Correction … Americans in The Draw

By Jane Voigt

July 3, 2014 — We get the message.

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No Americans left in the draw.

But doesn’t that seem short-sighted, at best?

What about Jack Sock? Bob and Mike Bryan? They’re ‘left in the draw.’ 

The Bryan brothers are the Wimbledon defending champions, trying to go where no human doubles team has gone — 16 majors. They have made their way to the semifinals, too. Two rounds from tennis history. Another fantastic achievement. 

Ad those 15 slams to tour titles, and the Bryans' are two shy of 100 total career titles. 

American Jack Sock and his Canadian buddy Vasek Pospisil just kicked out Bruno Soares and Alexandr Peya, the number two seeded team today, 64 36 76(6) 64. The Sock/Pospisil duo have now reached their first-ever Grand Slam semifinal as a team. They are part of the new generation just as much as maiden singles’ semifinalists Grigor Dimitri and Milos Raonic are part of the new wave. 

What’s not worth mentioning? 

Oh … they play doubles. That.

For millions of tennis fans and club players across the country, doubles is their on-court lifeblood. It’s played more than singles. And any publisher will quickly admit they get a fair amount of queries: Why don’t you cover more doubles? 

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Bob and Mike Bryan at a World Team Tennis match, Villanova, Penna., July 2012. 
Photo credit tennisclix.com

But it continues to be casually dismissed during the biggest tournament, the most prestigious slam of the year, and most others. Just why are the ESPN and Tennis Channel talking heads directed away from doubles in their daily commentary?

ESPN ran an interview with Eugenie Bouchard and Hanna Storm of ESPN this morning before the two women’s semifinals. Nice filler. Laughs. Serious discussion about Bouchard’s career. However, the biggest name in sports’ broadcasting ran the segment again between the first and second match. That would’ve been a great spot for some conversation about doubles. 

Here’s why doubles gets left behind: expectations; risk and money.

When ESPN antes up advertising money for two weeks of Wimbledon, it expects return on investment. The models it uses to predict ad income completely ignore the doubles effect. Their decision makers believe doubles is a losing proposition. No one would watch it. Because if projections even hinted at a small, positive cash flow, management would direct producers to broadcast doubles. 

Thus the story isn’t about no Americans left in the draw, it’s about no American singles players left in the draw. That’s where the money is because that’s where the tennis stars are. 

And, as an introduction to even a larger discussion, perhaps where tennis players were born and live doesn’t matter much anymore. 

Tennis is one sport that has done a good job of, let’s say, internationalizing the sport. Roger Federer is one of the top 20 most influential celebrities in the world, according to Forbes. He is the epitomy of a star with no borders. A tennis star celebrity. A humanitarian. He’ll be 33 in a couple weeks, is a father of four, and will contend for a spot in another Wimbledon final tomorrow where he hopes to lock up his 18th Grand Slam. 

When the Bryan Brothers play the U. S. Open, they get broadcast time. Two California bred twins at the top of their game. It’s too bad, though, that their achievements and viewership possibilities are not the same at The All England Club. However, smart fans and ones eager to watch their Bryans, and lots of other doubles teams, can switch on most any electronic smart device and find live streaming satisfaction.  

Too bad the big television audiences can’t join in on the fun. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013