TURNER: Doubles fading away from collegiate and professional levels of tennis
January 23, 2013
Tennis is a game steeped in tradition and a rich history. The game’s respectability has always been derived from the consistent expectation of gentlemanly conduct and fair play.
Some of the more technological aspects of the game are reaching new heights. The racquet technology has advanced beyond the graphite model. Balls explode off the strings in ways unimaginable when the game began with the use of wooden racquets.
The fitness of the players is unprecedented as well. All players with aspirations of playing at the highest levels have remarkable flexibility and dexterity, allowing them to slide around the court and cover tons of ground from point to point.
As we praise the advances of tennis and crown the faces of the game, one must realize the absence of one of the game’s dying breeds.
Doubles has been swept under the rug, as it doesn’t receive nearly the same amount of media attention or competitive value as singles.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a doubles final, even in a grand slam, on a station other than Tennis Channel. The only time you see doubles on TV is when Venus and Serena Williams are playing together.
All I hear is, “Will Djokovic win his third straight Australian Open?” Before that, it was, “Will Federer surpass Pete Sampras for most weeks at No. 1?” And before that, it was, “Will Andy Murray ever win a major?”
Mind you, I’m not complaining. Murray is my favorite player, and I enjoy the battles between the game’s Elite Four as much as the next guy. It’s just that doubles is becoming a lost art.
Level by level, players lose touch with one of the game’s most enduring traditions as they forge further into their careers. The gap between singles and doubles is growing as fast as Jimmy Johnson’s points lead at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
In high school, 18 sets are divided evenly between the singles and doubles. It’s a downward spiral from there.
Junior college tennis allocates just three of nine matches to doubles. If you think that’s a misappropriation of wealth, the four-year way of doing things may appall you.
NCAA Division I tennis matches are decided in a best-of-seven format. That seems fair until you realize that three doubles matches account for just one of the seven points.
As much as I believe doubles is being de-emphasized, LBSU coach Jenny Hilt-Costello disagrees, saying the format does not change her stance on recruiting.
“We’re looking for kids with doubles skills that can play singles,” she said. “We want players controlling the match and finishing points inside the baseline.”
The 49ers’ coach went on to say that doubles is important because every match counts.
“When I was in college, we played singles first,” Hilt-Costello said. “If you swept singles, the doubles were just for practice.”
After playing two seasons of tennis at Cerritos College, I can relate to the coach’s sentiments. We often played an eight-game pro set in lieu of a best-of-three match when the match had been decided in singles.
Regardless, the glory resides in being a singles player. The further players go in their careers, singles remains on top with doubles slinking softly into anonymity.