Challengers win Rackets Doubles championship in New York

Tom Billings and Richard Owen seized the World Doubles Rackets Championship by winning the necessary game in New York this Saturday. 

The challengers, who won 4-0 at Queens Club in the first leg on 6 November, needed just one game to claim the title and defeat the defending champions, James Stout and Jonathan Larken. 

But with Stout and Larken gaining home court advantage as the pairs travelled to the New York Racquet and Tennis Club, victory was far from assured. 

The champions won the first game 15-6, and Billings and Owen had to hold their nerve to claim a 15-9 win in the second, and the match. 

Small differences between how the game is played in North America compared to the UK were expected to come into play, with Stout and Larken taking full advantage. 

Most notable of these is an American preference for a single serve, rather than a double serve, which introduces a hesitancy to the service. 

Players seek to get the ball into play rather than trying to stun their opponents with an ace or tricky shot, in full knowledge of another attempt if a fault is caused. 

Chris Davies, Chief Executive of the Tennis and Rackets Association, said: “In North America, you have to be precise, because there’s no room for error.

“In the UK, the first serve can be a genuine weapon, and in the first leg, Stout didn’t dominate on the serve, just got the ball into play.

“Larken and Stout are more used to the one service culture and I’d expect they come out guns blazing, and start to sow their seeds of doubt.”

STORIED HISTORY: The legendary New York Racquet and Tennis Club, where Saturday’s second leg was held. Credit: Library of Congress

With the roar of the New York crowd on their side, despite a more evenly-split viewership keeping track on a livestream, Stout opened the serving and the points tally.

Should the New York title-holders win all four games as their challengers had done in London, the title would be decided on points won across the games played in both legs. 

22 points clear after round one, Billings and Owen could secure the title with a loss in New York if they won 39 points total. 

The opening of the first game reflected the battle for every point as the serve passed between hands and pairs with neither pair establishing a consistent run of serves as the score reached an edgy 5-5. 

Stout was more of a dominant presence on court than in the first leg, both as a player and a partner and after securing the serve, the defending champions pulled away with a quickness that belied the length and skill of the rallies to win the first game. 

Their momentum ran into the second game, and although Billings opened the serving, the champions snatched service to reach 5-1 and suggest an emphatic comeback. 

Instead, the challengers held firm to stopped Larken’s run of serve and the points tightened with the pairs keeping close until Stout and Larken were serving 9-10 with the hope of regaining control over the game. 

But after a nervy let, dropped point, and a fault in Larken’s second hand serve, the game was back in the hands of Billings and Owens who played the final five points like the champions they were due to become.

The championship was settled at one game just under the hour mark, making the official score over the two legs 5 games to 1. 

As per the competition’s tradition, two exhibition games were played for the benefit of the gallery, drawing upon the composure of both pairs, who had given their all in the competition they had waited eighteen months to play. 

Before long, however, Billings and Owens were able to set their rackets down and celebrate their victory. 

Related Articles