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Stout retains world doubles title

Bermuda racquets player James Stout

Bermuda’s James Stout, the world racquets championship since 2008, and his racquets partner, Jonathan Larken, successfully defended their doubles title, which they previously won in 2016.

In the first leg of their defence, they defeated the challengers, Richard Owen and Tom Billings, 4-0 in the best-of-seven games fixture at the Racquet and Tennis Club in Manhattan, New York.

With the exception of the third game, Owen and Billings struggled to put their older opponents under sustained pressure as Stout and Larken’s wealth of experience more than compensated for the combined 30-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 the pair to successfully defend nine 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 1hr 20min.

The second leg, played at the Queen’s Club in London was, in contrast, decided fairly quickly. 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 32 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.

It 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 platinum-level event, he partnered Switzerland’s Yvain Badan, who is ranked No 5 in the world.

Playing together for the first time, Stout and Badan 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 58-minute encounter, where two games went to 13-13.

Stout’s next SDA tournament is the Sleepy Hollow Country Club Open, Briarcliff Manor, New York, from November 30 to December 2. He will be partnering his regular squash partner, Greg McArthur.