Tennis doubles faces uncertain future, after Australian Open chief admits sport has ‘lost our way’

Tennis doubles faces uncertain future after sparse crowds at the Australian Open (Getty Images)
Tennis doubles faces uncertain future after sparse crowds at the Australian Open (Getty Images)

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley as raised his concerns over the future of professional doubles tennis.

The ATP is currently pursuing a review of doubles, and the outcomes of that could impact professional tours as well as the four grand slams with the sport trying to innovate and attract a new audience.

Doubles has historically not had the same draw as singles for fans, even with a home interest. The crowd watching Australian Matt Ebden and Rohan Bopanna in the men’s doubles final was significantly depleted from the one who watched the women’s singles final immediately before it on the Rod Laver Arena.

Those low crowds coincide with the tournament setting an attendance record, after opening its doors to more than a million people during the two-week period.

In recent years, the Australian Open has tried to attract a younger generation, offering more access to seats during matches, outside entertainment and even a courtside bar.

“I think we might have lost our way a little bit, we’re not meaning enough,” Tiley said, reported by The Guardian.

“We’ve got to get things right, and we can’t keep spinning our wheels on things, and make some decisions.”

Tiley added: “I take an approach from a leadership point of view that I’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission because otherwise you’re just not going to be able to move at the speed that you can move at,” he said. “The sport globally needs to look at it the same way, and do some things that really help it accelerate.”

The women’s doubles final on Sunday afternoon shared a similar fate as the one on Saturday night.

Ebden has become a full-time doubles player over the last few years and is a member of the ATP Player Advisory Council and he said the governing body has “ignored” doubles at times.

“There is space for tennis in doubles to have fans engaged, closer to the court, maybe some music, maybe no sitting down after one end,” he said. “Just keep the game running, keep it interactive.”