Bermuda’s James Stout, the World Rackets Singles Champion since 2008, and his rackets partner, Jonathan Larken, successfully defended the World Rackets Doubles Title they won in 2016.
In the first leg of their defense, they defeated the challengers, Richard Owen and Tom Billings, 4-0 in the best of seven games fixture at the Racquet and Tennis Club, Manhattan. With the exception of the third game, Owen and Billings struggled to put their older opponents under sustained pressure. Stout and Larken’s wealth of experience of playing at this level more than compensated for the combined thirty years age difference with the challengers.
The third game was crucial as the challengers built up a 14-5 lead and were on the brink of getting on the scoreboard. However, steady and accurate serving by Stout together with some fiercely contested rallies enabled him and Larken to successfully defend 9 game balls, and take the game 17-14 in one hand, an outstanding recovery. The fourth game was similar to the first two, except that Stout and Larkin played with more confidence and the challengers were somewhat deflated. The game scores were 15-6, 15-5, 17-14 and 15-7. The match lasted an hour and twenty minutes.
The second leg, played at The Queen’s Club, London was, in contrast, fairly quickly decided. Stout and Larken needed to win only one game to retain the title, whereas Owen and Billings needed to win the best of seven match by four games to nil, and concede fewer than thirty-two points. What was a tall order at the start of the match became harder still when Larken, who opened the serving, built up a 6-0 lead in the first game before Billings and Owen got him out. By that stage the damage had been done. Although the challengers battled gamely, Stout and Larken won the game 15-7, and thereby closed out the match with a 5-0 whitewash. They are the first title holders to successfully defend the world title since 2003.
This was Stout’s second successful foray in Doubles Play in November, albeit in a different sport. In the Westchester Country Club Pro Doubles squash tournament, a Squash Doubles Association (SDA”) platinum level event, he partnered Switzerland’s Yvain Badan, currently ranked 5. Badan’s regular squash doubles partner Bernado Samper had to withdraw due to a family emergency. Playing together for the first time Badan and Stout defeated Adam Bews and William Hartigan 3-1 (15-6, 13-15, 15-7, 15-11) in the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals they beat Jonny Smith and Zac Alexander 3-0 (15-12, 15-6, 15-14). In the finals they saw off the top-seeded pair of Michael Ferreira and Christopher Callis 3-0 (15-13, 15-10, 15-13) in a thrilling fifty-eight minute encounter, where two games went to 13-all.