Aussie tennis legend Todd Woodbridge has criticised the decision of Wimbledon officials to do away with five-set doubles matches and move to best-of-three. The All England Club announced the decision on Wednesday night in a move that aligns with the other three grand slams.
The Australian, US and French Opens all play best-of-three sets in both men's and women's doubles. However Wimbledon has been best-of-five in men's doubles since 1884.
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The change will come into effect when Wimbledon kicks off on July 3. The All England Club said in a statement: "The decision was made following a wide-ranging consultation and the change brings Wimbledon into line with the other grand slams which stage the gentlemen's doubles in a best-of-three format. This update will provide the referee's office with greater certainty when scheduling matches during the event and we hope it will encourage even more players to enter doubles at Wimbledon as a result."
The best-of-five format has been criticised in the past, with some saying it discourages singles players from taking part in the doubles. Aussie star Nick Kyrgios, who won the Australian Open doubles title with Thanasi Kokkinakis in 2022, has previously slammed the best-of-five format, describing it as "the stupidest thing ever".
But Aussie legend Woodbridge, who holds the Open era record with nine Wimbledon doubles titles (six as one half of the 'Woodies' with Mark Woodforde), doesn't agree. Speaking on Channel 9 on Thursday morning at the Australian Open he described the move as "heartbreaking", saying he wouldn't have won as many titles if matches were only best-of-three.
"For me, it's a little heartbreaking because I am a real traditionalist and I believe of all the titles that the 'Woodies' won, I wouldn't have won as many if it was over three sets," he said. "Five sets lets the best team win."
Bryan brothers agree with Todd Woodbridge
In the same segment, American doubles icons Mike and Bog Bryan agreed that best-of-five shows who the true champions are. "We like a longer sample size, especially on grass, it's tough to break serve on a slick surface," Mike said. "One year it rained, in 2002, where they condensed the match and we got upset in the round of 16. I think for the great doubles teams, you just want a longer - a 3 out of 5 format."
Bob Bryan added: "Especially on grass. When breaking serve is so hard. I think you (Woodbridge) won nine, but as you know you were probably down 2-1 and you came back and you were able to turn it around."
The Bryan brothers won 16 grand slam doubles titles, including three at Wimbledon. Woodbridge and Woodforde won 11 together, while Woodbridge finished his career with 16 men's doubles majors and six in mixed.
Meanwhile, American icon Billie Jean King has called on Wimbledon to rethink its ban on players from Russia and Belarus. The All England Club banned players from both countries in 2022 due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, with the ATP and WTA tours stripping the event of rankings points as a result.
Wimbledon officials are yet to reveal whether the ban will continue in 2023, but King has implored the All England Club to change its mind. "Just keep it the same way as the other ones are. Life is too short," she told reporters at the Australian Open. "I think they should get prize money. Just have them play and get their money."
Belarusian players Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka both reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, as did Russian player Karen Khachanov. Fellow Russian Andrey Rublev made the quarter-finals before losing to Novak Djokovic.
A shame, but inevitable in this modern age. At least make it best of three sets to the QFs and then best of five sets onwards. The doubles final is often a highlight each year.
— James Agar (@AgarsView) January 25, 2023
Men’s doubles final is usually a highlights so it’s a shame to see from that sense, but it does make logical sense for getting players to play doubles as well as singles… just increase the mixed draw!!
— Simon Kevern (@sikev26) January 25, 2023
Well there goes the thrilling drama of the Grand Slams. 3 sets will cheapen it.
— Fita R. (@FitaR) January 25, 2023
Will miss it, highlight of the Doubles calendar. Doubt this change will encourage more singles players to get involved or people who don't watch doubles to care.
— Jenny (@TennisPhotoer) January 25, 2023
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