Written by: Michael Emmett
***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs. He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet. Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada. Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s. Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***
The 2012 Rogers Cup in Toronto has been nothing short of a disaster, in large part due to the horrible weather they were forced to deal with in the latter part of the week, and the lackluster performances from the game’s stars. Even Milos Raonic looked brutal in his quarterfinal loss to hard-serving American John Isner. Milos clearly was out of sorts, and this could be blamed for not having played a match in 3 days. Having Federer and Nadal pull out at the last minute was somewhat unexpected, and it took away from the marquee value of one of the best tournaments in the world. The Rogers Cup (men) has had terrific fields in the last 5 years, and unfortunately, this year they were hand-cuffed because of the Olympic event which ended just 24 hours before the start of the Rogers Cup.
Tennis Canada did a masterful job of maneuvering all key components in order to get the event finished on time. The men started in Cincinnati on August 13th, so the event couldn’t be stretched to Monday in order to accommodate the awful weather they were subjected to from Thursday to Sunday. Quite frankly, the organizers deserve a gold star for their masterful work and making the best out of a bad situation.
However, one bizarre decision that I frankly don’t understand involved the Men’s Doubles semifinals. Tournament organizers decided to play these 2 matches on site at 11am on Sunday (the final day of the event) – but these matches were closed to the public.
Are you kidding me? Yes, these matches were played in anonymity. Other than the janitors, it was a closed stadium. The eight participants who played in the semifinals, who are used to semi-packed stadiums across the world, must have felt like they did in their junior days when they played in parks across the planet with no fanfare. I’m sure this decision had them wondering what was going on.
Is doubles that low on the scale? We are talking about Daniel Nestor (possibly the best doubles player of all time). Yes, I know he lost in the quarterfinals. But would this decision have been the same if Nestor was playing? I guess we’ll never know the answer to this important question.
What about the Bryan brothers? Arguably one of the top 5 teams of all time. They were in the semis, and they played to silence because the spectators were not allowed. I was told that if there was a singles match, Tennis Canada would have constructed another session and sold tickets. In other words, they would have gone out of their way to make things right if Novak Djokovic was playing singles – but not for a “measly” doubles match!
The night session didn’t start until 5pm on Sunday, a decision that was based on the Olympic closing ceremonies. Tennis Canada didn’t have the York University parking, shuttle busses, security, catering or anything on standby, so they felt like they needed to play in a closed environment. This decision makes sense from a financial point of view, and I totally understand it. God only knows how much money they lost this week with torrential rains for three straight days? But it makes a statement about the importance of doubles. Doubles is a filler, and it is never treated with the same importance as singles.
What about giving something back to the fans of Toronto? They were so patient during the erratic weather over the back half of the tournament. Invite the spectators free of charge and explain the usual services won’t be there as a result of all the scheduling challenges. Fans would appreciate the gesture and not be worried because they couldn’t buy a hot dog or purchase a souvenir.
Last year at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, a women’s doubles match involving 2 of the game’s stars (Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko) was shuffled off to the Grandstand court, so that a Men’s exhibition between Agassi and Courier could take centre stage on the stadium court. This was the ultimate slap in the face to Women’s tennis and doubles in particular. A main draw doubles match should NEVER be relegated to an ‘outside’ court, especially, to an old-timers match between two men who have since retired.
Doubles is always getting the short end of the stick. ATP rules don’t allow the players to play a third set. If the match is even after two sets, the players must play a 10-point super tie-break to decide the match. And furthermore, they don’t play out the deuce games, if the score is 40-40; they play sudden death with the receiving team getting to choose the side the servers must play to. So it’s not just the tournament organizers who are ignoring the importance of doubles, it’s the ATP tour as well. Doubles is a second tier sport, and there is no denying it!
Don’t get me wrong – I know the average fan would rather watch singles over doubles. This is very clear in the attendance we see year after year. However, if we keep treating doubles as a second class citizen, then this will never change. Out of all the countries in the world, Canada should see the importance of doubles when comparing it to singles, as we have produced so many great champions. In Davis Cup and Fed Cup, we’ve always been the favorites when it comes to the doubles match. Daniel Nestor has made a living winning Doubles Grand Slams, and he’s the best doubles player of this generation. Doubles is a great game that is unbelievably entertaining when it is played by the game’s best players. Given a chance, the public will learn to love doubles just as much as singles. But first, the tournament organizers have to stop treating the game like an afterthought and give it the same importance as singles.