titles with Yvain Badan in addition to the Tavern Club title.
“I’m really excited to head into the off season with a couple of wins and some good results with Swiss,” Mathur said. “Having played for so long now, always being on the cusp of winning was tough. Losing is always tough, but when you’re so close it’s really difficult to consistently being number two. There’s definitely a little fire in the belly to do some good work in the off season, and try to keep up the good momentum moving forward next season.”
With the 2016 title, Gould ties Mudge as the all-time tournament title holder with seven. Mudge & Gould won the last five editions of the tournament, and Gould won with Price in 2010. Mudge & Berg won the event in both 2008 and 2009.
For Gould, who is based in Colorado, the TCI was the first tournament he competed in since announcing his retirement from a full-time tour schedule following his Briggs Cup victory with Mudge in December.
“I had always said that I would still play an event from time to time if it worked for my schedule and if I still thought I could win,” Gould said. “Cleveland is a great tournament. I really enjoy playing it and it is also is short in duration so enables me to be away from my home and family for less time. Manek was an obvious choice of partner. He and Damien are the two best left-wallers playing the game today and they are the two players I feel I can still win events with.”
The champions saluted the Tavern Club Invitational’s organizers in the event’s eleventh year.
“The guys at the Tavern Club are so passionate,” Mathur said. “They’ve run this event for eleven years now. They’ve always raised their prize money and really get behind the Pro-Am and Saturday night final. They’re definitely one of the most engaged, vocal and fun crowds. They do such a good job promoting the game, the tour and the tournament. It shows year after year.”
“I believe I have played this event for all 11 years—and my body is feeling like it,” Gould said. “It’s been fun to see the event grow from its small beginnings to what it is today. The club only has 200 members, but the crowds, attendance and professionalism is as solid as anything I’ve seen on tour. Congratulations and thanks to Ian, Jack, Mike, Matt and the members for their continued and ongoing support for all eleven years.”
The 2015-2016 SDA Tour season concludes in New York City, April 22-25, with the $15,000 R&TC Challenger.