Rackets

Rackets World Doubles Challenge 2016

12 Nov 2016

Jonathan Larken and Jamie Stout are the new World Champions


J. Larken & J. Stout beat A. Titchener-Barrett & C. Portz  6/15 17/14 15/5

The Champions started in tremendous form, quickly gaining the serve from Stout and surged into a 6-0 lead. Portz served all the points, hitting perfect length, with Titchener-Barrett running well to hit clean winners. Larken scored the Challenger's solitary point, but the ATB/Portz partnership relentlessly extended their lead to 9-1. The match then went through a brace of hands without score, before Stout acrobatically clawed back a point, then Larken another two. Portz responded, but could only manage a point to lead 10-4. Another point apiece from the Challengers gave them hope at 6-10, but they reckoned without the Portz serve. Stepping up, he reeled off point after point to 14-6, then into a tense rally to close out the game, with ARB's service still in hand. First game to the Champions, 15/6, closing the formidable gap.

The second game saw Portz secure the first three points, a run of eight points in total. Stout failed to score but now Larken was in the box, recovering the points with the help of a rare ATB error to reach 3-all, and then five further points, to match the Portz tally. Suddenly the Challengers were ahead 8-3. ATB and Portz were playing steadily, both scoring two points to close the game score to 7-8. But Larken wasn't finished, supported by Stout's incredible court coverage, he scored a further three points on his next hand to recover the lead to 11-7, although a diving ATB dislodged the Larken serve. Great length from the Portz serve and power from ATB once again saw the score close to 10-11. One further point from the Larken serve, with a silky winner from Stout, saw the score reach 12-10. Two points apiece saw the Champions reach game point, seeming impossible after Larken's opening service, but they failed to close out the game, with a spectacular Stout winner breaking their hearts. Stout now served superbly at this critical phase to reach 14-all, and send the game into a set to three. Larken opening their account but then the Champions punched the air as they recovered the serve. But their jubilation was short-lived as neither now scored at this critical stage; Stout didn't waste his opportunity, serving beautifully to close out the set to three, 17/14. With match score at one-all, only one more game was required to change the guard.

Stout was now in dominant form, methodically serving six opening points in the third game, his own eight point run in the match. Leading 6-0, it needed something special to change the match. The next pair of hands saw neither pair score, but the match play was outstanding, with all four players at the top of their game. ATB & Portz inched back to 2-6, but minutes later it was 10-2, as Larken continued to hit perfect length serves. The Challengers were now reading the Portz serve better and it was the fighting ATB who narrowed the gap to 3-10. A point apiece saw the margin increase to 12-3, once again scrambled back to 5-12. Stout then served out the remaining three points without reply, taking the decisive third game 15/5, and with it the World Championship.

As one great World Doubles Champion Pair steps down, another takes their place. Jamie Stout and Jonathan Larken announced their credentials by winning the 2015 British Open Doubles and have risen mercurially since then. They surely will be a tough pair to beat, showing magnificent understanding and teamwork in their quest to the summit.

Marker, Tim Chisholm, and referee, Guy Devereux, handled the match in typical style; the match was hosted at the New York Racquet and Tennis Club.

 

Photography: Barney Tanfield

Second Leg

J. Larken & J. Stout beat A. Titchener-Barrett & C. Portz 9/15 15/8 15/5 15/5 15/4

The first game started with the pairs scoring a meagre one point apiece in the first couple of hands. The Challengers were the first to settle and nudged ahead to 4-1, with James Stout playing a magnificent winner, but were quickly pulled back to 4-3. Alex Titchener-Barrett then served well to take four points and a 7-4 lead, narrowed to 7-5, but then a further three points to 10-5, all on the ATB serve but well supported by Christian Portz. However, Stout responded to claim four points on his own service; but Jonathan Larken was unable to add to the tally, but the score was a tight 10-9 advantage to the Champions. But they never returned to the service box in the first as ATB and Portz served out the next five points and take the first game 15/9. The Champions were ahead, their dream start to their defence.

ATB opened the second game but to no avail. This time it was Stout stepping up, with Larken adding a further four points to sweep into a 5-0. A fired up ATB closed the gap to 4-5, but then the Challengers nudged ahead, only to be levelled at the next hand by a further two ATB serves. The game was tense at 6-all. Yet again the Stout/Larken partnership served well to retake their lead to 10-6. ATB/Portz rallied to 8-10, but three further points on the Larken serve increased the margin to 13-8. ATB/Portz failed to score in the next pair of hands, whilst Stout inched ever closer to levelling the match, which he did with a brilliant shot. The Challengers took the game 15/8, to level the match. The gallery, evenly split between the two pairs, was prepared for an epic struggle.

The third game saw the Challengers step up and work increasingly well as a team. After a pair of hands the score was level at 2-all, but three points in the next hand saw them establish a 5-2 lead. Portz served up to reduce the lead to leave the game close in its early stages. After a couple of further tight exchanges which added nothing to the scoreboard but kept the gallery enthralled, it was a sudden six-point surge from Stout, and two further points from Larken, which opened up (and ultimately decided) the game. At 13-3, ATB/Portz had little to add, trading the odd point but it was ultimately Stout who served out 15/5, and gave the Challengers a 2-1 lead.

Stout now saw his chance and opened up a quick 3-0 lead in the fourth game. After a few tight hands, it was once again Stout, moving adroitly, brilliantly backed up by partner Larken, who scored a decisive seven points, with one more from Larken, to open up a commanding 11-0 lead. ATB failed to score but now Portz stepped up and scored five points on his serve, his longest sequence, which asked questions of the Stout/Larken pair, and reduced the lead to 5-11. However, Stout’s response was emphatic, not relinquishing serve and securing the game 15/5, now with a commanding 3-1 advantage.

The fourth game once again saw Stout open a quick 3-0 lead. But the Champions were not beaten and responded brilliantly to level with the ATB serve and nudge into a narrow 4-3 lead from the Portz serve. The gallery remained expectant, but didn’t account for Stout levelling and then Larken serving four masterful points and create a healthy 8-4. Sadly for their supporters, the Champions failed to score again, and hand by hand, the Challengers moved ever closer to their target. First 10-4 and then 13-4. At 14-4 (and match point) a let was called and given, giving the Champions a brief respite; but that was all is was as Stout and Larken won the game 15/4 and will take a 4-1 lead to New York for the Second Leg.

Andrew Lyons returned to The Queen’s Club to mark the match, expertly refereed by Peter Brake. Lifelong Rackets patron, John Prenn, presented the players with a bottle of Pol Roger champagne apiece to thank them for the spectacle, in which all four players played their part. Many thanks to PlayBrave, formally sponsoring its first major Rackets event and also to Pol Roger for the reception.

The point score of 69-37 in favour of the Challengers leaves them in a commanding position for the second leg.

 

Photography: Tim Edwards

First Leg

Stag and Championship Dinner


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