Photo of the then-engaged 1971 Wimbledon Champions by: Tony Triolo/SI
“Mixed doubles are always starting divorces. If you play with your wife, you fight with her. If you play with somebody else, she fights with you.” – Sidney B.Wood Jr. , 1931 Wimbledon champion.
I don’t know, Mirka and Roger seemed to do all right (Hopman Cup 2002):
Marital strife aside, one of the best things about tennis is that men and women play at the same Majors, for the same prize money and sometimes together on the same court. Could you imagine the NBA and the WNBA playing their finals in back-to-back games at Madison Square Garden or the World Series featuring an MLB and (non-existent) WMLB double header? Maybe you don’t want to. But in tennis, it makes sense, and mixed doubles shows off what’s great about co-ed athletic competition:
And now mixed doubles lovers (I’m talking about people who like the sport, not J.J. and Jamie) have a new reason to rejoice – the AP reports that the International Olympic Committee ratified an ITF proposal on Thursday to include mixed doubles in the 2010 Olympics in London, where the event will be held at Wimbledon.
The IOC announced on Thursday that mixed doubles “will bring an added value to the Olympic program by providing another opportunity for men and women to compete together on the same field of play.” But the IOC wants guarantees that top singles players will actually participate. So who gets Nole, Ana or J.J.?
I’m thinking of this January’s Hopman Cup tournament like a really early tune-up event for the Olympics. Hopman Cup is what happens when Fed Cup and Davis Cup get married. The ITF-sanctioned affair runs from January 2 – 9th in Perth, Australia and features national teams competing against each other in womens’ singles, mens’ singles and mixed doubles. Dominik Hrbaty and Dominika Cibulkova won last year for the Slovak Republic, beating the Russian team of Marat Safin and Dinara Safina in the final. (So can Marat get a wild card into the 2012 Olympics, please? I hear he may have some sway on the Russian Olympic Committee!)
Here’s the line-up for the 2010 Hopman Cup (via the tournament website):
AUSTRALIA: Samantha Stosur, Lleyton Hewitt
SPAIN: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Tommy Robredo
ROMANIA: Sorana Cirstea, Victor Hanescu
USA: Melanie Oudin. John Isner
RUSSIA: Elena Dementieva, Igor Andreev
GREAT BRITAIN: Laura Robson, Andy Murray
GERMANY: Sabine Lisicki, Philipp Kohlschreiber
KAZAKHSTAN: – Yaroslava Shvedova & Andrey Golubev
Given Murray’s struggles with Davis Cup, I’m sure he’ll appreciate having the up-and-coming Robson as a teammate. As Big Bill Tilden once said: “People enjoy doubles more than singles, because they have less work, have a partner to blame for defeat and have someone to listen to their gripes as they play.” And in Team Britain’s case – someone to share the tabloid headlines.
Photo via Tennis Channel
Of course, January wouldn’t be January without tennis exhibitions. The Hong Kong Tennis Classic has a unique format, made up of loosely-defined regional teams (Team Russia vs. Team Western Hemisphere) featuring WTA “stars” and retired ATP “heroes” playing singles and mixed doubles. Marat Safin will be making his old-timer debut just months after his retirement. Will he show up in better shape than he was in at last year’s Hopman Cup?
Photo: TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images via Daylife
Here’s the full line-up for the 2010 Hong Kong Tennis Classic, running from January 6 – 9:
Team Russia: Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva, Marat Safin
Team Europe: Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Stefan Edberg
Team Americas: Venus Williams, Gisela Dulko and Michael Chang
Team Asia Pacific: Jie Zheng, Ayumi Morita and Paradon Srichaphan (wait, I thought Paradorn was coming out of retirement! He can’t have it both ways!)
Of course mixed doubles is part of the Australian Open as well. Last year, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi beat Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram for the title.
I conclude my mixed doubles musings with some dubious advice from humor columnist Art Buchwald: “You either go to bed with someone or you play tennis with them. But don’t do both.”
Well that’s no fun.
Quotes from “You Can Quote Me On That” by Paul Fein.