Welcome to the first post in a new series for the blog that I am starting on doubles teams. Don’t care about doubles? Well, why not? The points are faster, more entertaining, and if any of you out there actually play tennis, chances are you play a fair amount of doubles. Really, why don’t more of us pay attention to doubles? It is time to give the guys who play week after week, without the level of money, recognition or support that the singles players get, their due.
But since I can detect a healthy amount of skepticism/dread/etc. (doubles? is this going to be countless Bryans brothers stories?…), I’ll start with a duo who are far more successful and popular as singles players but have also become a popular doubles team: John Isner and Sam Querrey, lovingly referred to by their fans as Quisner. Hell, they even have their own twitter account, @Quisner.
And there was a lot to get excited about. America’s two fastest rising singles stars teaming up to play together? Yes, please! They quickly became a top 30 team, got to a Masters finals in Rome (on clay!), and even picked up title in Memphis last year.
But that was last year. This year, well, things do not look as rosy. Both John and Sam have been struggling in their singles, with Sam losing first round in his first 3 tournaments of the year, and John losing first round in his last two tournament appearances. They did not play together until Memphis, where they tried to defend their title. Needless to say, seeing them play together was one of the things I was looking forward to most on my recent trip to that tournament. Too bad what I saw was not only disappointing, but was downright worrisome. Watch the video for yourself and follow along with my analysis to see what I mean:
First and foremost, their poor body language was atrocious, especially John’s. He was constantly shaking his head after a miss, and I lost count how many times he bent over and put his hands on his knees. What a way to convey your complete lack of energy to your opponent. And when he looks up at the ceiling and rolls his eyes (0:30)? Not exactly a winning attitude there…
Also, can anyone remember even-keeled John breaking a racquet? Me neither, and yet in this match he almost smashes his racquet out of frustration at one point (0:25) and then completely wrecks his frame at another (2:30). Yes, Isner was having trouble executing his shots, but his poor mental attitude was in no way helping him turn it around.
But it was not as if Sam was giving John any support or encouragement out there either. What’s the point of a partner if you don’t help each other out, especially when he’s so clearly struggling? Forget mutual support, there was barely any communication between them at all other than just touching hands after each point, and sometimes they did not even do that. Look at the point from the 2:00 mark. After John misses a return. Sam just twirls his racquet and John bends over with his hands on his knees. No touch, no fist-bump, no positive interaction between them whatsoever.
But forget about just positive support between Quisner, there was hardly any effective communication at all. The point at the 1:20 mark demonstrates how their lack of communication hurts them as a team: after John’s return, both he and Sam come forward and they get passed down the middle. Neither of them want to go after the shot and waits for the other to get it. Naturally, they lost the point.
The only positive exchange they shared during the whole match was at the 1:30 mark. After a return, John slaps hands with a smiling Sam and then turns around a smiles at him. This was literally the only time they smiled the whole match…and then Isner immediately went back to bending over with his hands on his knees. I had to question whether he even wanted to be there. Doubles was supposed to be a fun thing for them. Clearly that was not the case here.
Quisner’s behavior as a doubles team in Memphis was just a magnification of what’s wrong with them in singles as well. The sluggish body language and bad attitudes are there too. Hopefully, as they turn their misfortunes in singles around (which despite all the vitriol the naysayers throw at them lately, they will), they can regroup as a doubles team as well.
(Video via @linzsports)