doubles become singles

When I joined a women’s USTA this summer, I was horrified to learn that the USTA fall league in this area is doubles only, no singles matches. I love singles. But I’m in the minority. Two thirds of USTA members play doubles only.

So why aren’t professional doubles more popular?

The ATP has made wholesale changes to the doubles’ draw to rectify this situation. I think the changes are good but for the wrong reason.

The matches will be shorter. The first team to win five games wins the set. A tiebreaker will be played at 4-4. There will be no ad games. At deuce, the receiving team decides whether to receive on the ad or deuce side and the winner of the point wins the game. The matches will be featured on more high profile courts.

I like this. I also like the World Team Tennis format. Sudden death points are exciting.

The ATP interviewed players, fans, the media and tournaments to develop these changes. When was the last time a professional sports league officially asked the media to help them change their format? The media often dictates game schedules. Games are played to fit into broadcast schedules and they have television time outs. But I can’t imagine the American league asking the New York Post if they should abolish the designated hitter.

Way down at the bottom of the ATP’s announcement, you see the reason for these changes: “… beginning in 2008, only players in the main draw singles will be allowed to enter doubles—with two exceptions.” The exception are wild cards and players with the best combined singles and doubles ranking who are not playing in the singles draw.

This assumes that doubles players cannot become marketable draws on the tour. Okay, they’re having a little trouble in grand slam finals this year, they just lost the Wimbledon finals to qualifiers, but I don’t see why Bob and Mike Bryan couldn’t be the focus of an ATP marketing push. They are good looking, they are excellent players and they are twins playing doubles. Seems like an obvious marketing hook.

I can’t imagine the American league asking the New York Post if they should abolish the designated hitter.

Yes, put doubles on the main courts. Then show entire doubles matches during broadcasts. Then show up close and personal features on doubles players.

The ATP made the changes so that the doubles will be filled with singles players. The better reason is to make the game more exciting. The better approach is to market the doubles players.

Why would you increase your focus on doubles then throw the doubles players away?