Double Trouble?

Yesterday I read John McEnroe’s comments in The Times on that state of the doubles game. So, has doubles outlived its usefulness?

Doubles doesn’t nearly achieve the same glow to it as singles. In the piece, McEnroe tackles some of the reasons why.

During his illustrious playing career, the American was equally as successful in both the singles and doubles. Yet now fewer players combine the two. I think that, for doubles to become a more focal point, it must attract the very top singles players into playing more often. But do their current schedules allow for this? Probably not. Yes, this would result in fewer players being able to make a specialist doubles career so it must be asked which is a priority, those very players would, if they can prove they’re good enough, have the chance to compete with the tennis elite.

Look at Andy Murray. In August he paired with British counterpart Colin Fleming and reached the final of the Montreal Masters, a mean feat considering he probably had to dust down his doubles gear. The pair coupled again, this time to help Britain secure progression in the Davis Cup in September’s tie in Croatia, beating a team that featured ATP World Tour doubles finalist Ivan Dodig. He has shown that he is a very tidy, accomplished doubles player. It’s also clear that Rafael Nadal is among those that can make the conversion pretty quickly and effectively.

Most significantly, Fernando Verdasco has expressed talents on the singles stage, you’ll remember that gruelling Wimbledon quarter-final with eventual winner Murray, and in the doubles, his piercing serve and lefty forehand was mesmerising under the lights of the O2 last month. Along with partner David Marrero, he beat the Bryan brothers to claim the title.

The Bryan brothers have been recent saviours for doubles tennis. Aside from that dream pairing, who else is recongnisibly a household name on that circuit? John McEnroe made it clear that he admires their ability, nevertheless he rubbished claims that they are the best doubles players of all time.

Five Wimbledon doubles titles sit on the McEnroe mantelpiece. Furthermore, just look at Martina Navratilova’s honours list; wow. Her repertoire of both singles and doubles titles is to be deeply admired. The inspirational Czech won the Wimbledon mixed doubles aged 46, making her the oldest ever champion at SW19. Those two players, merely two sharp examples, combined cultivated careers on both circuits.

Pursuing this further, does there need to be further TV coverage to boost it? Yes! When those wonderful rallies at the net get going, it is one hell of a great thing to watch. Below is a demonstration of this. You’ll notice that there are two particularly poignant singles players on there.

McEnroe pointed out that doubles has made superstars of players that are very mediocre and wouldn’t be able to cut it on the singles bounds. This points out that the guys who can produce in the singles can do so very effectively with the tram lines added in, along with that extra person.

Following these controversial claims from the legendary player-turned marvellous broadcaster, new ATP chairman Chris Kermode faces a task of addressing the issues in the doubles.

In other news, the Royal Albert Hall has played host to the yearly past champions event. This weekend ITV4 are screening it. I, for one, look forward to watching McEnroe on the screen. Aged 54, he still looks a class act!

– Nathan Morley

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