The Challenge for Doubles

Written By: achangeofends - Apr• 05•15

While catching up on all of the tennis I missed while actually watching tennis in Indian Wells, I came across this article by Ben Rothenberg for the New York Times about the future of doubles. I had been thinking about it a lot when I saw this post from Judy Murray. How can we get people more excited about doubles?

I love watching doubles. It’s lively, fast-paced, and fun. It’s also a great way to indoctrinate people to our sport. Doubles points and thus matches tend to be shorter than singles, particularly with the addition of the super tie-break in the final set at most tournaments. While there are plenty of exciting long matches, even the most dedicated fans can get a little weary after three or four hours. Let’s face it, as a society our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and keeping points quick leaves plenty of time for tweeting (or a beer and bathroom break!)

The Bryan Brothers. Photo Credit: Jennifer Denfield

The Bryan Brothers. Photo Credit: Jennifer Denfield

A couple of years ago, I was covering the Davis Cup tie between the USA and Brazil in Jacksonville, Florida. My parents lived in the city at the time and I invited my mom to join me. Let’s just say she’s not much of a tennis fan, but she was nice enough to accompany me for the weekend. I thought Davis Cup would be great for a tennis newbie because of the atmosphere. (I was wrong, it was a dud, but let’s leave the problems with Davis Cup for another post…) Anyway, on Day 1, poor Mom had to endure 3 hours and 36 minutes of some of the most boring tennis I’ve ever seen live. Luckily the Bryan Brothers vs. Melo/Soares doubles rubber turned things around, not for the USA, but for my mother. The Bryans may have lost, but the exciting five set match made three and a half hours fly by and won over both the lifeless crowd and more importantly my mother.

Here are a few of the main issues I see with the current state of the ATP Doubles Tour.

Media: Players need to recognize the problem. Some have, and that’s a good start. I mean, if you go to any tournament, it’s obvious that doubles matches are less well attended (excepting those featuring the Bryan Brothers or top singles players) and highly accomplished doubles players walk the grounds virtually unrecognized. We need to make those players more recognizable. Tournament promotional appearances, autograph signings, and exhibition matches are a great way to get some more buzz for individual players. Popularity is based on personality. We need to give the players a personality.

I’m not sure I agree that pro-ams are necessarily the answer to raising doubles players’ profiles, but it’s a great sign that they’re willing to participate and raising their profile with the media is an extremely important first step to increasing the audience. The fact is most fans only have the opportunity to go to one tournament per year, if that. When opportunities are so few and far between, those fans want to see the players they see on TV and read about in newspapers, magazines, and online. If journalists aren’t writing about doubles and aren’t requesting interviews, tournament goers are going to continue to eschew doubles matches in favor of practice sessions or singles matches with lower ranked players.

Partnership Longevity: One of the critical points from the Times’ article was Ross Hutchins’ observation that doubles teams need to stay together longer to build a fan base. This is absolutely key! Right now a lot of doubles partnerships are a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of affair. Look at Daniel Nestor and Rohan Bopanna, both highly accomplished doubles specialists, who made it just three months as an official team. Other than the Bryans, I can’t think of a single top team that’s stuck it out together for more than a year or two. It’s a little heart-wrenching for a fan to grow attached to a team only to have them break up and have to choose sides since they’ll inevitably be playing each other.

Not only does the constant partner merry-go-round confuse fans, constant partner swapping can hurt a player’s seeding at tournaments or chances of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals. The top eight teams in the Race to London qualify.* So, let’s take the Nestor/Bopanna for an example. They currently sit in sixth place in the Race, with 1,020 points from six tournaments. Now both players will have to start over from 0 with their new partners. Depending on what part of the season player splits occur, some of the top players for the year could be left out of the World Tour Finals.

*Well, actually the top seven teams automatically qualify and then up to two teams that won Grand Slams that year, ranked between 8 and 20. Have you read the ATP Rulebook? There’s a lot of intricate stuff in there.

Doubles Stats 4.3.15

A Nation of Fans: Like it or not, fans tend to gravitate towards players and teams that represent their country, whether or not they’ve ever heard of them before. I’m sure we’ve all heard the loud “USA” chants at the US Open, the rowdy Aussies in Melbourne, or the contingents of several South American countries which turn up to support their players in Miami each year. I think part of the difficulty for doubles is that the teams are often made up of players from different countries and that doesn’t give them an automatic fan base.

A few years ago, a friend and I were watching a first round doubles match at the US Open between Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau and a wildcard team of two US players I honestly can’t remember. It was on one of the outer courts with just a few rows of bleachers on each side of the court, but was reasonably full with enthusiastic American fans. My friend and I were pro-Lindstedt/Tecau after their Wimbledon run that year and when we applauded after a winning point, the man next to me asked if I was Swedish. I suppose I must’ve looked confused because he qualified the question with the fact I was cheering for the Swedish/Romanian pair. When I said no, that I was American and just a fan of that particular team, it was his turn to look shocked.

Lindstedt and Tecau at the 2012 US Open (not playing Americans.) Photo credit: Jennifer Denfield

Lindstedt and Tecau at the 2012 US Open (not playing Americans.) Photo credit: Jennifer Denfield

I think this again goes back to fans not being exposed to doubles players as individuals. Rafael Nadal’s fan base extends far beyond Switzerland and fans flock from every corner of the world to support Roger Federer. I’ve never seen that kind of player specific loyalty in doubles. But, I think it’s possible if we allow fans the opportunity to see doubles players’ personalities and the way they interact as a team.

Even the ATP rules are somewhat favored towards compatriots who team up. Davis Cup points do not count towards an individual’s doubles ranking, but they are allowed in the Race. For example, Bob and Mike Bryan won their Davis Cup rubber against Great Britain in this year’s first round, which gained them 50 points in the Race. They’re currently in 10th place. Without those Davis Cup points, Raven Klaasen and Leander Paes would be in 10th place. Teams like Klaasen and Paes do not have the chance to gain those points since they can’t play for the same Davis Cup team.

If you have any ideas on how to improve the visibility of doubles, I’d love to hear them. Bring on the tweets/comments.

Friday Funnies

Written By: achangeofends - Mar• 27•15

After a year and a half off the court, I think we can all agree it was great to see Mardy Fish back in action last week in Indian Wells. He may have succumbed to friend Ryan Harrison in the end, but he did produce one of the most memorable moments of the tournament.

Don’t worry Mardy, it’s happens to the best of us. Well, maybe not this specifically. But I did once get caught in a ski net. That’s kind of the same, right? Anyway, welcome back buddy.

Who Wore it Best? Shirtless is the New Trend

Written By: achangeofends - Mar• 18•12

Based on our practice court photos, it looks like shirtless is in this season, or maybe it was just hot… Anyway, with so many options, there was a little something for everyone. Who do you think wore it best? Vote below, or feel free to sound off in the comments.

Rafael Nadal

Robert Lindstedt

Iveta Benesova

Julien Benneteau

Jarkko Nieminen

David Ferrer

Feliciano Lopez

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

Viktor Troicki

Horia Tecau

First Week Controversy at the Australian Open

Written By: achangeofends - Jan• 22•12

Today, we officially enter the second week of the Australian Open. Week one has yielded plenty of memorable moments. US Open Champion, Aussie Samantha Stosur was knocked out in the first round by Sorana Cîrstea. After three emotional wins, Lleyton Hewitt has landed himself in the fourth round at his home Slam for the seventh time. Bernard Tomic emerged as the future of Australian tennis, before being dismantled in the fourth round by his idol, Roger Federer. Kim Clijsters shook off an ankle sprain to beat Li Na in Melbourne for the second year in a row. However, perhaps the most memorable moments of the first week didn’t come from any of these headline match ups. Here are some of the most controversial moments of Week 1.

Marcos Baghdatis lets off some steam

In his four set loss to Stanislas Wawrinka, Marcos Baghdatis showed us that he is a champion when it comes to breaking rackets. However, his outburst didn’t come cheap. He was fined $200 per racket, not to mention he probably needed a few more rackets.

David Nalbanian vs. Kader Nouni

The general consensus is that Kader Nouni was in the wrong. Nalbandian clearly asked to challenge the call in what seemed like a timely manner, John Isner even encouraged him to challenge, and yet Nouni would not allow the challenge. In the end, the match was delayed far longer than the challenge would have taken since Nalbandian took up his cause with another official. You have to think the call somewhat contributed to Nalbandian’s five set loss. In a possibly unrelated incident, Nalbandian was fined $8,000 for throwing water on an Australian Open official.

Tomas Berdych Booed

Nicolas Almagro may not be the most well loved player, but I have a hard time believing that he meant to peg Berdych with that shot. Tomas obviously saw the incident a little differently, refusing to shake the Spaniard’s hand at the end of the match. The Aussies clearly take their sportsmanship very seriously because they booed Berdych straight through the post match interview.

Feel free to use the comments section to weigh in on these events. Should Marcos have been fined for his racket abuse? Should umpires be held accountable for their actions? Were the fans justified in booing Tomas Berdych?

Merry Christmas

Written By: achangeofends - Dec• 24•11

Happy Dancing Spaniards Part 2

Written By: achangeofends - Dec• 05•11

There are very few things I love more than watching tennis players dance.

Berdych Rallies to Win Group A and Complete Unpredictable Final Four

Written By: achangeofends - Nov• 25•11

Today marked the end of round robin play at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The semifinal matches have been set, and I for one am quite happy not to have to work through anymore ATP logic puzzles. Quite unusually, the semifinal stage will feature only one of the world’s top four players. I’d imagine few people would’ve put money on Federer/Ferrer and Berdych/Tsonga semis at the beginning of the week.

While I have suspicions that the scientists at NASA devised the round robin scoring system in place at the World Tour Finals, when it came down to it, things were pretty simple. David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych were the only two players in Group A to win two of their three round robin matches, so those are the two that move on right? Right. In the case that two players are tied for number of matches, the head to head of those two players is the first decider. Since Berdych defeated Ferrer in what could only be a third set meltdown from the Spaniard, Tomas emerged as the victor of Group A and David comes in second.

Things were even easier in Group B. Roger Federer is the only player in the field to have won all three of his round robin matches, so that makes him the clear winner of Group B. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the only member of Group B to win two out of three matches and so becomes the second semifinalist from that group. So, let’s quickly preview our two semifinal match ups.

Roger Federer v. David Ferrer

These two vets have played each other eleven times and, unfortunately for Ferrer, Federer has won all eleven encounters. That’s good news for the former No. 1, who has shown outstanding form in his last three tournaments. Up until today, Ferrer had also showed fine form this week, but his lackluster performance in the third set against Tomas Berdych is worrisome. He cannot afford that kind of mental lapse against Federer, who would quickly seize on the opportunity. Regardless of Ferrer’s level of play, it seems Federer has come to London looking for another trophy and I just don’t think David has the goods to stop him this time around.

Prediction: Federer def. Ferrer, 2 sets

Tomas Berdych v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Perhaps the more interesting match up of the day, these two guys have only met once on the ATP World Tour. Their first meeting occurred just last month in the Beijing semifinals. Tomas Berdych won in three sets 6-4 4-6 6-1. Both guys have had their ups and downs this week, but on the whole Tsonga has had a better season and generally looked stronger over the past few tournaments.

Prediction: Tsonga def. Berdych, 3 sets

For those of you following the doubles, the semifinals are as follows.

Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes v. Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski

Max Myrni/Daniel Nestor v. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan

Friday Funnies

Written By: achangeofends - Nov• 17•11

This interview from the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai back in 2007 never fails to make me giggle in that “aww” kind of way.

Get Classy, London Style

Written By: achangeofends - Nov• 17•11

Our favorite boys, and their favorite girls attended the World Tour Finals Gala last night. There were photos!!


Andy Murray attends the World Tour Finals Gala. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga attended the World Tour Finals gala after earning a place in the Top 8 for the second time in his career. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


Mardy Fish and his wife Stacey Gardner walk the red carpet like old pros. Mardy is making his first appearance in the World Tour Finals. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


No one likes the camera quite as much as World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and his longtime girlfriend Jelena Ristic. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


David Ferrer arrives at the World Tour Finals Gala. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


Rafael Nadal and girlfriend Maria "Xisca" Perello glam it up for a night on the town. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


Roger Federer was flying solo and looking good last night at the ATP World Tour Finals Gala. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


Tomas Berdych trotted out his new lady Ester Satorova for the first time at the Gala. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images.


Boy looking classy. Photo from the ATP website.


Andy Murray getting his speech on. Photo from the ATP Website.


All 8 contenders pose under the stars. Photo from the ATP Website.

Peek Inside Your Favorite Player’s Locker

Written By: achangeofends - Nov• 16•11

Last year, the final 8 all painted self portraits, with paint (tennis) balls and auctioned them off for charity. This year, our favs will be auctioning off the contents of their lockers. Those of you lucky enough to be in London this week will get a preview of the goods which will be on show in the O2 Fan Zone. If you don’t have the time to take an over-night to London, but you’ve still got the dough to bid, here’s a peek at what each of the players will be offering. Oh, and don’t worry, those of you who spend what will likely be copious amounts of money to purchase one of these lockers will also be supporting a good cause. 50% of the winning bids will go towards the Save The Children Charity and the other 50% will go towards the player’s charity of choice.

Novak Djokovic (Novak Djokovic Foundation)

  • Autographed Sergio Tacchini clothes
  • Adidas shoes
  • Head Racquet
  • Bag
Rafael Nadal (Rafa Nadal Foundation)
  • Autographed Nike Clothes
  • Nike Shoes
  • Babolat Racquet
Andy Murray (World Wildlife Fund)
  • Autographed Adidas Clothes
  • Adidas Shoes
  • HEAD racquet
Roger Federer (Roger Federer Foundation)
  • Autographed Nike Clothes
  • Nike Bag
  • Wilson Racquet
David Ferrer (Save the Children)
  • Autographed Lotto Clothes
  • Lotto Shoes
  • Prince Racquet
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Attrap’ la Balle)
  • Autographed Adidas Clothes
  • Babolat Racquet
Tomas Berdych (Paraple Centrum)
  • Autographed Nike Clothes
  • HEAD Racquet
Mardy Fish (Mardy Fish Foundation)
  • Autographed K-Swiss Clothes
  • Wilson Racquet
These auctions will start in reverse ranking order, so Mardy’s stuff will available first and the auctions will begin a half hour apart. The auctions will begin on November 19th at 5pm GMT and end on November 28th.
I just hope that the lucky winner of Murray’s locker receives one of these.

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