Why Doubles Tennis Deserves A Greater Share Of The Limelight


Not only are the Bryan brothers indisputably the greatest doubles players of all time, but they knock every other doubles team into a cocked hat.

This year, yet again, they finish the season ranked as the No.1 doubles team in the world, for a record tenth time. But that’s just one of many accolades. 

The 36-year-old twins have won more Grand Slam titles (16 together) than any other team. (Todd Woodbridge also won 16 but with different partners.)

Mike, the elder by two minutes, has been ranked world doubles No.1 for 401 weeks; Bob for 385 weeks. Their nearest contender, long since retired, is John McEnroe at 269 weeks.

Mike has won 103 ATP titles in all, his brother 101. Their nearest rival is Daniel Nestor at 85. They are the only doubles pair to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments – the so-called career golden Masters.

So gilded are these two in trophies that listing their achievements seems a bit pointless. They’re the greatest. Simple as that.

Unfortunately, in a sport which totally undervalues its doubles code, they have never received the recognition they truly deserve.

The ATP is missing a trick here. Instead of trying to big up their less engaging singles players (the grumpy Wawrinka, for example, the matter-of-fact Berdych, or the crashing bore that is Ferrer), they should promote the Bryan brothers instead.

Mike and Bob should take their places alongside Djokovic, Federer and Murray as poster boys for their sport. They’re intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re witty, they’re in a rock band, they have English as their native language, and God knows they have the results to back up anything they say.

Crucially, right now they are by far the top-ranked male American players in doubles or singles. 

With John Isner out of the world top 10, the Bryans are the leading male flag-bearers in the world’s leading sports nation. If it wasn’t for Serena Williams, their predominance would be even more marked.

Part of the problem is a lack of understanding of doubles tennis by the mainstream media. The dynamics of doubles are much trickier to comprehend than those of singles – partly because there are eight legs on the court instead of four. 

A year of watching professional singles will give even the laziest couch potato of a tennis correspondent the experience they need to understand the sport. But to get a real grasp on the doubles code you need to have played it at least at amateur club level. 

Few mainstream tennis correspondents or sports editors have. They might have enjoyed a bit of hit-and-giggle in the park but nothing that could possibly teach them the machinations and tactics of the Australian formation, the I formation, the T serve, poaching, lobs, hand signals, the wall, switching sides, net play, the tramlines…

And what they don't fully understand, they are not willing to give full coverage to. If the sports editor and tennis correspondent of a major international newspaper can’t get their heads around doubles, what chance does the code have of getting any column inches?

Check the latest odds on ATP doubles tournaments in Moscow, Stockholm and Vienna, and WTA doubles tournaments in Luxembourg and Moscow.