The singular joy of a doubles life
Bud Collins explains how riches await the unsung masters of a neglected art
Sunday 02 July 1995
It didn't used to be like this in a time when it was taken for granted that great players (Laver, Newcombe, Nastase, Smith to cite a few) actually new how to cohabit with three people - some of them even of the other sex - and enjoy themselves immensely, transmitting that joy to us weekend hackers who shamelessly indulge ourselves in same.
Rod Laver, arguably the greatest of champions to be seen on the greensward, numbers among his seven Wimbledon titles two in the mixed, alongside Darleen Hard in 1959-60.
But ask Andre Agassi about mixed doubles and he might respond that it's none of our business what tactics and formations he and Brooke Shields employ.
Doubles of any sort is nowhere these days. Not done, old boy. If you played doubles as well as singles, when would you have time to count your money? Can you imagine Andre sharing his side of the turf with anyone other than possibly Michael Jackson, and then only in a pro- celebrity charade?
No male player has scored a Wimbledon double since 1970 when John Newcombe won both singles and doubles titles. His partner, Tony Roche, with whom Newc won five titles, was also useful in singles, a finalist in 1968, and semi-finalist in 1969 and 1975.
Newcombe and Roche expected to give the customers twice as much of themselves for the price of admission - and those were the days of more tennis per hour with no courtside chairs on which to sag for 90-second intermissions.
But can you even name the 1994 men's doubles champions? I thought not. Did somebody say: "The Woodies"? Was there a vote for the delightfully barmy brothers Jensen? You'd be correct on the first count. The Woodies, Mark Woodforde from Adelaide and Todd Woodbridge from Sydney, victors the past two years, have attracted a following of their own in the mould of the Aussie old boys such as Jack Bromwich-Adrian Quist, Lew Hoad-Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson-Neale Fraser, Peter McNamara-Paul McNamee.
Aussies have won 26 men's titles since 1948, probably because doubles is second nature to them - Australian babies always reside two-to-a-bassinet in maternity wards, to get the feeling. The red-headed Woodforde and the choirboy-faced Woodbridge are seeking to become the first three-straight winners since Newcombe and Roche's 1968- 69-70 reign. They line up the same way; the lefties Roche and Woodforde in the advantage court, the righties Newcombe and Woodbridge playing the deuce. And they do have lives of their own as substantial singles players, Mark ranking No 31, Todd No 37.
But a subculture of Foreign Legion types, anonymous doubles-only characters has developed in recent years, a reaction to the main men deserting that side of the game, thus widening employment opportunities for the low-ranked.
Take Patrick Galbraith, a crafty 28-year-old American left-hander often seen in the company of the Canadian Grant Connell. Galbraith could wander around Wimbledon incognito, yet he earned $400,000 last year as a courtmate. Another specialist, Cyril Suk, half the size of his celebrity sister, Helena Sukova, made $210,000 last year with a number of strange court fellows.
My favourite, Trevor Kronemann, a Minnesota mammoth, looks like a fugitive from World Cup Rugby at 6ft 4in and 17st, but he's a $200,000-a-year man, though. Two other masked men, the Floridian Greg van Emburg and the pony- tailed Italian Christian Brandi pick up about $100,000 a year in the furtive enterprise. "It's a living," says Van Emburgh. "Beats working for a living," says Kronemann.
However, the exuberant, rugged Jensens, the brothers Luke and Murphy, out of a backwater called Ludington, Michigan, have parlayed one decent title - the French of 1993 - and a rollickingly zany act on court that could have been a music-hall hit into million-dollar incomes, mostly on endorsements. They are amusing, but they didn't stick around long. If the Jensens could only play as well as they act, Agassi might have a box-office rival.
But they keep the rallies alive for a while. That's why doubles is more fun to watch than singles. But at the Big W, and everywhere else along the men's tour, playing together is a hush-hush topic like incest or lewd behaviour.
Latest in Sport
QPR vs Arsenal match report: Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez on the scoresheet for the Gunners
Newcastle 0 Manchester United 1: Louis van Gaal describes performance as 'maybe our best match of the season'
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid superstar 'sends his hair stylist to look after his waxwork once a month'
Newcastle vs Manchester United match report: Ashley Young scores late winner as Angel Di Maria fails to shine yet again
Brooklyn Beckham to be released: Why Arsenal could regret letting David Beckham's son depart
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The majority of sex workers enjoy their job - why should we find that surprising?
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...
£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...