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What Young Singles Players Can Learn From the Jack Sock-Vasek Pospisil Team

August 19, 2014

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Yes, it’s a Doubles Alley post! Full disclaimer here, though: I wrote this a few weeks ago for a site I contribute to, but they were running a Pospisil story that week and couldn’t use it. So I thought, “Hey, I can put it here!” Especially after their record-setting run in Cincy. Here it is as it was written then:

Pospisil and Sock Doubles Success Should Inspire Younger Players

By Van Sias

For the past couple of years, American Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil of Canada have found themselves firmly entrenched among the category of “up-and-coming players.”

Now, it’s beginning to look like a different adjective can be ascribed to them:

“Arrived.”

After shocking the tennis world with their doubles win at Wimbledon—where they beat the top two teams in the world en route to the title—Sock and Pospisil have both been on a tear in singles.

It’s readily apparent what that Grand Slam win did for their confidence. And any young player looking to make gains with their singles game should look to those two for inspiration.

Sock made back-to-back singles semifinals in his first two tournaments after Wimbledon in Newport, R.I., and Atlanta, Ga. Pospisil made consecutive quarterfinals in Bogota, Colombia; Atlanta; and this week’s tournament in Washington, D.C., where he defeated top-five player Tomas Berdych.

The pair also picked up another title by winning the doubles in Atlanta.

That’s not a bad stretch of tennis by anyone’s standards on the ATP World Tour.

Many players focusing on their singles careers often look to doubles as a chance to hit a few extra balls in a competitive setting, which, when faced with their difficult draw at Wimbledon, was surely the mindset of Sock and Pospisil.

But there’s much more to doubles than that: It caters to more aggressive play, particularly when it comes to attacking and advancing to the net, and also forces one to look at all angles and facets of the court. Those are attributes that all younger players could work on improving as they attempt to climb the rankings.

It appears to be working out well for Sock and Pospisil, both at or near their career-high singles rankings and currently playing some of their best tennis at pros.

And to think, the upswing started on a doubles court at the SW19.

(Photo: AP)

I Can’t Say It Enough: The Bryan Brothers Deserve More Recognition

April 19, 2014

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OK, so we’re a couple of matches away from the Bryan Brothers winning their fifth title in a row.

But bigger than that, Mike B. is going for his 100th career title.

That wasn’t a typo. One hundred.

That’s a lot of hardware.

They’re also close to winning their 100th title together, far eclipsing anything any great male doubles team of the past has pulled off.

And still, they don’t get the attention they deserve for such tremendous achievements.

Granted, notice from outside the tennis world is hard to come by for any of the game’s greats, even in singles. And the doubles game has had its struggles with being in the shadow of said singles for years now.

Still, though, 100? That’s front page news and should be treated as such.

Sometimes, greatness gets taken for granted, even though a lot of work goes into racking up such gaudy statistics. The Bryan Brothers are true exemplars of that and have also been the faces of the game for years, which carries its own set of responsibilities. They’ve navigated through all of their on- and off-court duties more than admirably, which finds them close to a number once thought unattainable.

Hopefully, the accolades will follow once they reach that point.

(Photo: AP)

Catch My Glowing Article on the Bryans…Somewhere Else

January 30, 2013

2013-australian-open-day-13-20130126-054322-181So post-Australian Open, I wrote this story about Bob and Mike Bryan for the sports site Bleacher Report, which you can reach by clicking here.

Or if you don’t feel like clicking the link, what I essentially wrote is that the twins deserve to be considered among the most dominant athletes in the world across all sports. Seriously, who matches their numbers and results? Win Indian Wells at some point, and they’d have it all. Not too shabby.

You know what? Go ahead and click the link to read more, then always come back, where there’s more doubles goodness!(Photo: Getty Images)

A Look Back at the New Old Guys

December 1, 2012

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Remember a year ago? It seemed like the ’11 offseason was one of the busiest in recent years with doubles teams breaking up and finding new partners. I think all those changes ended up with some entertaining performers, and I actually hope the three that joined are all planning to stick together for ’13.

With that being said, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the new teams for ’12 and how they made out:

Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek: These are two of the most exciting players to watch on tour, in my opinion, and played great tennis throughout the year—right out the box, in fact, storming through the Australian Open. Aside from the Aussie, they won two Masters 1000 titles, in Miami and Shanghai. Not bad!

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna: Drama followed these guys off the court all year—and Paes, too—primarily due to this being an Olympics year. No one ended up with any medals at the Summer Games, but Bhupathi and Bopanna had some solid moments on court, with their greatest successes coming at the Masters 1000 level.

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer: I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed about the Rojer-Eric Butorac team breaking up, especially as they were so close to becoming a truly elite team. And I thought it would take Qureshi and Rojer a while to blend, if at all, because I view them primarily as solid players not superstars. However, that’s the thing about doubles: If the parts blend, success can and will be had. The pair won a couple of titles on the year—on grass and clay, demonstrating their versatility.

All in all, those three teams contributed greatly to an exciting year of doubles. It’ll be interesting to see what year two holds—if there is one. Things change quickly in the doubles world!

(Photo: The Associated Press)

I’ll Never Understand Why Mixed Martial Arts Is More Popular Than Tennis Right Now

October 14, 2012

This might actually turn into a little bit of a rant, and if it does, please excuse me.

Our story starts with the finals of the Shanghai Masters Series 1000 tournament, which saw new-in-2012 pairings Radek Stepanek and Leander Paes going against Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. Now all in tennis know that Bhupathi and Paes played together for years and put up some very, very strong numbers together. Of course, we all know that those years didn’t go together so peacefully.

They reunited last year, but broke up when Bopanna became someone the veterans wanted to partner with in preparation for the Olympics. Bhupathi ended up with him and Paes decided to partner with Stepanek in Tour events for the year. The latter partnership was a hit right out the box as they won the Australian Open to kick off the Slam season.

Anyway, a lot went down with the three Indian players and the national tennis association, with Davis Cup suspensions even being handed out. In other words, there was a LOT of drama going into that title match in Shanghai. Throw in the fact that Paes and Steps are two players that are, shall we say, not shy, and you potentially have the most exciting sports event of the day: more so than any NFL game, and I’m a huge New York Jets. I was even at the game today!

So that gets me to my main point: Aside from amazing feats of athleticism regularly on display, there’s often a lot of behind-the-scenes things going on–good and bad. That, to me, is the formula for a sport being popular: great stories, physical prowess. I’ve always felt nothing captures that more than tennis, and it pains me to see it buried in the sports pages or online when it’s the only sport you see something happen every day of its season. The first round of a tournament is fraught with drama: the unseeded players who, if they win, live to fight one more day–and if they’re really trying to break through, might even get to splurge and buy a decent meal that night!

Now I’m not based abroad, but I’m sure it’s just not a problem in America as tennis often takes a backseat to sports like soccer, or whatever the national pastime might be. And maybe tennis still has that country-club image that has yet to be overcome. Granted, it is expensive to play, but so is golf and look how that fares in popularity compared to tennis.

Speaking of popularity, look at mixed martial arts. That sport is huge, and arguably, the biggest thing going. Why? All it is two athletes squaring off against each other till they knock their opponent out of the competition, with some interesting behind-the-scenes storylines adding to the intrigue.

Maybe if tennis was like that.

Oh wait…

(Photo: AP)

Will Tamarine Tanasugarn Play Tennis Forever?

September 21, 2012

I know, that may be an odd subject to write about for my first post since the bygone days of Wimbledon 2012, but I couldn’t help it.

I was just checking out the drawsheets on the WTA and ATP tours and the fact that she and Shuai Zhang are in the finals in Guangzhou jumped out at me. I always feel like Tanasugarn plays such a limited schedule and next thing you know, when you do see her in the agate, she’s deep in the draw.

Not bad for a player on the north side of 30.

And if she wanted to, she could make a decent living on the doubles circuit. Perhaps just as surprisingly, though, she’s still ranked in the top 120 in singles. And that, too, isn’t bad for someone who’s been a pro since 1994.

Tanasugarn has won seven doubles titles in her career, with the most recent coming in 2010, which is actually the last time she made a final. Her last time in the title match was a plus. What’s to say it won’t happen again this time?

And if not, there’s always 2014, or ’16. Odds are she’ll still be playing at this rate—and doing well, too.

 

Venus and Serena and … That’s It?

July 28, 2012

As we all know, the Summer Games are well under way. I guess for us tennis fans, though, all that really matters is what’s going down at the All-England Club!

(Just kidding: I’m an all-around Olympics nut. Judo, fencing, curling—sign me up!)

But this is a tennis blog, doubles especially, so that’s what we’ll talk about today.

I was glancing at the women’s doubles draw and couldn’t help but think that there’s some serious partnerships out there going for the Gold. Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, etc.

But, of course, there’s one team all eyes will be on: The two-time defending champion Williams sisters. It could very easily be a stroll in the grass for those two, who happen to be coming off their fifth Wimbledon doubles title together to boot.

Here’s your understatement of the year: Venus and Serena really like playing on grass.

It’s mainly a matter of having too much firepower and athleticism for others to match.

Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki can be a true test for them in the second round, but I still like the Williams to come through—and I expect them to stand in their familiar spots atop the podium at the end. It might be a little anticlimactic, but it will be entertaining along the way.

(Photo: Getty Images)