The final of the 2014 Jim Bentley Cup LIVE from the Cambridge Club in Toronto, ON:
For the first time since the 2011 Briggs Cup final, Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan have upset joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould to win their first title of the season—the $40,000 PDC Cup at the Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta, Georgia.
All but one of the top four seeds reached the semifinals as predicted. A tense game between world No. 6 Matt Jenson & world No. 7 Preston Quick and world No. 8 Greg Park & world No. 12 Imran Khan ended in unfortunate fashion with a devastating injury. Up 2-1, Jenson suffered a serious Achilles injury forcing he and Quick to concede the match.
Jenson had to leave Atlanta early to treat the injury that will may mean missing most of the season.
Khan tweeted after the match: “Matt was on fire last night. Such a shame the way it ended. Wish good health and quick recovery.”
The bottom half of the draw fielded a rematch of last week’s Big Apple Open semifinal between four Trinity alums world No. 10 Mike Ferreira & world No. 9 Jonny Smith against second-seeded world No. 5 Mathur & world No. 4 Badan.
As was the case in New York, a close shoot out between the Bants ensued with the first two games both settled on simultaneous game ball at 14-14, and Mathur & Badan edging out both games. The third was just as close, and ended with the same result at Mathur & Badan sealed their fourth final appearance of the season 15-4, 15-14, 15-13.
“Mike and Jonny played really well,” Mathur said afterwards. “Each and every point was a battle so it was a hard match. It was a tough three love, and the scoreline didn’t reflect the actual intensity of the match.”
“It was hard if not harder than last week and I’m quite sure why to be honest,” Badan added. “They’re a very solid team. They’re both very competitive. Mentally, they’re very solid. They’re not the type of players who have big ups or big downs in their games. So you know every time you play them, you need to show up with your best.”
The semifinal results set up the third final of the season between Mudge & Gould and Mathur & Badan, not to mention over a dozen SDA finals over the past two seasons, all of which Mudge & Gould have won.
It was clear from the beginning of the match that this final could be different, however, with Mathur & Badan shooting the lights out and only committing a few errors between the team in the first two games, which they won 15-9 and 15-14.
Mudge & Gould roared back in the third game, however, committing fewer errors than the first two games and reverting to their powerful style to win the third 15-10.
Mathur & Badan stuck in once more in a tight fourth game that stood level at 11-11 at one point, before Mathur & Badan pulled away to clinch the title 15-13, and upset Mudge & Gould for the first time since the 2011 Briggs Cup.
“Going into the final obviously we wanted to try something different because we’ve lost to these guys plenty of times,” Mathur said. “We just wanted to make sure that we were extremely disciplined with our approach, and made sure that realizing from the first point on that we had to put up a good fight and be on court for at least two or three hours to beat these guys.”
“Our short game was clinical on the day,” Mathur continued. “We managed to put a lot of pressure on them. Defensively, we did a decent job, and we really tried to attack and put some pressure. In the third, we weren’t as clean or precise as we needed to be, so we improved that and overall put in a good performance.”
Badan also felt that matching Mudge & Gould’s signature power and pace made a difference.
“In the finals we came out really hungry,” Badan said. “For my part, I was so hungry for it. I didn’t overthink it. I wasn’t thinking about the last fifteen times we’ve played. It’s kind of weird, it was almost as if it was the first time we played them. We didn’t dwell on the past.
“They were making more mistakes than usual,” Badan continued. “The first two games we played exceptionably well. We made very few errors, maybe two or three combined as a team in two games. In the third, they came back and I was getting tired. In the fourth, I started cramping a bit and got a bit worried because I felt that if it went into a fifth, it just was not going to happen.”
“It was a combination of playing well, making less mistakes and suddenly instead of being close and you’re slightly behind, it’s close and you’re slightly ahead, and that makes a world of difference,” Badan said. “I don’t think they expected us to come out that strong. It was one of those rare times where we were hitting the ball just as hard as them if not harder. We had a good mix of inflicting heavy pace when we needed to, and slowing down when we needed to. In the third they played very well, our error ratio went up and theirs went down a little bit. I felt like it was some of the best squash we’ve played.”
If there’s been one team over the past couple of seasons who knows what Mudge & Gould are capable of, it Mathur & Badan, with another possible final encounter predicted in this weeken’s Jim Bentley Cup.
“It’s not easy just going in every week and sometimes just getting absolutely dominated and having no business being out there against these guys,” Mathur said. “Sometimes having it be a lot closer and things start going our way at crucial points, but then going down at the wire. It’s nice to have a win under our belt now after a weak record against them for the last two seasons. We’ve had a good start to the season reaching every single title, and now to win the largest title so far this season is big for us.”
“It’s a great reward for out perseverance, Badan added. “I think some people after a while could let it get to them. It’s hard to play and lose to them on so many occasions. For us, to win one of the big ones feels good, and we needed that. I’m not saying that now we’re going to fly to Toronto and are going to beat them, but it certainly feels good to come out on top.”
Off the court, players enjoyed a black tie dinner at the Piedmont Driving Club, and even got to test drive some Tesla’s—one of the tournament sponsors.
Mathur was impressed with the growing enthusiasm for doubles in an event that’s grown $20,000 in prize money since its inception in 2012. “The membership there is really excited about doubles and always gets really involved in all of the matches whether spectating or playing in the Pro Am.”
“The Piedmont Club is really amazing,” Badan said. “They have two fantastic doubles courts, and are so enthusiastic about the game. They have a super active program and membership on the doubles side, and it’s certainly becoming a hot bed of the game.”
Former New York Athletic Club professionals John Russell and Clive Leach rekindled their NYAC flame, stunning joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould in the semifinals before winning their partnership’s first Squash Doubles Association (SDA) title Monday night—the 2014 Big Apple Open—on what used to be their home court. Russell & Leach’s triumph appropriately headlined a tournament rife with upsets from start to finish.
After taking the last two seasons off, fifty-year-old world No. 65 Eric Christiansen teamed with unranked William Hartigan to reach the main draw after pulling off two qualifying upsets. The unseeded duo first surprised world No. 63 Alex Domenick & world No. 42 Dylan Patterson in three games, then recovering from two games down to defeat world No. 60 Peter Kelly & world No. 19 Jacques Swanepoel.
In the first round of main draw play Friday, world No. 31 Josh Schwartz & world No. 27 Hamed Anvari came back from 2-1 down, to defeat world No. 16 Chris Walker & world No. 8 Greg park in five games. Directly following Schwartz & Anvari’s upset, world No. 25 Graham Bassett & world No. 36 Chris Callis similarly recovered from 2-1 down against world No. 29 Bernardo Samper & world No. 17 Raj Nanda, to win the fourth and fifth games on simultaneous game ball 15-14.
Fourth-seeded Russell & Leach started their campaign on Saturday, dismissing Bassett & Callis in three games, booking a semifinal date with Mudge & Gould who also advanced in three games against Schwartz & Anvari.
World No. 15 Russell & world No. 3 Leach had teamed up just twice before the 2014-2015 SDA season, in the 2009 and 2011 World Doubles where they reached the finals on both occasions.
Leach, who was a NYAC teaching professional for seven years, and Russell, who was a NYAC professional for five years, made their SDA debut as partners in the most recent full-ranking event—the Maryland Club Open. In Baltimore, Russell & Leached faced two pairs of Trinity alums: first defeating Shaun Johnstone & Jacques Swanepoel in a five-game quarterfinal, then losing in four against Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan in the semifinals.
Up until Sunday, Mudge & Gould had been unbeaten since the final of last December’s Briggs Cup, in which Leach and former partner Paul Price defeated the Australian favorites in five.
One of the longest matches in pro doubles history ensued with a total duration of three hours. The sides split the first two games with well-contested rallies throughout the match. At 14-14 in the third, Mudge & Gould earned a 2-1 advantage with a blinding roll corner.
Russell & Leach continued to frustrate Mudge & Gould with impressive shot-making of their own, as well as forcing uncharacteristic unforced errors from the Aussies to force a fifth game. With all participants visibly exhausted in the fifth, Russell & Leach maintained a steady lead throughout the game, which they managed to hold onto closing the match 10-15, 15-13, 14-15, 15-12, 15-13.
Russell & Leach’s next challenge was recovering for the final on Monday night.
“The semifinal was long and hard, every rally was well-contested,” Russell said after the final. “I did a lot of stretching and icing Sunday night. More stretching this morning, and I actually did a few lessons today, which I think helped with loosening up.”
“Mudge & Gould set the standard on tour and have set the standard for a long time now,” said Leach after denying the Australians a fifth consecutive Big Apple Open title.
“You’ve got to have a certain mindset and intensity to beat those guys,” Leach continued. “I always say, if you’re ever going to beat them, you need to be on court for at least two hours, and that’s the mindset. It’s just having the mindset on court of going the maximum distance and time. You can absorb all of the pressure, and it’s literally time that beats them. The quality all of the way through the match was there. All of our bodies at the end were spent. I was cramping, Mudge was absolutely exhausted, and I think that just shows you the quality of squash doubles at the top level, which I think is great for the game.”
In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded world No. 5 Manek Mathur & world No. 4 Yvain Badan held off the emerging partnership and fellow Trinity alums, world No. 10 Mike Ferreira & world No. 9 Jonny Smith, in a four-game semifinal setting up a rematch of their Maryland Club Open semifinal against Russell & Leach.
To the home crowd’s delight, Russell & Leach mustered the strength to defeat the younger team, despite dropping the third game to what seemed to be a reinvigorated Mathur & Badan. Russell & Leach closed out the fourth with a flurry of winners and unforced errors by their opponents 15-13, 15-12, 12-15, 15-13.
“I felt pretty good on court today. It might not have been the same result had we have gone five, so very happy with how it turned out,” Russell admitted.
“Believe it or not, I woke up feeling quietly confident,” Leach said. “I was a bit tight in the morning, but when I got into the game, I was actually feeling really high in confidence and felt pretty springy. There’s always that question mark going into a game after a hard match the night before, how are you going to be? Flat-footed or ready, and I was actually very happy with my movement.”
The home support was certainly partial to their former professionals throughout the tournament.
“A lot of friendly faces out there,” Russell said. “A lot of people I know and I like. I worked here for five years, Clive was here a bit longer and we played a lot of doubles together on this court together with members so we know the court well and I think it showed this weekend.”
“I have really fond memories here,” Leach reflected. “I was here for seven years, know all of the guys here, and I felt the support out there today. I really did. That’s a huge confidence booster, and I love that from a personal standpoint.
Russell, who also coaches at Episcopal Academy, and Leach will be selective with their tournaments throughout the rest of the season as they balance other coaching roles, but are unsurprisingly pleased with their performances together.
“We’ve played with each other before, we know each other’s games,” Russell said of his fellow Englishman. “We seem to be complementing each other well at the moment, so far so good.”
“Me and John go back a long time even though I’m seven years older than him,” Leach said. “He’s an amazing talent, he’s got beautiful hand speed. He’s got variation, and changes it up throughout the game. He’s such a creative player. Russell sticks in with you and gives you this positive vibe. If you see his body language, he comes across and encourages you. He’s a great teammate and a joy to play with.”
Russell and Leach will not be competing in the tour’s next competition, the PDC Cup in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend.
View more images from the weekend on the US Squash SmugMug page.
Joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould claimed their second full-ranking and largest prize money title of the season in the eleventh Maryland Club Open this weekend in a repeat final of the Denver Club Invitational.
The Australian duo dropped their only game of the tournament in their first match against new partners and Harrow UVA Challenger Champions Mike Ferreira & Jonny Smith, a partnership that both Mudge & Gould tipped to be a rising force on the tour this year.
“Ferreira and Smith will be a solid partnership once Jonny starts to feel comfortable on his switch to the right wall,” Gould said. “I anticipate them upsetting a few top teams as the season progresses.”
Mudge & Gould raised their game in their semifinal match against Matt Jenson & Greg Park, who they dismissed in three games 15-11, 15-8, 15-7 to set up a rematch of the Denver Invitational final against second seeds and world No. 5 and 4 Manek Mathur & Yvain Badan.
In both of their matches leading up to the final, Mathur & Badan recovered from dropping the first game 15-14 to win including winning their match against second-seeded John Russell & Clive Leach on simultaneous game-ball in the fourth game.
What ensued was a more fluid final compared to the four-game Denver Invitational with longer rallies, but the same result with the favorites emerging victors.
“The final was better quality than Denver,” Mudge said. “With it being the second tourney and using a regular ball everyone had more ball control and the quality of the rallies were better.”
“The rallies were longer and more accurate, perhaps given that both teams had their first tournament of the season under their belt,” Gould continued.
“Mathur & Badan relentlessly held to a game plan of keeping Mudge deep and high on his backhand throughout the match. Fortunately for us, Mudge played an incredible defensive game and was extremely patient, waiting as long as it took to create openings before attacking.”
Mudge & Gould’s title marked their fifth consecutive at the Maryland Club as partners. Gould won two with Paul Price in 2006 and 2008, and Mudge won three straight titles with Gary Waite in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
“The Maryland Club and Andrew Cordova run a great event from start to finish; very professional and a fun time,” Mudge reflected.
“Andrew has consistently organized one of the best tournaments on the pro doubles tour calendar year since day one,” Gould added. “His event is one we use as a model for other clubs to duplicate. Congrats to him and his team for once again pulling off a flawlessly organized event.”
Dominant joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould knocked of the rust from the summer months to win the first full ranking Squash Doubles Association (SDA) tournament of the 2014-2015—The Denver Club Invitational in Colorado.
In what has primarily been an Invitational, non-ranking event the past seventeen years, the Denver Club increased to a $25,000 Silver tournament.
Viktor Berg, playing on the left wall for the first time in an SDA match, & partner Jacques Swanepoel, Head Coach of Columbia University ended the hopes of Denver’s-own Preston Quick, world No. 6, & partner Matt Jenson, world No. 7, in their first match of the tournament. In their first tournament as partners, Berg & Swanepoel pulled out the match in five games 11-15, 15-11, 15-10, 7-15, 15-9.
Berg & Swanepoel’s match would be the only major upset of the tournament as the other top three seeds comprised the semifinals. In the top half of the draw, Mudge & Gould—clad in Australian green and gold—made it two 3-0 victories in a row against four seeds Imran Khan and Greg Park in the semifinals.
After recovering from a broken arm, which kept him out of some of the final events of last season, world No. 4 Yvain Badan returned to the court with partner and world No. 5 Manek Mathur. Mathur & Badan needed four games in both their first match against Matt Domenick & Chris Callis, as well as their semifinal against Berg & Swanepoel—15-14, 15-9, 12-15, 15-4.
The final was a closely-contested match with Mudge & Gould dropping a rare game in third forcing a fourth game. In the fourth, an unintentional collision aggravated Badan’s arm severely inhibiting the duo’s play for the rest of the game, allowing Mudge & Gould to coast to a 15-9 win in the final game.
“It’s always tough to play the first tournament of the season having five months off from competition, especially when you are playing at altitude with the red ball that reacts differently, but definitely happy with our first win of the year,” Mudge said.
“I’m very happy that Todd Binns, the head professional, and the committee decided to hold a full ranking event. I think it has been seven years since they have had a full ranking event there. They really enjoyed it and it bodes well for next season.
“Outside of doubles, Jimmy Mulvihill held an eight-man tournament at his court in his house, which was a lot of fun and created a new element to the weekend. Everyone seemed to enjoy playing and watching it so special thanks to Jimmy and Heather for hosting. Was a great evening of food, drinks and socializing in an amazing setting.”
The Denver Club has supported professional squash doubles for seventeen years with varying editions of the Denver Club Invitational, the tournament’s return to a full ranking event is a renewed push to support the blossoming SDA Pro Tour according to Denver Club’s Binns.
“We decided to move to a full ranking event because the Denver Club historically has been a supporter of professional squash soubles,” Binns said, “Given the new burgeoning SDA tour we wanted to add to that growth of pro squash doubles in North America by endorsing the efforts of many to bring the game to the masses.
“Our membership is comprised of an ever-growing younger player base, and there are a lot of new faces in the Pro game and that depth of talent is what they desire to see. They also enjoy playing the Pro-Am and I had no trouble getting twelve of my players to compete.
“The feedback I’ve received has been phenomenal. Our gallery was packed the entire time for all matches. As the host venue, everyone was impressed and how could we not be happy with that. The Pros all made an effort to be friendly with the members and spent a lot of time with them. This was a huge success for our Club and our sponsors Tres Santos, DSP Builders Inc., Harrow Sports, Glo Professional and Inspirato. Our members are ready for more!”