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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.

Mudge Targets Eighth Tavern Club Title With Defending Champion Mathur

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One year after facing off against each other in the 2016 Tavern Club Invitational final, world No. 1 Manek Mathur & world No. 2 Damien Mudge return to Cleveland as the title favorites as they near the end of a dominant SDA Tour season.

Last year, Mathur earned his first Tavern Club title in a one-off pairing with former world No. 1 Ben Gould—Mudge’s partner of five years—while Mudge reunited with his partner from 2009-2010, Viktor Berg, for much of the 2015-2016 season. Mathur & Gould’s marathon five-game final victory sent Gould level with Mudge as the all-time Tavern Club title leaders with seven each.

In the offseason, Mathur & Mudge joined forces to and returned to the tour in the fall as a new power partnership. In their first season together, Mathur & Mudge have lost just one match all season—the season-opening Maryland Club Open final—and have won seven titles in seven tournaments since that loss in October. If the top seeds earn the title this year, Mudge would move past Gould with his eighth title since his first in 2008.

A diverse draw will aim to thwart the top seeds’ title hopes, however. Canada’s Will Mariani & Fred Reid enter the draw as the four seeds with a predicted semifinal against Mathur & Mudge. Reid has enjoyed his most successful SDA season to date with two major semifinal runs in the Jim Bentley Cup and Baltimore Cup.

Local favorites Iago Cornes & Joe Russell will hope to entertain the home crowd with a first-round match against Graham Bassett & John Roberts, with the winner set to face Mariani & Reid in the second round.

England’s 2015 world doubles champion and world No. 8 John Russell & world No. 13 Raj Nanda oppose Mathur & Mudge as the two seeds in the draw’s bottom half. Russell has played with six different partners this season and will aim for his fourth final appearance and potentially first title of the season.

Russell & Nanda could face one of the most promising partnerships this season in the second round in the form of Bobby Burns & James Bamber. Burns, twenty-seven years old, and Bamber, twenty-one years old, reached the David C. Johnson Memorial semifinals as qualifiers, which included a quarterfinal upset against Russell & Berg. Burns & Bamber will play Scotsman and Missouri Athletic Club pro Adam Bews & Australian journeyman Jeff Osborne in their tournament opener.

The sole qualifying spot will be occupied by either Joshua Hollings & Jonathan Hyett or Mark & Ray Lindsay, and will slot in for a first-match against South African Clinton Leeuw & Jordan Greenberg. The winner of which will face the tournament’s three seeds, Imran Khan & Jacques Swanepoel.

The twelfth Tavern Club Invitational will prove to be historic by either augmenting its all-time title record, or welcoming two new names onto the tournament’s roll of champions.

Mudge & Gould Tally Ten Titles at the Tavern Club

The ninth Tavern Club Invitational began with a spring in its step thanks to a newly-renovated, sprung floor on its doubles court, which hosted its ninth iteration and final full-ranking tournament of the 2013-2014 season this weekend.

Top seeds and joint world No. 1’s Damien Mudge & Ben Gould charged to their eleventh final appearance in their eleventh and final tournament of the season with two, three-game victories in the top half of the draw. Continue reading