Saturday, August 18, 2007

Doubles Revolution! (really.)

Last week's Masters tournament in Montreal did have
its share of surprises. The biggest was Novak Djokovic
defeating both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win
the whole thing. Djokovic has shown a lot of
improvement over the last year or so, but winning a
tournament at this level against that kind of
competition showed that he's a threat at the U.S. Open
later this month.
There was another big surprise, though. Did anyone see
the doubles draw for this tournament? Federer and
Djokovic were playing, along with James Blake. (Nadal
was to play with Lleyton Hewitt, but they withdrew
before their first round match.) Federer's first round
was against the top-seeded Bryan brothers, Mike and
Bob. The best player in singles up against some of the
best in doubles? Well, who wouldn't want to see that?
No one, that's who. At least that's what ESPN thinks.
The beefed-up doubles draw barely got any attention in
the television coverage of the tournament, except
brief glimpses of Federer and one of the Bryan
brothers (They're twins. I can't tell them apart)
swinging away. By the way, Federer and his partner,
Yves Allegro, lost.
The irony about TV's cold shoulder to doubles is that
not so long ago, in 2005, the male doubles players
filed a lawsuit against the ATP, the ruling
organization of men's tennis. They were miffed at
proposed changes they thought would minimize the
doubles game, such as shortening sets and reserving
places in the doubles draw for singles players. After
the groundswell, the ATP ditched that idea, and
compromised on the scoring, replacing the standard
third set with a super-tiebreaker (played to 10
points) and also launched a massive campaign to draw
attention to doubles, the Doubles Revolution. The
"revolution" seems to have sparked interest among
singles players, but not among channels broadcasting
See, those who make decisions about which matches air
operate under a couple of severe misconceptions. One
is that in America, we want to see only American
players. That's a topic for another column, though.
The other misconception is that although most tennis
viewers play more doubles than singles recreationally,
they have no interest in watching doubles on
No question, there's something about singles that
appeals to the casual viewer. It's like a boxing
match, one-on-one and points are usually more drawn
out. Doubles is a different game. There are more
people on court, fewer places to hit the ball and more
strategy involved. Decisions have to be made quickly,
and mistakes are pounced upon more often than not.
Does that sound intriguing, by chance? Tell ESPN. Or
The Tennis Channel. Or both. I've taken the liberty of
finding their contact information for those of you
tennis warriors who want to see more of the game that
you play. Tell 'em Tennis With Attitude sent you.

ESPN, Inc.
Viewer Response
ESPN Plaza
Bristol, CT 06010

The Tennis Channel
Corporate Headquarters
2850 Ocean Park Blvd. Suite 150
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310) 314-9400

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