New news articles about the doubles stuff (London Times and Houston Chronicle)
Thought this was interesting and the other threads were buried somewhere...
De Villiers hopes feud will produce new doubles vision
By Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
STEFFI and Andre are doing it in Boise, Idaho, in December — for Andre’s Charitable Foundation — Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suzuki were the pride of Tokyo for winning the Japan Open at it last weekend, Andy Murray’s first Davis Cup appearance was at it and Martina Navratilova will probably keep doing it until she is 70. Ninety per cent of occasional tennis players do it more than anything else.
So why has playing doubles gone from tennis’s stepchild to its abandoned child, to use one of the descriptions of the ATP’s decision to tinker it out of existence. Is doubles to fall victim to the great god of TV, which dictates every professional tennis schedule, and to singles-minded tournament directors who see it as a drain on the resources they would rather save for the stars? Or can it be reembraced, integrity intact, as a vital part of the pro tour?
Its finest exponents trip from the tongue — Fleming and McEnroe, Hewitt and McMillan, the Woodies, Navratilova and Shriver, King and Casals, Fernandez and Zvereva. All of these are grand-slam title-holders, only five of them in singles. They have earned their place in the halls of excellence through an expertise that leads to a cherished, shared experience.
The debate about the future of doubles first flourished when the ATP, the men’s governing body, decided to experiment with a change in scoring for three weeks of tournaments after the US Open. It would reduce sets to five games rather than six, with a tie-break at 4-4.
Additionally, it was proposed that, by 2008, only the top six doubles “teams” would be permitted entry into tournaments, denying lower-ranked doubles players access if they did not qualify for singles draws. These were labelled as doubles “enhancements”, which really got the players’ goat.
In response, 45 players (with more lending moral support) dropped a lawsuit on the ATP’s lap — charging Mark Miles, the departing chief executive, and the six members of the board with antitrust violations and a breach of fiduciary duty in that the governing body would “enact rules that prevent doubles players from competing, contrary to the express wishes of the players”.
When, in retaliation, the Masters Series tournament in Madrid, which starts on Monday, decided unilaterally to drop its doubles competition, the waters were further muddied. The ATP insisted that an affiliated event could not contravene the rules and the 16-team event was readmitted, albeit grudgingly. “It is another episode where I am embarrassed to be a part of this tour,” Mark Knowles, from the Bahamas, who has twice finished the year as part of the No 1 doubles team, said. “It’s a circus.”
Knowles is an eloquent spokesman for the doubles cause, although the cynics will say that with more than £3 million in career prize-money from it, why wouldn’t he want its future assured? He is the very person to whom many tournament directors would rather not have to give a week’s board and lodging. “The decision taken by Madrid, although it has been reversed, is exactly what we’d forecast,” Knowles said. “These people have no regard for the history of doubles or respect for its specialists. This is all about money.”
The irony in the dilemma over doubles is that it has surfaced at a time when there is far too much stereotype in men’s tennis: macho baseline top spin, ferocious pounding of the ball, manic court coverage and, the inevitable consequence — injuries. Doubles enhances volleying, speed of thought at the net, feathery touch — a different emphasis to a sport that needs versatility to make it watchable.
The two sides in the conflict hope to meet before its protagonists alight in Spain for what could be an uncomfortable week. Etienne de Villiers had anticipated a full in-tray in his first weeks as the ATP’s new chairman, but not a burning issue such as this. “What I want to do is talk to these guys about implementing change in a measured way, because that is how problems are solved in business,” he says.
“Doubles is like water, it has to find its own level. We have to discover what will make it a more attractive proposition for everyone, because if you have a product that’s not desirable, obviously you have to improve it. The process the ATP went through before the current changes was not perfect. Equally, it is totally inappropriate to talk about removing doubles from the ATP Tour. But we have to make it better.”
Seeing scorelines such as 5-3, 5-4 makes the traditionalist’s heart sink. Everything about the present situation crushes Wayne Bryan, father of Mike and Bob, the No 1 pair in the world. If you wanted to find someone in the world to extol the virtues of tennis and especially doubles, he is the man, although his support for “The 45” could cost him his role as on-court announcer at certain tournaments.
“Let us put this whole sorry situation to bed,” he said. “There are enough people of good faith who want to settle this. My sons grew up loving doubles and it hurts them deeply to think that it is now considered a bad word.”
Last edited by Deboogle!.; 10-15-2005 at 04:08 PM.