Ren’s Rants: More Doubles, Please!

I have always loved doubles. I really enjoy watching it, and I ADORE playing it. A high quality doubles match with a partner you can rely on, against high-level opponents, is a great workout, and a tremendous amount of fun. I think this every time I step off the court after a great dubs match, and this week was no different. I played with a group of people I was on a World Team Tennis team with earlier this week, and we had an epic 3 set battle, ending with a tiebreaker. We were all gassed afterwards, and quite happy. The best part? The match lasted just under an hour and a half. I was home in time for dinner.


Then, yesterday, I turned on the Tennis Channel, and they were replaying a Bryan Brothers match from earlier this year. I had no intention of actually watching it as I had other things to do, but I got pulled in pretty quickly. Watching professional doubles is incredible. The quickness, athleticism, and hands at net are truly something to behold. Points are very entertaining, and they are also quick. Players may whisper something to each other quickly in-between points, and then they get set and jump into the next point. Rarely do you see the Nadal-esque 30 second delay between points. The entertainment value is huge, and a doubles match is so much more digestible. With the no-ad scoring and super tiebreaker third sets, an exceptionally long doubles match is two hours. It’s singles counterpart can stretch over five hours. Our ADD culture simply can’t handle that. And we wonder why tennis ratings can’t compete with the bigger sports?

Now, this is not a knock on singles. I have been following tennis for my entire coherent life. I love it. I played high-level singles and doubles all through college, but that was an awakening to just how singles-crazed the tennis world is. My high school tennis coach did not believe in putting good singles players out on the court in a doubles match and hoping for the best. He preached doubles strategy and movement from the day you made the team. I became a strong doubles player from a young age, and found my passion for it. When I got to college, I was a well-rounded player, and as a freshman, barely cracked the singles lineup, but immediately made an impact in the doubles lineup. My teammates simply never learned the game the right way. It all trickles down from the top.

You never see the top players playing doubles anymore, save for maybe the Olympics. This is great for doubles specialists, like the Bryan Bros, who make their living there. But, pro doubles receives a fraction of the publicity, ratings, and money. I think this needs to change. The game is fantastic, and it’s more fit for our culture as we approach 2016. I think the ATP needs to realize this, and implement some changes that encourage the best players in the world to get more involved in doubles. By doing that, everything else will fall into place. Ratings will improve, as will demand. Prize money will increase, and so will popularity. We will see more kids wanting to learn the game, and it will be a great benefit for the game on all levels.

Will I still watch singles? Always. Watching Djokovic v. Federer will never get old, but I don’t always have 4+ hours to commit to the television. Now imagine Federer/Wawrinka taking on Djokovic/Murray in the Wimbledon doubles final? Don’t try and tell me that wouldn’t be world-class television. Think about it, it makes sense. Will it ever happen? Probably not, the prestige just isn’t there, but that won’t change by treating doubles the way it has been treated for years. McEnroe used to win singles and doubles SlamsĀ at the same event. That’s the tennis world I want to live inĀ again.



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