First Volley: It Takes Two to Tango
Craig Gabriel – World Tennis Day Contributor (@crosscourt1)
Hands up: how many of you love playing doubles? It’s great fun, right? The rapid fire exchanges at the net or some of the angles you look for during rallies are so exhilarating. And watching the pros play doubles is just as fascinating. So often it’s stand-up-and-cheer stuff. So the question is: why does professional doubles not attract bigger crowds?
Remind yourself of some of the amazing tandems that have played. The list is endless: “The Woodies” (Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde), Flach and Seguso, Martina and Pam, John McEnroe and Peter Fleming -- who once said Mac and anyone is a great combination -- the crazy Jensen brothers, and most recently, the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike.
Doubles deserves more attention, but how does the sport achieve that as it remains part of the professional tour’s fabric? It’s thrilling to watch and when fans get stuck into a match, they come away with smiles on their faces, shaking their heads thinking about some of the angles produced with dinks and deft returns.
The Bryan boys have certainly carried the doubles game with the gazillion titles they have won (112 to be exact) and their domination of the world rankings. They are ‘down to earth’ and easily relatable for fans, but one has to be realistic, the time is approaching for them to hang up their racquets. Who then will grab the baton … okay, racquet?
Here are two suggestions that could have an impact in changing things.
Often these days doubles teams don’t stick together. The aforementioned partnerships were like long-term marriages. Maybe the tours should adopt Bryan Ferry’s song “Let’s Stick Together” as a mantra for doubles (younger readers look up Bryan Ferry on Wikipedia). Teams play a year and break-up; some guys have had more partners than Taylor Swift. Can you imagine the number of break-up songs she could write as a professional doubles player?
The singles guys like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray have done such an amazing job dominating the sport and fans want to see them all the time so what a thrill it would be to have them playing doubles. Fans would get an additional opportunity to see those players in action and with many doubles matches being played off centre court, it allows for a more up-close and personal feeling.
So, can there be an incentive to get the prominent singles guys play doubles to generate more attention? They can use their singles rankings to get into doubles but that’s not really enough. The singles guys generally do like playing doubles, just look at how Nadal reacted winning the Olympic gold medal with his friend Marc Lopez; he said it was one of the highlights of his career.
On the regular tour maybe doubles should be reduced to three match/champions tiebreakers. It would be quick and would allow the singles players to be swayed to play, bringing in more attention. The second thing is dedicated doubles teams need to stay together and build a following -- that is crucial to doubles survival.