The Case for Doubles

Written By: achangeofends - Aug• 31•11

I am by no means the average tennis fan. I’m unhealthily attached to twitter, willingly become nocturnal (but without the sleeping during the day part) for most of the winter, and could probably name the vast majority of the ATP Top 100 from memory. Oh wait, I actually know a lot of those. So, it’s probably no surprise that I like doubles. But when I say I like doubles, I don’t mean it in a “only when there’s no singles” kind of way. I genuinely enjoy doubles, yet I am definitely in the minority.

Even though there were plenty of singles matches on the schedule for Day 2, I was excited for the start of the doubles matches. To be honest, I like to stay away from matches featuring moderately famous Americans (i.e. Ryan Sweeting/Michael Shabaz or Jack Sock/Jack Withrow or Robby Ginepri/Rhyne Williams). This isn’t because I don’t want to watch Americans, but because they sometimes draw large obnoxious crowds who have no idea who they are but feel some patriotic need to cheer very loudly. Oh well, that’s a topic all in its own.

I watched a plethora of singles matches during the day and was extremely excited to hunker down on Court 15 for the last match of the day, Bradley Klahn/David Martin v. Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau. I expected the place to be empty and I mostly got my wish. Two women sat down behind me, looking for a respite after crowded matches and lots of sun. They had no idea who either team was. I sat patiently while they debated which team had the two Americans and which one had “that Swedish guy” and what country “ROU” stood for. As the players took the court, one woman hypothesized that Robert must be the Swede because, “no American would wear that headband” but the other said he looked “too California.” Eventually I had to step in. I identified the players for them and let them know Tecau was from Romania. They politely thanked me as the first woman gloated about her Swedish headband hypothesis, and asked what I knew about the teams. I’m guessing they didn’t know what kind of answer that question would yield as I launched into an explanation.

Was I surprised that they had never heard of Lindstedt/Tecau? No. Were they surprised when I told them the guys were two time Wimbledon finalists? Yes. Luckily, this seemed to get them excited.

Them: “So these guys are actually good?”

Me: Yes.

As we all settled in to watch the match, Victor Hanescu showed up with his coach and sat down next to us, presumably to cheer on his countryman, Horia. For a while, the crowd was silent. Robert and Horia were winning pretty comfortably and the crowd seemed dead. As soon as Bradley and David found their games, the crowd came to life. We had a competitive match on our hands. Lo and behold, the more the players got into it, the more the crowd got into it. There was first pumping and racket throwing, handwaving and high fiving. The women behind me were enthralled. They kept saying, “we’ll leave after this game to go see what’s on Ashe” but each game became one more until eventually they had stayed for the whole match. I had successfully converted someone into a doubles fan.

Now, you may hate doubles. The stakes seem lower, the players are generally less than famous, and the points are really really short. If that’s the case, I won’t be able to change your mind. But look at it this way, more and more excellent singles players are entering the doubles draw as well and you’re basically getting four players for the price of two. All I ask is that you give it a try. Spend an hour sitting in the first row of uncomfortable bleachers on Court 15 watching four Europeans with unpronounceable names duke it out. The stakes may seem low to you, but for these guys, this is their meal ticket. Choose a team and cheer them on. You’ll feel must more invested in the outcome of the match and you might just find that you enjoy it.

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