STARS UNITE IN DEFENCE OF DOUBLES
John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Paul Haarhuis are serving up their support to save the doubles game on the world tennis stage.
Plans to downgrade the status of doubles are so drastic that some of its specialist players have considered legal action against the Association of Tennis Professionals - their own organisation - to try to safeguard their futures.
The most flamboyant gesture of support has come from McEnroe, who will return to the main tour at the age of 47 when he partners current doubles star Jonas Bjorkman, of Sweden, in an ATP event in San Jose on February 13 to highlight the problems.
"Given the circumstances now surrounding doubles, it will at least open up the debate. To me, it's like (it's) on a life support," the American said.
"I don't see doubles even happening the way things are going and there has got to be some serious discussion about it," added McEnroe, winner of five Wimbledon doubles titles - four with Peter Fleming and one with Michael Stich - between 1979 and 1992.
He believes legal action is the wrong court to go into.
"What the doubles players have done, like suing basically themselves with suing the ATP, I think is a mistake.
"People know how I feel about the ATP but they should go to the top players and ask them what way could doubles be a success," said McEnroe.
Haarhuis, winner of this weekend's Masters Tennis event at London's Royal Albert Hall, and beaten finalist Courier weighed in with their own ideas to boost doubles.
The 39-year-old Dutch doubles specialist, whose five Grand Slam titles included Wimbledon with compatriot Lars Eltingh in 1998, believes one of the show court matches every day at a Grand Slam should be doubles.
Former world number one Courier, winner of six doubles titles as well as the 23 singles events including the French and Australian Opens twice each, proposes that the doubles finals at Wimbledon should take place before the singles rather than being an evening leftover.
"You should play doubles before the singles final. It should be the warm-up band before the Rolling Stones come on," he trumpeted.
Haarhuis, a long-time campaigner for doubles, is pleased he retired before it became embroiled in the controversy which threatens its future.
Harking back to the great rivalry between himself and Eltingh and Australian duo Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, he said: "At Wimbledon people really enjoy doubles and I was just happy to play in a time with the Woodies, I was excited to play with these guys.
"Tennis is singles and doubles. Everyone who plays at a club plays more doubles than singles so they relate to it and enjoy it.
"Fifteen years ago I had big arguments with the ATP over doubles - and the year after and the year after that. After 15 years you get worn out from trying to talk to them and change their attitude.
"It's a sad thing that doubles isn't as popular as it should be."
Courier recalled: "I played 10 tournaments a year doubles. People play doubles to make a living but I enjoyed playing doubles and it was helpful to get some extra matches."
But he warned: "No-one wants doubles to disappear but you must never forget what drives the engine of tennis. People pay to watch singles and stay to watch doubles and you cannot affect what is steering the ship."