"Doubles is very much about keeping to your side" - one plays right wall or left wall - "and then playing up and back. Whereas singles is much harder as your body ages." The knees and hips of most of the 20 million people who currently play singles will eventually give way, but they will still be able to play doubles. There are 85-year-olds playing at the U.S. national level in the four-person game.
Four to Tango
One Friday evening this spring, the so-called Tango in Toronto takes place at the prim, private Badminton & Racquet Club in the heart of the city. The Tango is an exhibition match Mr. Waite is using to make a pilot showing what doubles squash might look like on TV.
He's in the locker room with three fellow pros, the rest all in their early 30s: Victor Berg, a slight, nimble Vancouverite who is tied for No. 1 in the world professional doubles rankings; Damien Mudge, one of Mr. Waite's winningest former partners, who shares Mr. Berg's No. 1 status; and Ben Gould, at No. 3.
Mr. Waite and Mr. Gould are in orange jerseys, Mr. Berg and Mr. Mudge in yellow. All their shorts are white, though: It's a rule of the club. The B&R (once nicknamed "Be an Aryan") is the kind of WASP palace where members coming off the indoor clay tennis courts knock the green grit from their tennis shoes with a little paddle the club provides expressly for this purpose . A poster at the front desk advertises an upcoming screening of the film Slumdog Millionaire , to be followed by a "lively discussion." Price: $20.
For an investment of $25,000, five separate cameras are filming tonight's action. It's primitive, of course: The Super Bowl boasts more than 30 cameras on the field alone; an episode of Survivor uses 150. Mark Melnyk, an experienced TV sports producer Mr. Waite has hired, is hyping the emotional drama - the fact that Mr. Mudge and Mr. Waite, former partners, are now opponents. Programmers from the CBC and TSN are in the audience.
Warming up in the locker room with what for anyone else would be tendon-splitting lunges, the players are quiet. None of them lives by squash alone. Mr. Berg develops condos with his father in Richmond, B.C.; Mr. Gould is the pro at the Rackets and Tennis Club at 53rd and Park in Manhattan. Mr. Mudge does the same thing a few blocks away at the University Club on Fifth Avenue. He's six-foot-four and 205 pounds but moves like he's five-foot-two and 150 - a vast, fast blade of a man who might easily have played cricket in his native Australia or, as he sometimes thinks, made a fortune in American football.
There are a hundred people stacked in the steeply racked spectator gallery at the back of the high, deep, churchy court, familiar and yelling and drinking. But everyone falls silent when the action starts. A doubles court is 45 feet from front to back: Mr. Mudge and Mr. Waite seem to cover it in three strides, plus reach. I can't actually see their legs moving.
The game races up and down the side walls and crosscourt, the rallies lasting 50 seconds at a go. Mr. Berg, precise as a pin, drops shots so subtle and seductive they could make a woman take her top off. Mr. Mudge goes literally horizontal on one hand and the sides of his legs. Mr. Gould is all power and more erratic - he's playing with stitches in his racquet hand from a dog bite a week ago. And then there's Mr. Waite, the eldest by a decade, tiring faster but always where he has to be, nailing 150-mph three-wall nick shots that expire in the corners. Every once in a while, he exhales with a moan, forcing himself to breathe.
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