ATP's solution to reinvigorate the game should work
Posted: Thursday January 19, 2006 12:14PM; Updated: Thursday January 19, 2006 12:14PM
Improving the doubles format should give the ATP a better opportunity to showcase the highly entertaining Bryan twins.
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MELBOURNE, Australia -- As the old saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil." In the tennis world, that wheel was doubles play, which was quickly headed toward extinction until the ATP Tour and its players agreed on ways to improve sagging interest in what I think is a great tennis format.
The Tour introduced a major scoring adjustment for future events: Doubles will now be contested with "no-ad" scoring. That means that when a game reaches deuce, a sudden-death point will determine the winner, and the receiving team gets to decide which player will take the return. If teams split sets, the match will be determined by a super-tiebreaker, where the first team to get 10 points (with at least a two-point margin) wins.
One of the main problems that plagued doubles over the past few years was that tournament directors and network producers were reluctant to put doubles on show courts and TV because matches often went on too long. As a result, top-tier players opted not to participate.
This new shortened format will eliminate a lot of those concerns, with the added benefit of attracting more singles players who now know they won't be on the doubles court too long. The goal is that doubles will be seen and appreciated by more people, and the unique skills that doubles players employ will be acknowledged.
The ATP worked with international marketing firm VML to create the "Doubles Revolution" campaign, and has already signed a lucrative endorsement deal with the Stanford Financial Group. The aim here is to better market doubles teams, which will make the game more visible and give players more opportunities.
But one of the best advantages of this initiative is to put the No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan into the spotlight. The twins are already great ambassadors and entertainers for the sport. With the help of this campaign, other doubles teams will be able to follow their lead.
For all those people who are once again writing off Andre Agassi, beware. He's currently in Miami, training at one of his favorite spots -- Fisher Island -- to prepare for his first event of the year, Jan. 29 in Delray Beach. I have spoken with his coach, Darren Cahill, and agent, Perry Rogers, and I'm planning on going to Florida early to get in some intense practice with him after I'm finished with doubles here in Australia.
I'm convinced that Agassi is committed and excited to challenge for the biggest titles in the tennis world for as long as his body enables him to, and I suggest we all embrace him along the way. He is the best ambassador this sport will ever have.
Outspoken ATP tennis pro Justin Gimelstob is participating in this year's Australian Open and is a frequent contributor to SI.com. He also serves as a member of the ATP Player Council.