The Woman in Mixed Doubles

As we approached the U.S. national mixed doubles this weekend, here is the official take on this (now a non?) issue by the American Platform Tennis Association about how to deal with mixed doubles in paddle.


This can be a sensitive subject. However, no document on etiquette would be complete without touching at least briefly on the subject. Specifically, the question is how the man should play against the woman in an opposing mixed doubles team, particularly if the woman is the weaker of the two partners. There are two schools of thought. The first, which is more often applied in friendly games, says that the man should be “gentlemanly” by not driving the ball hard at the woman at net, or in returning her serve, and should not work her corner disproportionately. This does have the advantage of balancing play between opposing partners.

It is “gentlemanly,” and it avoids the accusation of “picking on the woman.” In an otherwise close contest, it can also lead to losing the match.


The other school of thought says that a team is a team, gender makes no difference, and the normal strategy to beat a team that may be unbalanced is to play the weaker partner. If that partner happens to be a woman, so be it. And if the woman does not like that, she need not play (or can get better).

Both viewpoints have merit and both have their strong advocates. It is not uncommon to see a double standard practiced, with the first school of thought being applied in friendly, social games, where winning or losing may be unimportant, or even in an unbalanced tournament match; and the second standard being applied in a keenly contested tournament match. We believe it best to leave this choice to one’s personal discretion.

Boston Bombings

The bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday had a couple of direct connections to our winter racquet sports.

The marathon was founded in 1897 by the Boston Athletic Association, which had a sumptuous clubhouse on the corner of Boylston and Exeter Streets. The BAA had a court tennis court, under the direction of world champion Tom Pettitt. It also had two fives (handball) courts which were used for the games of squash and squash tennis. In March 1890 the BAA hosted the first adult squash tournament in the world. Richard Sears, the famous national lawn tennis champion, won the event. (The champion’s trophy is surely the oldest squash trophy in the world.)

The BAA still runs the marathon, but the clubhouse was sold to Boston University during the Depression and was torn down in 1961 to make way for a new wing of the Boston Public Library. The first explosion on Monday was on the north side of Boylston, directly across the street from where the BAA clubhouse was situated. The blast damaged windows on the BPL.

The closest squash club to the bombings is the Tennis & Racquet Club, just two blocks up Boylston from the second explosion. The marathon goes right past the club, as the route heads south on Hereford and then takes a left at the T&R clubhouse and heads east down Boylston. A friend, Helen Grassi, was headed the T&R to play tennis at the time of the blasts. She tried three different routes but the whole area was blocked off by police.

“The club physically was not hurt, nor were any of our members or, to the best of my knowledge, their loved ones,” Suzy Schwartz, the president of the T&R, told me. “I think we’re all pretty shaken emotionally, but thankful that those close to us are ok.” The T&R remains closed today, three days after the bombings.


Cleve Town

Just spent a couple of nights in Cleveland around the Tavern Club’s annual men pro doubles event. I got a deluxe, bespoke tour of the squash scene: we drove around the defunct 13th Street and Cleveland Athletic Club buildings and walked around the Cleveland Racquet Club, University School and Cleveland Skating Club’s squash facilities. I got to chat with the pros at each club (Joe Russell at the Racquet and Ray Lindsay at the Skating) and with Max Laverty, the executive director of the fifteen-month-old Urban Squash Cleveland. I also had the tremendous pleasure to spend over an hour each with the twin giants of Cleveland squash: Jack Herrick and Ham Biggar. And I got to play doubles, with the Tavern’s Ian Sly, on the Tavern’s famous court, home originally to a racquets court. 

All in all, it was a tremendously fascinating visit to one of the classic, under-appreciated squash cities.