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Re: Bryan Twins
Doubles players find success in drawing attention to cause
12/9/2005 5:23:00 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Bob and Mike Bryan are on a crusade: to preserve the integrity of doubles tennis.
The top-ranked Bryans and other doubles specialists have been concerned that the ATP's efforts toward ``enhanced doubles competition'' would ultimately undermine their game. Proposed changes included a new scoring system and tournament draws that appeared to favor singles players.
So a group of players, led by the Bryans, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Houston challenging the ATP's plans.
``We felt we needed to take a stand for doubles,'' Bob Bryan said.
The stand worked, and the ATP has revised two of the doubles players' biggest gripes: scoring won't be radically different, and doubles teams will have equal footing with singles when it comes to qualifying.
In fact, the ATP appeared to throw a renewed commitment behind the game last week, hiring Gayle David Bradshaw as doubles commissioner to oversee changes set to take effect next year.
Bradshaw said in a statement one of his goals is to ``create a culture whereby the doubles game is celebrated and its players utilized to promote and showcase this unique and integral aspect of professional tennis.''
``The ATP is totally supportive of doubles and making it enjoyable for the fans,'' ATP spokesman Greg Sharko said.
Wayne Bryan, father of the Bryans, says doubles teams will speak by conference call next week to discuss whether they should drop or amend the suit, which was filed in September. Among those included in the suit are Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and doubles partner Daniel Nestor of Canada and former NCAA champions Richard and Will Barker of Houston.
The Bryans, who played at Stanford, will be in Portland on Sunday to stage a ``Save Doubles'' fundraiser that sprung out of the lawsuit. The original intent was to defray legal costs, but now the pair hopes to put the money to use promoting their sport.
The pair already hosted a Save Doubles event in Houston, and the Portland stop - at the historic Irvington Club - is already sold out. Wayne Bryan said his sons plan about eight more events next year.
The ATP will go ahead with some scoring changes. Doubles matches will go to two sets to 6, with no-ad games (meaning there would be no advantage at deuce). There will be a match tiebreak - first to 10 points, win by two - at one-set all.
The ATP maintains the changes will speed the game and perhaps attract more high-profile singles players, resulting in greater fan appeal.
The changes were introduced late last month in Shanghai, China, where the ATP Board removed the two most controversial aspects of the doubles proposal first announced in June: shortened sets using a new scoring system different from singles, and an entry ranking that would have reserved a majority of doubles entries to players in the singles draws.
The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27 in Houston, according to Bryan family friend Elena Segal, an attorney and former tennis agent. She said the doubles players resorted to the lawsuit because they felt ``their backs were against a wall.''
``It wasn't done lightly, I can tell you that,'' she said.
The Bryans are taking a wait-and-see approach with the new scoring, which they say is better than introducing a radically different system, but still veers from tradition.
``We're not too pleased about it,'' said Bob Bryan, who fears the move will confuse fans. ``But we'll see how it goes.''
The ATP's new doubles requirements will not extend to the four Grand Slam tournaments or the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which are governed by the International Tennis Federation.
``We hate this battle,'' Wayne Bryan said. ``But we felt we had to do something.''