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Alas, Isner and Dolgopolov, We Hardly Knew Ye

December 28, 2011

I’m sure you’ve all noticed how few players on the ATP Tour maintain a top-50 ranking in both singles and doubles. Of course, that wasn’t always the case: Heck, Pete Sampras himself even played in the Nabisco Masters back in 1989 (little-known Doubles Alley fact thrown out there for you)!

By my estimation, it seems like the early ’90s were when things really got specialized on the ATP Tour. There were some teams that featured guys that never cracked the top 100 in singles, like Rick Leach (of Leach and Jim Pugh fame), but were able to turn their focus more toward doubles. I think it’s been a great thing for the sport, the advent of the specialist, as you’re able to see teams playing a more traditional style, utilizing all angles of the court and also serving and volleying, a dying art form if there ever was one.

All that being said, as I mentioned there are still guys right now that have a top-50 ranking in both singles and doubles. Some, like Xavier Malisse, are veterans, while others, such as Alexandr Dolgopolov and John Isner, are definitely playing some of the best tennis in their young careers–particularly on the singles court.

For that reason, I’d say by the end of ’12, if you see those two with top 150 doubles rankings I’d be highly surprised. Sure, they’ll play some tournaments, maybe even make or win a final or two. But as far as devoting the time to doubles that they have in the past, it’s safe to say forget about it.

And you know what? That’s OK. Taking the skills they’ve developed playing a lot of doubles and bringing that to the singles court makes them better, and also provides a better product for the fans. To simultaneously hold a top-50 doubles ranking–going up against the Bryans and Nestors and Paeses of the world–and making Grand Slam quarterfinals in singles is no easy feat. Props to the guys who do so.

The signs are there for Isner and Dolgopolov to move on, though. Good luck to them; there’ll be others to fill the void left by them in the rankings.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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