WAITE AND MUDGE CAPTURE BOSTON DOUBLES EVENT
By Rob Dinerman, January 22 2002
|The Popular Boston University Club Event, which combines a pro event with a Pro/Am, employed a singles ball at the pro level but Waite and Mudge won again ...|
Trailing two games to one for the first time this season and ensnared in their most dangerous predicament in 2001-2002 in their opening match of the ISDA tour stop at the University Club of Boston, top seeds Gary Waite and Damien Mudge showed their champion's mettle by extricating themselves from a 1-2, 9-11 deficit, preserving their undefeated season-long record and proceeding to add this title to the five they had already amassed during the current campaign.
It was the sixth consecutive Boston doubles title and eighth in the past decade for Waite, who had won this event last year with Anders Wahlstedt while Mudge was sidelined last winter with a severe left wrist injury, and who had also won a pair each with Mark Talbott and Jamie Bentley to go with victorious mid-1990's one-time collaborations with Jeff Stanley and Pepe Martinez.
As noted, this year's ultimately successful salvo nearly never made it out of the gate, as David Kay and Scott Dulmage, who had taken the champs to five games in the semis at Wilmington two weeks earlier, rode a one-sided first game and a 15-13 third to put themselves in position for what would have been a major breakthrough.
KAY AND DULMAGE PUT TOP TEAM UNDER
At this crisis juncture, Mudge took the match by the throat and led a full-court blitz that keyed a 7-0 game-closing rally and force a fifth game, in which the understandably deflated Kay/Dulmage pairing swiftly trailed by an imposing 8-2 gap that only grew as the 15-5 final tally evolved.
Reprieved by their successful extrication from this perilous quarter-final, The Champs then ran off six straight games en route to the winner's circle, though the first pair of this sextet were each by a single point in their semi with Blair Horler and Clive Leach, who had advanced to that stage with a convincing four-game quarter over successful qualifiers Josh MacDonald and Dean Brown.
MACDONALD AND BROWN
Undaunted by this unhappy conclusion to the opening game, Horler and Leach grabbed a 12-8 advantage in the second and later had a double game-point, the second of which vanished on a brainy Waite misdirection shot that caught Horler crossing over to the sidewall and Leach too far back in the court for either to retrieve. The third game swiftly went at 15-4, the double-disappointment at having two superbly played games both fall one agonizing point short proving too much to recover from, at least on this occasion, though it should be noted that Leach regained his equanimity sufficiently to team with former Dartmouth all-Ivy Sandy Tierney to win the concomitant pro-am competition.
BRIGGS SHOWS GLIMPSES OF OLD FORM
Absent from pro doubles tournaments for five years, sidelined by back woes most of the past autumn and now several months into his sixth decade, Briggs entered the qualifying with Greenwich neighbor Steve Scharff and transfixed the admiring gallery with his positioning and shot-making through three spell-binding five-game matches that brought this putatively unthreatening alignment to within a point of a berth in the semis!
First, they defeated their bracket's top seeds James Hewitt and the University Club's favorite son and multiple club champion Doug Lifford; then they earned their way into the main-draw by one point in the fifth over the strong Canadian-based team of Ken Flynn and Tyler Millard, with Briggs passing Millard on the match's deciding point with a crosscourt that clung too close to the back wall for Millard to steer it back into play; and finally, they moved to 14-11 in the fifth over fourth seeds Todd Binns and Jeff Mulligan, the match and a Cinderella story seemingly firmly in their grasp.
But this pair, who saved triple-match-point and won 15-14 in the season's opening event in Denver 16 weeks earlier, ran off three points to even the score and force a match-determining tiebreaker. Briggs and Scharff chose the same no-set option that had worked so well for them earlier that very day, only to be undone this time when Binns pounced on a slightly over-hit Briggs reverse-corner and unleashed a screamer down the middle that a diving Scharff was unable to get his racquet on.
BRIGGS - BINNS HISTORY
Though somewhat obscured by these fireworks and excitement above, the draw's lower-most quarter was an excellent match in its own right, with second seeds Willie Hosey and Viktor Berg determined to redeem themselves after an upset first-round defeat six days earlier in New York and Michael Pirnak and Jamie Bentley, who days earlier had decided to split up as a team after January's events were over, equally bent on expunging the memories of the haunting manner in which they had seen a 2-0, 9-1 lead over these same opponents dissolve into a five-game defeat that may have made inevitable the ensuing team break-up. The rematch was tight, competitive and very well-played, especially in the two split overtime sessions that resolved the second and third games.
After Pirnak and Bentley had rebounded from their 18-17 loss in the third to take the fourth at 11, Hosey and Berg raced to a 12-5 lead in the fifth, yielded a 7-2 run that reduced their margin to a nervous-making 14-12, but escaped to the semis on a match-ending winner off Berg's dynamic racquet.
FIVE GAME FRENZY
And the bottom-half semi between Hosey/Berg and Binns/Mulligan seemed destined to require a fifth game as well when the latter team rebounded from a two-game deficit by romping through a 15-6 third and earning a 13-10 advantage in the fourth. But this prospect was thwarted when Hosey and Berg ran off the match's final five points, several of them coming on low-percentage but perfectly placed forehand three-walls by Berg, including a dead-nick winner on the last point. Ironically in view of how close so many of the pre-final matches had been, the final itself, the fourth such meeting at this ultimate stage of the six ISDA events so far this season, was never in doubt.
Hosey and Berg had forced a fifth game in the North American Open in Connecticut two months earlier, but on this occasion, as in their final last week against MacDonald and Wahlstedt at the City Athletic Club, Waite and Mudge were in control from the start and won by a revealing score of 15-10, 11 and 10. In this match, as in many of the others this weekend, the presence of the singles ball created more shotmaking and all-court play than usual, and may have been an equalizing element that perhaps played a contributory role in the closeness of many of the matches. But it was the same pair of performers who occupied the winner's circle in the end, and whether they can be defeated this season with any ball and on any court very much remains to be seen.
To reach Rob Dinerman write to firstname.lastname@example.org