Tennis Elbow: Double down

December 10, 2012 · Print This Article

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders what exactly happened to doubles tennis.

With each victory, Milos Raonic cements his reputation as Canada’s best singles player of the country’s rather unfortunate tennis history.

Raonic, who will turn 22 on the 27th of December of this year, seems poised to make his debut in the ATP World Tour Top 10 at some point during the 2013 season. His play has been promising for some time now, and if things break his way, it’s conceivable that Raonic could one day win a Grand Slam tournament.

Should this happen–and of course, it still hasn’t–it very well could be among the most memorable days in Canadian tennis. Not a whole lot has gone right in recent memory, but the one time that it did was when everything went wrong for Australia.

Twelve years ago, Canadians Sébastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor captured the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Todd Woodbridge double-faulted on match point in his own backyard.

Since, a lot of things have changed but Nestor remains a constant. At 40 years of age, the native of Toronto has been a mainstay in the Top 10 on the doubles side except for a three-week stint at No. 11 during May of 2007. He’s currently ranked No. 5 in the world and, for the 2013 season, will team up with another relic of a previous age in Mahesh Bhupathi.

But of course, who knows that—right? With the way the sports is going, isn’t it conceivable that tennis could have new courts in a near future, courts that don’t have the outside lines for doubles? With the way that tennis is evolving, will doubles still be played in a near future?

For the time being, it sure seems like doubles is on life support.

To conclude the 2012 season, Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals in an entertaining final match. He took home $1,7600,000 for the win, to give him a healthy $12,803,737 for the season.

Meanwhile, Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez split $330,000 for winning the exact same tournament as Djokovic, but on the doubles side. Just as outrageous, World No. 1 doubles player Mike Bryan took home the nice little sum of $916,603 for his successes of 2012.

Besides giving all of us a way to differentiate the two Bryan twins (i.e. Mike happens to be the No. 1-ranked doubles player), this shows why doubles is dying a slow death.

It’s a tautology, really. It all starts with the prize money–but really, this prize money reflects interest.

In the previous years, the formula has been tweaked in order to spark fan interest. Now, the deciding third set is a super tie-breaker where the first team to 10 points, with a two-point difference, wins the match. Unfortunately, this has led to more upsets from unknowns taking down the seeded teams–although, whether or not that’s a bad thing in a sport where essentially every player is an unknown remains to be seen.

Truthfully, unless some of the top singles players also dedicate themselves to doubles, fan interest in doubles is likely to stay as is. But is it entirely the fans’ fault? The next televised doubles match that I see will be the first in a long time.

It seems unlikely that singles players do decide to dedicate time and energy to doubles when it’s becoming clearer and clearer that they shouldn’t if they expect to be singles champions in any consistent manner. Thus, if fan interest stays middling like it currently is, prize money is likely to stay middling as it currently is as well–and this is one fewer incentive for singles players to participate in doubles draws as well.

Singles and doubles tennis have prize money that are heading in opposite directions. Of course players will flock to the singles draws. Will doubles survive? Perhaps. If it doesn’t it’s an entire page of Canadian tennis that gets erased.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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Comments

2 Responses to “Tennis Elbow: Double down”

  1. Yanik Deschenes on December 10th, 2012 11:16 pm

    who cares of doubles at the moment? the entire fan-experience has to be redefine. it’s so boring at the moment…. the game needs a shake-up. I believe it is possible.

  2. Charles Gascon on December 12th, 2012 2:25 pm

    I don’t know just how much possible it is, because by changing the game so much maybe at some point you end up creating a totally different game no? Also, as of right now the ATP/WTA absolutely treats doubles as the second fiddle and barely make an effort to hide it. It’s no surprise, then, that fans too treat doubles as such.

    Thanks for the comment Yanik!

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