By Ros Satar, at Indian Wells
- Dominic Inglot will be searching for a new doubles partner after he and Franko Skugor split after Indian Wells
- Inglot takes us behind some of the most recent doubles innovations and what he believes should be done to market doubles more
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA – in his last outing with current doubles partner, Dominic Inglot shed some light on doubles life and its challenges.
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The end of road for the partnership
A deceptively cheerful Dominic Inglot met me after a win in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open for he and his doubles partner Franko Skugor. It was a rare win indeed – with their only other win this year coming in the first round of the Australian Open.
It still came as a bit of a surprise though when Inglot announced that this was the last outing for he and the Croatian.
“Well actually we’ve decided to stop playing. This is actually our last tournament, I just think we came to the conclusion after Dubai that it was just wasn’t really clicking anymore.
“Sometimes it’s weird, like you think how is it that last year could go so well and then this year it just didn’t happen. I don’t know what the right answer to it is. I think physically I think I had some issues in Australia with my back and then he was playing a bunch of singles in a few of the tournaments so we didn’t get any practice sets in and I felt like we weren’t quite sharp there and so I think that we came to the conclusion that we both weren’t playing that great, but it just wasn’t happening for both of us.”
“I thought I played well on some tournaments, he thought he played well in some tournaments, but we never were [playing well] at the same time. And then afterwards you start thinking ‘ok I don’t have any confidence we’ll win a match’ because we haven’t done anything. Sometimes it’s just easier to start afresh with someone new hopefully.”
The pairing up game
Skugor and Inglot first teamed up in April last year for Budapest before becoming a more established pairing in May. They reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon but a split at this stage in the year with only one Slam out of the way makes Inglot’s next steps not unlike some bizarre dating game for doubles partners.
“It very much is like that. I think you’ve just got to ask around and see who’s available. It’s a bit funny because you have to go up to a doubles partner and say ‘are you and your partner still good, you interested in looking for a change?’ (laughs)
“As well as that it’s not easy because there’s not a lot of guys who are splitting at the moment. Sometimes you look for guys are on the rocks a little bit, and you think ‘I’ll approach them’ but no-one’s really doing that badly, so you think ‘where do I go?’
“We’ve entered with different partners for Miami. I’ll be playing with Robin Haase. And then after that.. we’ll see.”
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Evans, Sock and Doubles Careers
After having garnered a measure of sympathy from British press in Australia with his candid talk of having been depressed after his suspension for being in possession of cocaine, it seemed that Dan Evans had turned a corner – before he decided to lay into doubles as some kind of failure as a career choice.
Jack Sock, who after a monumental tumble down the rankings at least kept his had in with doubles also threw that side of the sport under the bus declaring that if that was all that was left for him to play, he would rather not play again. He was ranked second in the world in doubles at the time, has an Olympic Gold in a doubles event, and of the four Grand Slam titles he does own, three are men’s doubles titles and one is in mixed doubles.
“I actually don’t have any qualms with what they say personally. Realistically, I think it’s just a question of where you’ve put doubles as the way you highlight it, because prize money is much lower. So, the same way that someone might say ‘do I want Louboutin shoes or do i want Clark shoes. I think I know what most people would strive towards the one that’s more prestigious and has a bigger price tag.
“I guarantee you that it would be a lot different if the prize money was exactly the same as singles. I’m not saying that should happen, I’m just saying that’s the reality of life and you know we always came out wanting to play singles, that was always the way it was. I think Jack Sock or Dan Evans both said it – singles was the thing that everyone aspired to.
“For the singles guys, it’s a bit of a side show and functionally that’s the role that the ATP, in my opinion, and tournaments have assigned it.
“Now if you don’t want that to be the case then you have to put more resources into it. I don’t think Nike are going to out and try and brand their top-named shoes without any marketing – it’s just not going to happen because they know that won’t sell.
“In the same way, you can’t expect doubles to start lifting off without marketing doubles appropriately. They might say ‘you know what we’ don’t see the figures’ but you don’t get the figures if you don’t put the time into it. I think the ATP could do a lot more for that. However, that’s the decision, whether they want to do that, if they think it’s worth it, I don’t know.”
The Murray/Soares effect on the ATP Board
Aside from the furore that was raised when the doubles format chanced to a 10-point match tie-break, it has become the accepted norm in tour doubles.
Inglot explained: “This year, the ATP Board with Chris Kermode as well have decided to implement some changes into doubles with regards to the Top 13 teams from last year are guaranteed entry into the first five Masters series irrespective of their rankings.
“So for example we were 13th in the race and now we we’re guaranteed up until Rome to get in. Now the thing is the rule says that if we don’t play one tournament together, we give up that opportunity, so from Miami that’s gone. But the other guys would have automatically. So that would be here, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.
“When it comes to Cincinnati, the teams who are in the Top 13 in the Doubles at that point would automatically get into Cincinnati irrespective of ranking. So that basically incentivises doubles teams to stay together at the end of the year, so if me and Frank decided we didn’t want to split, then this incentivises us to stay together because we’re guaranteed five masters series.
“The next thing is that all the Masters series will now have the same size draw as Indian wells and Miami, so there won’t be any more byes, which means there’ll be more jobs for doubles players. The prize money total will still be the same, it will just be redistributed more evenly, so that’s a great thing. Means now instead of 24 teams, now it’s going to be 32 teams getting into those other Masters, just like here.
“Those are the kind of steps that are good now. To go with that, doubles players have to make themselves available for Pro-Ams and clinics if the tournaments decide that’s what they want to do. and Doubles players are great, they’re happy to do that because we want to put it out there like ‘hey let’s bring people in, let’s get people involved/ Cincinnati do a great job of that every year. they always have a doubles clinic.
“But those are the programs they’re trying to do to get doubles a little bit more, and I think there’s an idea to make a designated doubles court. At the Australian Open they had a doubles court. People could walk in any time they wanted. Little things like that to try and get it a little more fan friendly.”
With the planned departure of ATP chief Chris Kermode at the start of the year, it would then be a shame for all that good work to try and elevate doubles in some way to go to waste, but the hard work of board representatives Murray and Soares should go a long way to keep doubles in some kind of focus.
Inglot continued: “Those elements are already included & going ahead and I think the good things is that the tournaments have bought in to that so there’s consensus on both sides of the board anyway. As long as someone doesn’t want to completely sabotage it, I can’t see why a new CEO would if both tournaments and players are happy to progress with that. But those are the positives that we can hopefully see progress.”
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