The way that Mens Doubles on the World Tour is now structured leaves many teams wondering about the what if's and maybe's probably more than ever before in the history of the sport. Basically it is cut throat tennis at one set all as the super tie break system kicks in to decide a winner in all tournaments apart from the Grand Slams.
Doubles is a tough way to make a living no doubt about it due to the evenness of all teams competing with no real stand out combinations. Even the Bryan brothers have come back to the field and the chances of another team winning 100 plus titles I believe is a thing of the past.
The recent championship in the US at the Winstom- Salem Open typifies just how tough the two on two format is as the round of 16 matches provided no less than five out of eight results decided by a third set breaker. In the quarter finals three of the four matches were also decided by a super tie breaker and two of those were decided by the score of 10-8. No time for nerves.
The pairing of Henri Kontinen and Guillermo Garcia- Lopez was one that had no credentials whatsoever as it was the first time they had played together so to actually combine together effectively proves just how talented this team is. Their opponents in the final were Paes and Begemann, two players with vastly different backgrounds.
Leander Paes is possibly one of the greatest Mens doubles players of all time as well as one of the most successful Mixed doubles players in the history of the sport. Paes however could be competitive with my Mum and she doesn't play much now days at age 78.
His pairing with the German Andre Begemann was interesting to say the least however it just goes to show that a player like Paes is also generous, Begemann is ranked World number 140 in doubles. Playing with someone with a ranking that low has generosity written all over it.
One of Begemann's recent Challenger event's saw him and his 101 ranked partner have a win at 11-9 in the third set breaker over two guys with a combined ranking of over 600 which begs the question. What if more guys like Leander Paes combined with lower ranked players to compete on the main tour to bring their level up with the best in the World ? Would it speed up the improvement process ? Silly question GT.
So to the final at Winstom-Salem. At a set up Paes and Begemann lead 6-1 in the second set tie breaker and somehow managed to lose seven points straight. The match went into a super tie breaker which the pair from Spain and Finland won 10 points to 8 which also asks many questions but one more than anything else.
Is being match point down or rather several match points down simply a statistic that can be overcome with a mind set that owns no fear and an ability to simply keep swinging whilst ignoring the score board ?
I once wrote a post about Andre Agassi where his match at the French Open in 1988 against Mats Wilander, my hero, would own a moment that possibly has never been replicated. After winning the first set 6-4 Andre turned to his player's box and openly said 'I thought it was 5-3'.
I don't believe that it was arrogance, I firmly think that it was a player in the zone, not playing a scoreboard, just swinging his racket and letting the points accumulate. Could it be taught to a new player of the sport ? How could you teach that ? I don't believe it can, perhaps you may be born with that gift but it would be a tough one to learn.
In 2013 at the Monte Carlo Championships another first time pairing of Zimonjic and Benneteau saved seven match points against the Bryan brothers to win 14-12 in the third set tie breaker. Maybe there is an element of 'no fear' with first time pairings as after all what have they got to lose ? There is no reputation on the line.
Personally I love the format of Mens doubles in World tennis as it takes away the 'ho hum' type of feeling to matches that can drag on to say 15-13 in the fifth set and leave a player as cannon fodder for their next opponent.
Isner and Mahut proved the theory wrong that 'a match has to end sometime'. Theirs took three days at Wimbledon to complete which not only stuffs a tournament around but also stuffs a player out.
Tennis needs a bit of a tweak just as they have done in doubles, it requires a spice up, a change of format just as twenty twenty cricket has revived the sport in general. Tennis rewards the guys prepared to stay out there all day, not necessarily the shot makers who are the more entertaining ones to watch most of the time.
Two sets all in singles, bring in the Super tie breaker, add some life to a sport that needs to move ahead just as other sports have done by tweaking the format.
Remember the crowd also has to go home at a respectable hour.......