Rackets World Doubles Challenge 2018
10th November. New York. First leg:
Jonathan Larken & James Stout beat Tom Billings & Richard Owen 15/6 15/5 17/14 15/7
17th November. Queen's Club. Second leg:
Jonathan Larken & James Stout beat Tom Billings & Richard Owen 15/7
A capacity gallery at Queen's had waited seven long days to see if the Challengers could make an impact after dramatic events in New York. The initial soundings were worrying as Jonathan Larken opened his account by reeling of six impressive serves; James Stout waiting to pounce and put away anything which was returned into play. The Champions were off the mark, leading 6-0. Neither Tom Billings or partner Richard Owen could make any impression of their serves and Larken was back in the box. This time, Larken was picked off but Stout extended the agony with two further points - now leading 8-0. However, neither Billings or Owen could make any impression at the second time of asking; although Stout could only add a further point in the next pair of hands too - 9-0. Although lacking in points, a fabulous exchange was brewing. Billings and Owen both make incredible pick-ups, Larken was playing intelligently with a deft touch and Stout was his magnificent self. The gallery roared as Billings served himself into the points, with five breath-taking points and one further from Owen to give them both hope. They now trailed 6-9. Both pairs added a couple of points apiece in their next hands to provide the Champions with an 11-7 advantage. But the final hand was just too much. Larken had found a sublime touch and took the game to 14-7; Stout served well but Billings forced an impossible let. But the writing was on the wall and Stout sercured the match (and Championship), winning 15/7; and five games to love. A fully appreciative gallery rose as one to salute the defending Champions, their enthusiasism only tempered by the fact it was all over!
John Prenn spoke with his usual eloquence, while his wife, Jane, presented the prizes. Huge thanks as ever to main sponsors John and PlayBrave, supported by our friends from Pol Roger.