John McEnroe has never been backward in coming forward. He speaks his mind without hesitation. In fact when he played on the regular tour his post-match media conferences were like sessions in a psychiatrist’s couch. They were like sessions of self-analysis. John relished being in the limelight.
With that in mind it should not come as a surprise that McEnroe not that long ago made comments that doubles should be scrapped from the men’s tour and the money saved in paying doubles players be redirected to the singles players.
McEnroe made the point that the decline of big-name players not playing doubles has led to the doubles game being played by also rans.
Not long ago here on We Are Tennis, I wrote about the concern that has to be felt in men’s tennis about the lack of doubles teams picking up the banner from Bob and Mike Bryan to vigorously promote the doubles game.
However, cancelling doubles from the tour as McEnroe indicates is not something that should be considered.
McEnroe is quoted as saying: “Why we are even playing doubles at this point is a mystery to me.
“I love doubles but I don’t even recognise what this is. If there was a volleying contest from the service line, most of these guys couldn’t. They play an inch from the net.
“It’s like wham, bam, thank you ma’am. If you cut out doubles and gave that money to singles players ranked between 200 and 1000 maybe that would do something for the game. Then some other guy who never really had the chance to play ends up becoming No.100 in the world instead of quitting when he’s No.400.”
Taking that into consideration, think of the number of players who would be without a job. Is that fair on those players who could use doubles to get a step in the door and maybe use that as a launch into singles.
The issue of “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” is a bit ridiculous; most of the players in singles play like that in a singles match. And really, how many players in singles come to the net other than for the coin toss to start a match or to shake hands at the end of a match? So what’s different?
McEnroe added: “Most doubles players, I hate to say, are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles.”
Many of the doubles guys are not prepared to get into a verbal stoush with McEnroe even if they feel strongly against what he is saying. Certainly the Bryans, who will be taking on the McEnroe brothers (John and Patrick) in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on World Tennis Day, have allowed John to have his say, even with him having a dig at Bob and Mike.
“Would the Bryan brothers have made it as singles players? No! What do you think they are playing doubles for? I like them and single-handedly they are trying to keep doubles going,” he said.
“But sometimes I hear people saying they are the greatest doubles team. I’m like, ‘excuse me?’”
Doubles doesn’t pack out a stadium; doubles never has so that can’t even be used as a reason why doubles should be double faulted out of the professional sport. The only reason a court might have been filled to capacity when John McEnroe played doubles was because of his reputation.
That remains part of the attraction of McEnroe and the fact that his comments always garner attention, right or wrong.