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Russell & Bamber Rock Cleveland With First Tavern Club Title

(l-r): Rahul Mohan, James Bamber, Matt Brinn, John Russell, Dick Hollington, Bernardo Samper, Jack Herrick, Yvain Badan, Jack Turben, Jon Outcalt

England’s John Russell & James Bamber join the prestigious Tavern Club Open winners list after a successful partnership debut in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both Russell & Bamber entered the tournament with positive momentum on the SDA Pro Tour. Russell, world No. 5, had won the previous tour event leading up to the Tavern Club–the Graham Company Cup with Greg Park. Meanwhile, Bamber entered the tournament with a career high ranking of world No. 11 on the heels of inaugural SDA title in February–the Tompkins Cup.

The Englishmen entered the Tavern Club draw as the two seeds, opposing top seeds Bernardo Samper, world No. 7, & Yvain Badan, world No. 4.

The draw largely played out according to seeding with the top four seeds progressing to the semifinals, although the three and four seeds had to earn it in five-game quarterfinals. John Roberts & Hameed Ahmed, the four seeds, came back from 2-1 down to defeat Matt Domenick & Travis Judson 15-13 in the fifth, while Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold, the three seeds, held off a five-game comeback against Adam Bews & Colin West.

Saturday, April 13, made for an intense slate of doubles squash with both the semifinals and finals scheduled for the early afternoon and evening. The top two seeds both advanced to the final in four games. First, Russell & Bamber escaped 15-14 in the fourth to beat Clarke & Arnold. Samper & Badan then followed on to take down Roberts & Ahmed 15-8, 14-15, 15-9, 15-8.

In the final Russell avenged his PDC Cup final loss against the top seeds with Bamber, clinching the title 15-13, 13-15, 15-13, 15-8.

Russell celebrates his third title of the season, and first Tavern Club title having lost in the past two finals against Manek Mathur & Damien Mudge.

“It feels great to finally win this event after losing in the two previous finals,” Russell said. “Playing with James was a pleasure, he brings a lot of energy on the court with him and has the potential to carry on improving and being one of the best around.”

Bamber, twenty-three years old, continues his improving form with his second and largest career SDA title. The result also marks the first year that neither Damien Mudge or Ben Gould won the tournament since 2007.

“JR is a legend of the game so I was just trying to let him take the lead this weekend and help out where I could,” Bamber said. “I feel I’ve learnt a lot from playing with JR in just one weekend. It feels great to have another title in the bag for this season. I was looking back on the previous winners of the event and it’s a honor to be on the same board as them.”

The Tavern Club Open was first held in 2006.

“Ian Sly doses a fantastic job running an extremely organized event,” Russell said. “The Tavern Club members are very knowledgeable about the game and the size of the crowd made for a great atmosphere.”

Mudge & Mathur Close Out First Season Together With Ninth Title in Cleveland

TCI trophy
l-r: Joe Juster, Jack Turben, Matthew Brinn, John Russell, Raj Nanda, Damien Mudge, Manek Mathur, Ian Sly.

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.

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.

Mudge & Gould Win Fifth Consecutive Title in Decennial Tavern Club Invitational

L-R: Kim Gould, Ben Gould, Toni Duckworth, Damien Mudge, Jack Turben, Yvain Badan, Manek Mathur, Barbara Turben.
L-R: Kim Gould, Ben Gould, Toni Duckworth, Damien Mudge, Jack Turben, Yvain Badan, Manek Mathur, Susan Turben.

Ten years ago, Damien Mudge & Ben Gould played in the inaugural Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, Ohio, as newcomers on the professional doubles tour. Ten years later, the Australians are now elder statesmen on the tour, joint world No. 1’s, and collected their fifth consecutive $40,000 Tavern Club Invitational title together this weekend.

With the two largest tournaments of the season on the horizon—the $50,000 Kellner Cup, April 24-27, and the World Doubles Championships, May 7-10—Mudge & Gould returned in their first tournament since early March’s Baltimore Cup in clinical fashion, winning their eighth title of the season. For the fourth tournament this season, Mudge & Gould won the title without dropping a game. Despite their seamless title run, Mudge & Gould entered the tournament with some fitness concerns.

“We always want to play well, but it is important to come out strong after a break, especially given the last three events are a gold, platinum, and the world championships,” Gould said. “I was very ill recently, and was unable to get back on court until a few days before the event. I was concerned with my energy levels and how my timing would be with such little practice time, but luckily both improved in each match throughout the weekend. It also helped that Damien was playing and moving incredibly well throughout the whole tournament.”

“I think it was very important for us to come out strong after a break,” Mudge added. “We did the same thing in Boston after a few weeks off. This obviously gives us good momentum going into the Kellner and the worlds.”

The Australians defeated a brace of Canadians to reach the final, first 2014 finalist Will Mariani & Thomas Brinkman in the quarterfinals, before eliminating recently-crowned Canadian national doubles champions Robin Clarke & Scott Arnold—who had upset fourth-seeded Imran Khan & Greg Park—in the semifinals.

With the semifinals and final both slated for Saturday, Mudge & Gould entered the final with the advantage of winning their semifinal in three games minimizing their court time, while opponents and second seeds Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan endured a five-game marathon and near comeback by third-seeded Raj Nanda & Clive Leach, 15-9, 15-10, 14-15, 2-15, 15-8.

Mudge & Gould took full advantage of the circumstances, commanding the final 51-8, 15-11, 15-7.

For both Australians, playing in each of the ten Tavern Club Invitations provided for some reflection with Mudge’s record seventh, and Gould’s sixth title in Cleveland.

“Myself and Ben have been there from the start so it’s been great to be a part of it from its inception until now, and picking up a few titles on the way,” Mudge said. “Special shout out and thanks to General Manager and Head Pro at the Tavern Club for organizing this fantastic tournament year after year.”

“It is hard to believe that Damien and I have been to all ten years of the Tavern Club event and won the last five together,” Gould added. “I am still struggling to comprehend that we are now the veterans on the tour. I am savoring every win these days and I don’t take for granted how special it is to be able to accomplish all this together with a life-long friend.

“Well done to the Tavern Club for continuing to raise the bar every year. Their event has grown in every way, every year since they joined the pro tour. The players are especially grateful for their ongoing enthusiasm for our game.”




Mudge And Gould Earn Tavern Club Invitational Title

Continuing the dominance they have displayed since early-February, Ben Gould and Damien Mudge swept to victory this past weekend at the Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, taking this tournament for the third consecutive year and winning their sixth straight SDA tour stop and tenth overall this season. After reaching the Saturday-evening final with straight-set victories over first Fred Reid Jr. and Dan Roberts and then Matt Jenson and Willie Hosey (finalists in this event two years ago and first-round victors over Carl Baglio and Jacques Swanepoel), Gould and Mudge rose superior to second seeds Paul Price and Clive Leach with an 8-15 15-9 15-8 15-13 tally. Continue reading