Doubles players to sue ATP in revolt over changes to rules

This latest mutiny within the men's game has been caused by the ATP's changes in the structure of doubles matches leading up to the "2008 initiative", after which only players who gain entry to ATP events with a singles ranking will be allowed to play doubles.

A group of the world's leading doubles players called a press conference at the US Open yesterday to announce their decision to take legal action, saying their aim was to preserve an integral part of the sport and protect their future livelihood.

The ATP has ruled that from this month doubles matches at many tournaments will feature games that do not use an advantage point and sets played to five games rather than six, with a tie-break at 4-4. Possible scores will be 5-0, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3 and 5-4.

According to the ATP, the changes are designed to "appeal to fans and better showcase the tandem game".

Mark Knowles, vice-president of the ATP Players' Council, said that the doubles players were willing to make concessions concerning the new scoring system if the ATP directors rescinded the 2008 initiative. "How are the ATP going to promote a product that doesn't exist?" he said.

Knowles was shocked to read a newspaper report quoting Horst Klosterkemper, the ATP president for Europe and player relations, as saying that "doubles had essentially become a charity event for players".

"We have to fight," Knowles said, adding that the doubles players were not seeking damages but the restoration of the traditional game. The panel of players included the 24-year-old Barker twins, Richard and William, from Solihull, who are students at Rice University, Houston, and won the Inter-Collegiate Doubles Championship. They said they had decided to retire from the sport because they did not play singles and saw no future for doubles.

"We're here to represent the guys of the future," William said. Richard added: "Players like me, and younger than me, will never get a chance to play doubles if they don't have a high enough singles ranking." A legal representative said that litigation would cost between $50,000 (£27,000) and $100,000 "to get this far" and "a few hundred thousand dollars if the ATP chooses to fight the case hard."

Many of the "doubles enhancements," approved by the ATP Board at Wimbledon were initially recommended by a research and development doubles project team, chaired by Klosterkemper and including player representatives, tournament directors and ATP staff.

The team evaluated data from four target groups: fans, players, media and tournaments. One hundred players, equally represented from the Top 100 in doubles and singles, were interviewed and 4,837 fans responded to an ATPtennis.com survey.

Analysis of the ranking systems at all levels of tennis also was undertaken.

"All groups clearly acknowledged that doubles is an important part of tennis, but believe some enhancements were necessary," Klosterkemper said.

"Singles players said they would consider playing doubles on a more consistent basis if changes were made, citing the length of matches, which average more than 90 minutes, and scheduling difficulties as reasons for the lack of participation.

"The project team not only found remedies for these challenges, but also identified some format changes that will broaden the appeal of the game for fans."

Rafael Nadal, the 19-year-old French Open champion and world No 2 who has played doubles at seven of his 14 tournaments this year, said: "I think these are good changes. I have already played some doubles and will continue to do so in the future. More singles players will probably do like me and play more doubles under the new format. Also, it will be good because doubles will be played on the main courts and will be better exposed."

But Roger Federer, the world No 1, who does not play doubles other than when representing Switzerland in the Davis Cup, said he would not play more.

Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, the world's top doubles player, said: "I play singles and doubles, and I think that's what every player should be encouraged to do."

Many of the top players have reason to be single-minded, particularly as they battle for points, prize-money and prestige at the Grand Slam championships.

This week has seen the early elimination of Andy Roddick, America's main hope for the singles title, leaving the astonishing 35-year-old Andre Agassi to share the burden of home expectation with Robby Ginepri and the New Yorker James Blake.

Blake, who is due to play Nadal in the third round today, has made a remarkable return to form after a dreadful 2004, when he broke his neck colliding with a net-post, had shingles and had to face the death of his father.

"I'm very excited to be here," Blake said after defeating Igor Andreev of Russia, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, on Thursday night.

"Last year, watching on television, this was what I was dreaming of, playing a night match at the US Open again. When I was a little kid, I never thought it was possible. Now I've done it a few times. It gets better and better every time.

"I knew what to expect with what I've been going through the last week and a half [winning in New Haven] and with my friends and family coming out. I don't think Igor quite did. It hit him pretty quickly there. They were pretty vocal."

Agassi, who defeated the Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, is due to play the Czech Thomas Berdych, the man who dumped Federer out of the Athens Olympics

"We played once in Australia," Agassi recalled. "We got done with that match and I said, 'He's a top 10 player'. He just seemed to do so many things well. He made you work for every point. I've got to believe he's only got better. I'm looking forward to a good quality match."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz