Craig Tiley, the tournament director of the Australian Open, expresses concern for the future of doubles in professional tennis. He believes that as the sport evolves and adapts to attract new and emerging audiences, the fate of doubles is uncertain.
The ATP is conducting an evaluation of the doubles aspect of the game, and the results will contribute to broader changes in the professional tours and the four major tournaments. A source familiar with the evaluation, who wished to remain anonymous, informed the Guardian that doubles “may not have a promising future, especially in its current form.”
Tiley expressed his support for doubles, but currently there is a lack of ranking points, prize money, and overall recognition for players to truly value the sport.
According to Tiley, we may have strayed from our intended path and our purpose is not clear enough. We need to make sure we are on the right track and stop wasting time, instead taking action and making decisions.
The year’s first grand slam concluded on Sunday night with a riveting men’s singles final between Russian Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner, won by the young Italian in five sets.
In recent years, the tournament has aimed to attract new fans by implementing changes that cater to their preferences. These changes include providing easier access to and from seats during matches, a courtside bar, and on-site entertainment to enhance the overall tennis experience.
However, there were low attendance numbers for both doubles finals. The number of spectators watching the men’s doubles match between Australian Matt Ebden and 43-year-old Rohann Bopanna was significantly smaller compared to the audience for the women’s singles final that took place earlier on Saturday evening on Rod Laver Arena.
On Sunday afternoon, there was a significantly larger crowd at a music concert at John Cain Arena compared to the small audience at the women’s doubles final happening at the same time.
Ebden, a member of the ATP Player Advisory Council, has transitioned into being a full-time doubles player in the past three years. He said after claiming his second men’s doubles grand slam title, the ATP has “a little bit ignored” doubles.
He stated that he initiated the review in order to determine the true purpose of doubles – their role, significance, and value, or lack thereof.
Ebden emphasized the potential of doubles rather than dwelling on perceived shortcomings.
The speaker suggested incorporating elements like music and closer seating for fans in doubles tennis matches to keep the game engaging and interactive. He also suggested forgoing breaks between ends to maintain the flow of the game.
In 2024, the Australian Open achieved a new record for attendance by hosting over one million individuals in the venue during the two-week event.
According to Tiley, he feels that the tournament successfully achieved a balance between the interests of fans and players, even though there were some objections to the modifications.
“I adopt a leadership perspective where I prioritize seeking forgiveness over asking for permission. This allows for faster movement and progress. The global sporting community should also adopt this mindset and implement strategies to accelerate growth.”
Tiley suggested eliminating the “let” rule, which allows a point to be replayed if a serve hits the top of the net but still lands in. He noted that this rule has caused delays during the two-week event, totaling over 15 hours of extra time.
No extra revenue was received by the Australian Open this year from broadcasting or major sponsors, despite starting a day earlier. The 15-day schedule will be considered in future agreements, and the additional content was given to current partners as a gesture of goodwill.
In a highly publicized report prior to the competition, Tiley was identified as a crucial player in opposing a drastic overhaul of the pro tour that could potentially include a stop in Saudi Arabia just weeks before the Australian Open.
He stated on Monday that the scheduled meetings were still ongoing and that all the grand slams share the same perspective. However, he disagreed with the idea that he was the leader of the group. “There is no single individual leading us, it’s a team effort.”