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Doubles now only a second career option

Slower courts and heavier balls are not just changing the singles game in tennis. The last standing bastion of the serve and volley art-doubles is also at the risk of being swamped by the baseliners. Deepti Patwardhan reports.

sports Updated: Nov 27, 2010 00:48 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

Slower courts and heavier balls are not just changing the singles game in tennis. The last standing bastion of the serve and volley art-doubles is also at the risk of being swamped by the baseliners.

"Doubles is being repopulated by singles players," said Bob Bryan, who along with his brother Mike, makes one of the most successful doubles teams in tennis.

The Bryans, who qualified for the ATP world tour finals semi-final on Thursday, finished with a year-end ranking of no.1 for the fifth time.

"The top-50 in doubles used to have two or three singles players in it. Now it's half and half. I think you are going to see one player, a singles and a doubles player. You're not going to see only doubles specialists" he added.

The 1987 singles Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash, who in his days was a top-10 doubles player, agrees that the team game is going the singles way.

"The doubles game is very different from the time we played," he said.

"The guys now are tall, they've all got good serves. It's become more of a tactical game now. Doubles requires a completely different set of skills, which take a lot of time to learn."

The change in format in doubles, with the match tie-break and the no-ad rule introduced in 2006, has also aided influx of singles players.

Doubles may run out of young blood to champion its cause. The best of the doubles players, currently, are over 30 or edging towards it.

"These 20 guys are the same guys we've been playing against for the last 10 years," says Mike. "There aren't a lot of guys breaking through."

Doubles is becoming only the second career for the players. In the lower rungs, like the Futures and Challengers event, it makes financial sense to play doubles.

"Most kids growing wanting to be Roger Federer, fall back on doubles," Bob adds.

"They see that doubles suits their game, then they go for it. You can make a great living out here.

But, yeah, most people want to be the president of United States, not the vice president."