One Point at a Time

Update on James Stout:


Jamie won the second leg of the racquets world championship at Queen’s Club in London later in November. All he had to do was win one game. The match is based on whoever wins five games and Stout won all four of the games played in the first leg in New York.

In the first game at Queen’s, he blew a world championship point when he was up 14-7. He went on to lose the game in a tiebreaker, 17-14.

Instead of panicking, Stout regrouped by rethinking his position. Rather than worrying about winning that suddenly elusive final game, he focused on winning points. He calculated that he didn’t have to win any of the four games to be played at Queen’s. As long as he won more points in London than his opponent, Alex Titchener-Barrett, had won when losing all four games in New York, he’d win the title. It was a clever piece of positive thinking—a way to avoid obsessing about the big picture (“I just blew a match point that would let me be a world champion”) and rather concentrating on the age-old mantra: one point at a time.

This came in handy when Titchener-Barrett followed up on his first-game escape by surging to a 5-1 and 8-3 lead in the second game. Stout remained stout and climbed back to 8-all. From there, Titchener-Barrett held the serve four more times but was unable to clinch a single point as Stout rolled out the game 15-8 and retained the title of racquets world champion until at least 2012. 

So this means he can work on his court tennis game. A fortnight after his match at Queen’s, Stout reached the finals of the National Open at Tuxedo. There he played wonderfully and pushed the world #2 player, Steve Virgona, to five sets after getting crushed in the first two: 6-0, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-3. 

Tom Wolfe & John Updike


We had a fabulous book launch party at Tom Wolfe’s. Here is a photo from PW Daily:…


One of the things that happened at the party is that Sports Illustrated agreed to run Tom’s exuberant foreword to Run to the Roar on their website:


Earlier this week a friend of mine sent me this slim new book, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. John Updike’s paean to Ted Williams. One of the things that struck me when re-reading it was how Williams had played largely before television encroached on baseball. And one of Tom’s point in his foreword is that squash is still, more or less, removed from that “shanks-akimbo harlot” of the boob tube.


For worse, we have always thought. But now, there is a part of me that thinks, or for better



Printing House



Last night Tom Wolfe and his wife Sheila hosted a wonderful book launch party for Run to the Roar at their home on the Upper East Side. It was a varoom, varoom party, with no Bad Guys.* Our literary agent, David Black, was in a borough-hopping journey, going from his offices in Brooklyn to our party in Manhattan to his own office party in Queens. Jimmy Jones, the president of Trinity, was there, as was filmmaker Annie Sundberg, as was George Kellner, George Weiss and probably some other bold-face people named George.

Two of the guests, photographer Ben Collier and our Penguin publisher Adrian Zackheim, were lamenting the closure, the day before of their squash club, the Printing House.

Founded in the eighties in an old printing factory, Printing House was a legendary part of the New York squash scene: active (tons of league play and very hard to get court time in primte time), hip (it was located in the West Village, almost Tribeca) and raffish (there was a lot of boxing on the ground floor and starlets sunning themselves on the roof). There were originally four hardball courts and five racquetball courts until a conversion in the mid-nineties left the club with some twenty-footers and five years ago they ended the construction with five softball courts. 

Anders Wahlstedt worked there soon after arriving from Sweden. Chris Widney was a more recent pro and the last pro was Sean Gibbons who had ambitious ideas. Sean hosted a men’s pro event, The Village Open, at the club one year and used it as a launching pad to run a U.S. Open in midtown the following year. Sean, we learned last night, is also the son of the former head of Hackley School, where my wife used to teach.

Unlike most clubs with squash courts in Manhattan, Printing House was very diverse, especially gender-wise. It got its women-friendly aura in part because Ellie Pierce and Lissa Hunnisker, among others, taught there, Ellie in fact ran the show for five years.

This fall, the Equinox health club chain bought the club and as of yesterday began converting the courts to yoga studios, spinning rooms, etc. Eastern Athletic in Brooklyn, with its four new squash courts, has offered free membership to the two hundred and fifty suddenly court-less Printing House members. And there is a lot of talk (see their Facebook page) of building a new squash club somewhere downtown. Josh Easdon, another Printing House teaching pro and a filmmaker (he did the great film on Hashim Khan that came out recently) is probably taking his junior program to CityView in Long Island City.

The loss of Printing House is another reminder of the many squash clubs that have come and gone in Manhattan: City Athletic Club, Downtown Athletic Club, St. Bartholomew’s Community Club, Lone Star Boat Club, Fifth Avenue Racquet Club, Doral Inn, Park Avenue Squash & Racquet Club, Brown University Club, Seventh Regiment Squash Club, Cornell Club of New York, British Schools & Universities Club, Park Place Squash Club, First Avenue Squash Club, Broad Street Squash Club. Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Manhattan Squash Club, Williams Club, Union League Club and the Dartmouth College Club. Am I forgetting some?

It is just brutal, in New York, to ask for six hundred and seventy-two square feet of space for just two people to use.


*The Bad Guys built themselves a little world and got onto something good and then the Establishment, all sorts of Establishments, began closing in, with a lot of cajolery, thievery and hypnosis, and in the end, thrown into a vinyl Petri dish, the only way left to tell the whole bunch of them where to head in was to draw them a huge asinine picture of themselves, which they were sure to like.”

—Tom Wolfe, “There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . . )” 1963

Whitney Cup

In May 1927 Payne Whitney collapsed on his tennis court on the Greentree estate in Long Island. He was carried into the dedans where he died. The Times said it was “acute indigestion” but failed to note that six years earlier he had an emergency appendectomy. He was fifty-one.

Three years later some friends started an inter-city team tennis doubles tournament in his memory, the Payne Whitney Memorial Cup. Yesterday at the Racquet & Tennis Club, the 78th Whitney Cup concluded, amid much fanfare and excitement. Last year, the two teams in the finals split the first four matches, so it came down to the fifth and final pairs. I was in one of those pairs, playing for Washington, and we lost 6-4, 6-5 to New England (an amalgamation of the Tennis & Racquet Club in Boston and the National Tennis Club in Newport).

This year, I played for Philadelphia and we were quickly shown the door in the round-robin phase, losing both our matches 4-1. In the finals, the two-time defending champions New England faced Greentree/Aiken. Again it went to 2-2. In the final match for the second year in a row was New Endland’s George Bell. Last year, we were tied 40-all, game-ball in that eleventh and final game in the second set. Bell was receiving, and he slammed three consecutive main wall forces at me and Bradley Allen. Brad parried the first two nicely, but Bell slipped the third into the dedans for the win.

This year, he was not so lucky, even if he was playing with Garrett Gates, the USCTA’s most improved player of the year. The crucial eleventh game went the other way as Peter Pell & Bob Hay won the first set and then the match 6-5, 6-2.

It was the first time since 2003 that Greentree, the official hosts of the tournament, had won the Whitney Cup and the first time ever that Aiken will see its name inscribed on the venerable trophy.

U.S. Team Finishes 7th

It has been quite a journey. In Ireland in 1985 Nancy Gengler, Julie Harris, Karen Kelso, Nina Porter and Gail Ramsay secured a seventh-place finish for the U.S. at the World Championships, our best-ever result for women (the men also reached seventh, in 1981 and 1983). In the next quarter century, we switched to softball, built more courts, brought many more juniors into the game and yet our American ladies never topped that achievement. You'd think we'd do much better, considering the state of American squash, especially softball squash, in 1985, when there were just ten softball courts in the country. But no—other countries were also growing, at a faster rate.

Now we are back. In New Zealand, the women, seeded ninth, came in seventh. With two seventeen year-olds on the squad and all four ranked in the top forty in the world (for the first time), the U.S. ran roughshod and pulled out some classic matches. In their final dual match, the 7/8 playoff v. Ireland, Olivia Blatchford gamely came back from an 0-2 deficit to win in five, and then Natalie Grainger, on the verge of retirement, pulled out a five-gamer as well to notch the historic victory. (Grainger also saved a couple of match balls in her epic 12-10 in the fifth win against eventual tournament winners Australia in an earlier round.)

Athens Lust

The Greek Open ( just finished. It was at the Athens Tennis Club. A year and a half ago, I did a story for our Vanity Fair blog about the Athens Tennis Club and its amazing history.

Victoria Lust won the women’s draw. Yes, the twenty-one year-old Englishwoman (ranked forty in the world) does have perhaps the most perfect porn name ( surely much better than what she’d get from her first pet’s name and the name of the street she grew up on.


Out on the Run to the Roar hustings: just scribbled my name for the third time at the University Club of Washington's annual author night & book fair. Saw a lot of old friends, including two of my fellow board members from our DC Squash Academy days. Howard Day is in his thirtieth year running the squash scene at the U Club, just a remarkable run. (Howard even had a Jimmy Dunn story or two; he also got to the semis in the B dubs at this year's Dunn).

Each year, people crowd around one author's desk (it was Sandra Day O'Connor my first time at the book fair; this year I sat next to Bill LaForge, author of a massive book "Testifying Before Congress". Bill told me that he actually was in the Supreme Court the day she first sat. What was historic in 1981 is now, less than thirty years later, ho hum.) This year's book fair star was probably Scott Simon. Afterwards, we talked about Quakerism and writing at dawn and astronauts. Scott told me two things that were interesting about space: the Russians land their spacecraft in Kazakhstan, without wheels. Bump.

And that no other country has yet landed a person on the moon. Forty-one plus years and we are still the only ones. Odd.