Damien Mudge, Best-Of-All-Time Doubles Player, Returns To Native Australia  
by Rob Dinerman

Dateline September 14, 2020
--- Damien Mudge, whose achievements over nearly two decades (from 1999-2018) on the North American pro doubles tour have clearly established him as the greatest player in the history of doubles squash, and who has been the head professional at University Club of New York ever since Spring 2001, has permanently returned to his native Australia. Although when Mudge originally traveled to Australia after the University Club closed early this past spring in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was with the intention of coming back to the States to resume his head-professional duties as soon as the club reopened, he evidently changed his mind as the months passed and recently sent in his letter of resignation.

    His departure brings to an end one of the most remarkable eras in squash on this continent.  Mudge was ranked No. 1 virtually uninterrupted since the outset of the 1999-2000 season, when he and Gary Waite had the first of their three wire-to-wire undefeated seasons (also 2001-02 and 2004-05). After seven years (and 75 tournament wins, the most all-time of any combination) with Waite, Mudge switched to the left wall and led the tour in wins first from 2007-10 with Viktor Berg and then from 2010-15 with Ben Gould before joining forces with Manek Mathur prior to the 2016-17 season. After losing to Michael Ferreira and Yvain Badan, 15-13 in the fifth, in their debut as partners at the Maryland Club Open final in September 2016, Mudge and Mathur went undefeated throughout the remainder of both that season and the entire  2017-18 season that followed, covering 16 straight tournaments and 54 consecutive matches, while receiving the SDA Team of the Year Award both years. Mudge with his various partners has won nearly 175 pro doubles tournaments, more than double the number amassed by any other player, and he holds the most-times-won record for every established tournament on the SDA schedule, highlighted by 15 North American Opens, 10 Kellner Cups, six Briggs Cups and 17 David Johnson Invitational titles (all in a row from 2002-18) at the Heights Casino Club in Brooklyn. His Player of The Year and Doubles Team of the Year Awards totals far exceed anyone else’s and in all five seasons during the nearly two decades that the SDA and its forerunner, the International Squash Doubles Association (ISDA) have existed in which one team has gone undefeated, Mudge has been on that team: as noted, three times with Waite as well as in 2010-11 with Gould and 2017-18 with Mathur.

   In their eighth and final appearance of the 2017-18 season, the Tavern Club Invitational in Cleveland, Mathur and Mudge capped off their 24-0 season slate with a four-game final-round win over John Russell and Scott Arnold. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for Mudge, who badly injured his right knee, requiring him to undergo a major allograft procedure, his seventh knee operation overall and fifth on his right leg. Although he was sidelined throughout the subsequent 2018-19 season, the hope at the time had been that he and Mathur (who himself incurred a season-ending Achilles injury on October 2018) would be able to return to action in the 2019-20 campaign. Mathur was able to make a full recovery, but, by late-summer 2019, at which juncture Mudge's knee had still not responded to treatment, he decided, in deference to both that situation and the cumulative effects of a number of other injuries and maladies that had cropped up over the years ---  among them shoulder and wrist injuries, one of which required the insertion of a pin for several months to stabilize the joint; a painful neuroma and a plantar fascia tear on his right foot; a two-and-a-half-year bout with chronic-fatigue-syndrome; and multiple concussions --- to retire from competitive play.

  During the last few years of his career, Mudge, who marked his 44th birthday this past May, had been the only SDA player whose playing career dated back to the formation of the ISDA in February 2000, making him the bridge that spanned the early-2000’s top-tier group consisting of Waite, Berg, Clive Leach, Blair Horler, Willie Hosey, Michael Pirnak, David Kay, Scott Dulmage, Jamie Bentley, Scott Stoneburgh and Anders Wahlstedt, and extended through the Gould/Russell/Paul Price/Preston Quick/Greg Park set of stars later that decade and into the next, all the way to the Mathur/Callis/Yvain Badan/Michael Ferreira/Bernardo Samper/James Stout/Greg McArthur contingent of players headlining the current era. Throughout that lengthy time frame encapsulating several player generations, the only relentless constant has been Damien Mudge’s standing as the dominant player in professional doubles squash in North America, and his retirement, followed now by his relocation to his homeland, symbolizes both the ending of a glorious era in the history of squash on this continent and an acknowledgment of time’s relentless passage.