Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles' Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too? - UBITENNIS
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Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.

 

Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.

Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.

Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.

Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.

Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.

Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.

 

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‘Looks Like He Should Be Suspended’ – Pat Rafter Questions ATP’s Management Of Nick Kyrgios

The former world No.1 is the latest person to speak out about the controversial player.

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Nick Kyrgios, Steve Johnson, 2019 US Open
Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA

Two-time US Open champion Pat Rafter has cast shade on the governing body of men’s tennis over their management of Nick Kyrgios’ behaviour on the tour.

 

The Australian world No.27 had been facing a potential suspension by the ATP over a series of controversies. However, he has received no ban as of yet. During the Cincinnati Masters he was fined $113,000 for eight violations committed during his match against Russia’s Karen Khachanov. Ranging from unsportsmanlike conduct to walking off the court without permission.

A couple weeks later during the US Open Kyrgios accused the ATP of being ‘corrupt’ before clarifying his statement 24 hours later. Arguing that there are double standards in the game when it comes to some players.

Now the subject of an investigation, 46-year-old Rafter has questioned why Kyrgios has not been suspended from the tour yet.

“I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened,” Rafter said during the launch of the ATP Cup.
“There is obviously something else going on behind the scenes. I don’t know.
“On paper it looks like he should be suspended, to me.”

On the other hand, some would argue that banning the 24-year-old would be counterproductive. Despite his antics, Kyrgios has managed to become a household name in the sport. He also has the talent to challenge the best players in the world. In the past, he has defeated Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Although Rafter believes there is a fine line.

“That’s the other thing. He draws a crowd,” Rafter said.
“But at what stage do you say the crowd is more important? Or are you trying to uphold a certain standard or protocol for players to adhere to.”

Previously tennis legend Rod Laver was reportedly another person to speak in favour of handing Kyrgios another suspension. His first took place at the end of 2016. During an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Laver was quoted as saying ‘whatever they have done hasn’t worked so far, so maybe a suspension is the only answer.’

Whilst it looked as if the tennis legend backed punishing Kyrgios, he has since taken a different tone. In a recent interview with a Swiss newspaper, Laver said he was misquoted when talking about Kyrgios.

“I did not say that, I was misquoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.” He told Aargauer Zeitung.
“This was then misunderstood by others and went around without anyone talking to me to verify that statement. It’s true what I said to FOX Sports: I said Nick should not be banned.”

Kyrgios will return to action on Friday where he is taking part in the Laver Cup.

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ATP Cup Draw Places Andy Murray On Collision Course With Federer

Details of where Murray, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal will play their first matches of 2020 have been announced.

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Three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray has been placed in the same group as Swiss rival Roger Federer for the revamped ATP Cup which will get underway in January.

 

The draw for the team event was formally made on Monday at the Sydney Opera House with former players Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter and John Newcombe among those attending. A total of 24 countries will take part in the competition across three different Australian cities. Unlike the traditional Davis Cup, $15 million in prize money and up to 750 ranking points will be up for grabs.

“It’s great for tennis,” Newcombe said at the draw.
“What a showcase, to be able to showcase the best players in the world representing their country.”

It will be in Sydney where Murray will lock horns with the world No.3. Both have been drawn in Group C along with Belgium, who will be headed by David Goffin. Another team will be added to the group in the future. Murray is on the comeback from a second hip operation and is currently ranked outside the top 400. The upcoming event could be his first chance to play Federer since 2015.

Novak Djokovic will start his campaign in Brisbane. Making it the first time he has played an ATP event in the city since 2009. Paired with Dusan Lajovic, the duo has been placed alongside South Africa and France in Group A. The other group playing in Brisbane will feature both Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Two players who at times do not see eye-to-eye on the tour. They have been placed in Group F along with Canada and host nation Australia.

In Perth Rafael Nadal will be headlining the field and hoping to lead Spain to glory. The US Open champion will face early opposition from both Japan and Georgia. Nadal hasn’t won a title of any kind in the country since his triumph 10 years ago at the Australian Open.

The groups

Brisbane Perth Sydney
Group A Group F Group B Group D Group C Group E
Serbia Germany Spain Russia Switzerland Austria
France Greece Japan Italy Belgium Croatia
South Africa Canada Georgia USA Great Britain Argentina
TBD Australia TBD TBD TBD TBD

At present every member of the world’s top 10 has committed to playing in the event. The ATP Cup is the first team event to be placed on the ATP Calendar since the World Team Cup, which ended in 2012. In the new event, the top eight teams from the group stages will qualify for the quarter-final stage in Sydney. Each tie will feature two singles matches and one doubles.

The return of the competition has shaken up the tennis schedule in Australia. Both the Brisbane International and Sydney International have become women-only events. Meanwhile, the once prestigious Hopman Cup has come to an end after more than 20 years.

The ATP Cup will take place between January 3rd-12th.

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