“It’s the names and the stars,” said Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time major golf champion, who was at Wimbledon this week and watched the Bryans play. “The singles players are really good, no question about that. If the doubles players were good enough, they’d be playing singles. To a large degree, I think that’s the way most people look at it.”
Though it struggles for air time, doubles can be plenty entertaining — the last bastion of 21st-century tennis where a net game, teamwork and a couple of reflex volleys can still carry the day. Nearly two-thirds of frequent recreational players in the U.S. play doubles, according to the most recent study by the U.S. Tennis Association. At the pro level, it can be quite an entertaining show, as was the brothers’ 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory Thursday over the newly formed team of India’s Rohan Bopanna and France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
“I think they get overlooked and I think the top current singles players very, very seldom play doubles,” said Pam Shriver, whose 81⁄2-year partnership with Martina Navratilova produced 20 Grand Slam titles. “I think doubles have always taken a back seat since Open tennis and prize money settled it all.”