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Mathur & Gould Edge Mudge & Berg in Five-Game Cleveland Final

l-r: Matthew Brinn, Viktor Berg, Damien Mudge, Jack Turbin, Mike Shaughnessy, Ben Gould, Manek Mathur, Ian Sly.
l-r: Matthew Brinn, Viktor Berg, Damien Mudge, Jack Turbin, Mike Shaughnessy, Ben Gould, Manek Mathur, Ian Sly.

Tavern Club Invitational Draw

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.

Gould Returns to the SDA Tour in Cleveland to Form New Partnership with Mathur

The 2015 Tavern Club semifinals l-r: Ben Gould, Scott Arnold, Robin Clarke, Damien Mudge.
The 2015 Tavern Club semifinals l-r: Ben Gould, Scott Arnold, Robin Clarke, Damien Mudge.

Tavern Club Invitational Draw

SDA Live

It came with little surprise last year when the then world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould earned their fifth-consecutive Tavern Club Invitational title without dropping a game in the tournament’s ten-year anniversary. In February, the Australians graced the cover of Squash Magazine with Gould announcing his retirement from the full-time tour after the partnership won its first Briggs Cup title in December on top of five other tournament wins in the fall. Thus ended the most dominant partnership of the last five years with a 189-7 record and fifty-five titles, which included each major title on the tour, the 2013 World Doubles title and the $100,000 Briggs to cap it off.

Mudge continued full-time on tour with former partner Viktor Berg, who won the inaugural Tavern Club Invitational in 2006 with Chris Walker and the 2008 and 2009 Tavern Club titles with Mudge. Mudge & Berg’s rekindled partnership reached five finals, winning two of them since January.

When the Tavern Club draw was released last month, the tour was in for a shock expecting Mudge & Berg to head the draw, but instead seeing a new top seed and first-time partnership in the form of Gould on the right wall and world No. 3 Manek Mathur on the left wall. The draw predicts the first match in which Gould and Mudge would face off since the 2010 Kellner Cup in the final.

The top two sides must get through a difficult draw first before relishing the Mudge & Gould reunion. The top seeds are predicted to meet Trinity tandem Jacques Swanepoel, who won the Hashim Khan title last month, & Shaun Johnstone. The top half of the draw involves a family affair with the three Roberts brothers facing off in the same match against each other in the first round. The eldest of three state-side brothers (the eldest of four remains in England), Dan pairs with SDA veteran Greg McArthur against his younger brothers and Yale graduates, John & Joseph. In the bottom half of the draw 2012 Tavern Club finalists Jonny Smith & Greg park weigh in as three seeds with a semifinal predicted against Mudge & Berg.

The Tavern Club Invitational’s draw is set to be one of the most unpredictable of the season, with the only certainty being the spectacle of world-class squash doubles.

Qualifying begins Thursday afternoon at 12pm local time. Watch main draw matches on SDA Live.

Clarke & Arnold End Second SDA Season With Second SDA Title in Toronto

clarke and arnold crop
l-r: Scott Arnold, Robin Clarke.

Cricket Club Open Draw

Three-time Canadian doubles champions Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold ended their second full season on the SDA tour with their second career title in the inaugural Ridley Windows and Doors Cricket Club Open at Toronto Cricket Club.

The two seeds advanced to the final through a first-win over Carl Baglio & Jordan Greenberg and a four-game semifinal against Andres Vargas & Thomas Brinkman.

Clarke & Arnold appeared to be on course to face top seeds Jonny Smith & Greg Park, but the tournament concluded in an unfortunate fashion after Park was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to injury.

Clarke, who serves as the TCC squash professional, & Arnold end their second season on tour with their highest-career world rankings of twelve.

The 2015 SDA rookies of the year reached three consecutive full ranking semifinals in the Jim Bentley Cup, Briggs Cup and Putnam Pro-Am.

Ferreira Wins Second Title in Two Weeks; Callis Marks Maiden Title at Home Club Germantown

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 7.06.16 PM
l-r: James Stout, Jacques Swanepoel, tournament chair Doug Veasey, Chris Callis, Mike Ferreira.

Graham Company Cup Draw

Mike Ferreira won his second SDA title in just as many weeks at the Graham Company Cup, but with a different partner this weekend—Chris Callis—who celebrated his maiden SDA title on the court where he first played doubles at Germantown Cricket Club.

Ferreira & Callis have enjoyed a successful season together, reaching the Maryland and Baltimore semifinals, Johnson final and now claiming their maiden title together in Philadelphia.

The Graham Company Cup enjoyed elevated prize money offering $20,000 to a draw with plenty of Philadelphia flavor.

Two qualifying draws saw Philly sides Ed Garno & Alex Stait and Matt Domenick & Gilly Lane move to the main draw, as well as Trinity grads Johan Detter & Parth Sharma—another Philly local—who moved to the main draw as lucky losers due to an injury to top seed John Russell.

After defeating Detter & Sharma in a five-game qualifying final, Garno & Stait drew them again in the first round, this time advancing in three games.

Finalists James Stout & Jacques Swanepoel survived a difficult first round, coming back from 2-0 down in games to defeat Graham Bassett & Fred Reid. Stout & Swanepoel then advanced to the final in three games over Garno & Stait.

In the bottom half of the draw, two seeds Ferreira & Callis advanced to the final with two, three-game victories over Randy Lim & Antionio Diaz in the quarterfinals and Andres Vargas & John Roberts in the semifinals.

The final pitted last weekend’s Hashim Khan champions, Ferreira & Swanepoel, against one another. A marathon five-gamer ensued with Ferreira & Callis coming back from 2-1 down to win 13-15, 15-12, 10-15, 15-11, 15-11.

“It was a really tough final,” Ferreira said. “The court was hot so the ball was moving around and they are a strong team and played well.”

“Chris and I had a couple of close 15-14 in the fifth losses in Wilmington and the Briggs earlier this season, which was tough, so it feels great to finish our season on a strong note.”

Watch the Graham Company Cup final replay here.

The 2015-2016 SDA season has just three stops left with the inaugural $20,000 Ridley Windows and Doors Cricket Club Open in Toronto up next, April 8-10.