Thursday, 28 July 2011

Double, double toil and trouble

Today I saw for the first time the entry list for the doubles tournament in Roger's Cup (a.k.a. Canada Masters, this year in Montreal). Here it is, as of July 27th:

1 Bryan, Bob (USA)/Bryan, Mike (USA) 2
2 Mirnyi, Max (BLR)/Nestor, Daniel (CAN) 7
3 Bhupathi, Mahesh (IND)/Paes, Leander (IND) 13
4 Llodra, Michael (FRA)/Zimonjic, Nenad (SRB) 13
5 Bopanna, Rohan (IND)/Qureshi, Aisam-Ul-Haq 19
6 Djokovic, Novak (SRB)/Tipsarevic, Janko (SRB) 24
7 Gasquet, Richard (FRA)/Simon, Gilles (FRA) 24
8 Lindstedt, Robert (SWE)/Tecau, Horia (ROU) 25
9 Fyrstenberg, Mariusz (POL)/Matkowski, Marcin (POL) 30
10 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA)/Wawrinka, Stanislas (SUI) 33
11 Melzer, Jurgen (AUT)/Petzschner, Philipp (GER) 34
12 Lopez, Marc (ESP)/Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 37
13 Butorac, Eric (USA)/Rojer, Jean-Julien (AHO) 39
14 Murray, Andy (GBR)/Murray, Jamie (GBR) 46
15 Almagro, Nicolas (ESP)/Dlouhy, Lukas (CZE) 53
16 Andujar, Pablo (ESP)/Monfils, Gael (FRA) 54
17 (OS)
18 (OS)
19 (OS)
20 (OS)
21 (OS)
22 (OS)
23 (WC)
24 (WC)

Alternates
1 Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR)/Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS) 55
2 Hanley, Paul (AUS)/Norman, Dick (BEL) 63
3 Melo, Marcelo (BRA)/Soares, Bruno (BRA) 63
4 Anderson, Kevin (RSA)/Isner, John (USA) 66
5 Knowles, Mark (BAH)/Malisse, Xavier (BEL) 69
6 Cilic, Marin (CRO)/Dodig, Ivan (CRO) 71
7 Lipsky, Scott (USA)/Ram, Rajeev (USA) 79
8 Fognini, Fabio (ITA)/Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) 82
9 Erlich, Jonathan (ISR)/Ram, Andy (ISR) 98
10 Cerretani, James (USA)/Marx, Philipp (GER) 126
11 Bogomolov Jr., Alex (USA)/Ebden, Matthew (AUS) 152
12 Fognini, Fabio (ITA)/Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) 164
13 Cipolla, Flavio (ITA)/Motti, Alessandro (ITA) 241
14 Gong, Mao-Xin (CHN)/Li, Zhe (CHN) 293
15 Poch-Gradin, Carlos (ESP)/Trujillo-Soler, Gabriel (ESP) 457
The rankings seem to suggest that for entrance purposes, the player's best ranking is considered - either singles or doubles. Otherwise, Djokovic (1S, 236D [!!]) and Tipsarevic (23S, 64D) would've never made that list, and surely wouldn't have been ranked above Melzer/Petzschner, who actually play doubles regularly.

Now, this has raised some issues for me, and I actually have mixed thoughts on the subject.

First of all, that's not too fair to the regular doubles players, whose joint ranking isn't high enough to compete with the top singles players. Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Monfils, Almagro, Simon, Gasquet, Tsonga, Wawrinka are all far from doubles most of the time. As soon as the Masters 1000 tournaments start, however, they all rush into net play, for some reason, pushing out the usual doubles teams (Hanley/Norman, Melo/Soares, Lipsky/Ram, Erlich/Ram, to name a few from the alternates list above). The same thing happened during Miami and Indian Wells, where even Federer signed up for doubles (and made the final).

On the other hand, top singles players draw attention when they're playing doubles, attention that's much needed. I've seen people (journalists, mainly?) complain that the courts are empty during doubles play, that the players are unknown, etc. Well, if you increase the coverage (let's say - actually show the matches on TV/stream, for example) you might start attracting crowds. Big names playing definitely helps here too, no doubt.

Then again, the singles players obviously don't give high priority to their doubles matches. Jamie Murray was just complaining about it a week ago:
I'm pretty sure that walkovers in doubles are much more frequent than in singles, and you can see why. Of course, injuries are a factor, too, but a tired singles player will withdraw from doubles whether he has another singles match to play or not. In the aforementioned tournament, Isner actually beat Blake in singles before they withdrew from the doubles.

So, my personal opinion - while I was really happy to watch Djokovic/Murray play [and lose spectacularly] in Miami, and while I'm sure that Murray bros versus Bryan bros might be a hit, at this point I'd rather know for sure that Erlich/Ram will play in Montreal (they still might). But I do see the temptation...

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