Saturday, March 28, 2015

Is it Realistic for Sock and Pospisil to be Top Singles and Doubles Players?

After Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil won the doubles title at Indian Wells, it's clear their Wimbledon title was no fluke and that they are legitimately one of the best doubles teams in the world.  Apparently they plan to play together at the grand slams and Masters events throughout the rest of the year, and wherever else their schedules overlap.  This is a positive development for the game, as doubles benefits when there are bigger names (i.e. singles players) in the field.  It's also a logical move on their part, as they are making good money and building their name recognition and confidence on the doubles tour.  What remains to be seen is how realistic it is for Sock and Pospisil to be both highly ranked singles and doubles players. 

On the women's tour we know it can be done, as the Williams sisters have teamed together to win 13 grand slam doubles titles.  While they mostly play together during slams, they clearly weren't held back by playing both singles and doubles.  However, its much easier to go deep in singles and doubles when singles is only best of three sets as opposed to best of five.  If Sock and Pospisil continue to develop their singles games and become threats to go deep in majors and masters (not completely unrealistic), it will be interesting to see if they continue their partnership. 

It's one thing to play singles and doubles at Indian Wells and Miami when the tournaments are spread out over a week and a half, and you don't have to play every day.  However, other Masters events aren't so forgiving, and it's very tough to cram both events into the same tournament without days off in between matches.  The switch to third set tie-breakers in doubles definitely makes the task easier, but playing several doubles matches throughout the week still makes it tougher to be fresh for a big singles match in the tournament's later rounds. 

At the slams, if one of them is coming off a draining five set win in an early round match, playing a long doubles match the next day could ruin any chance they have in the next round.  However, if one pulls out to focus on singles this could create tension in their partnership and make them question whether they should bother playing together in the future.  There's clearly a reason almost all of the top ranked doubles players are doubles specialists, and many top singles players don't want to take the risk of sacrificing their success in the more lucrative singles competition. 

This isn't to say Sock and Pospisil can't be successful in both, but there will likely come a time in the near future where they will have to make some hard choices.  They can clearly play plenty of doubles and excel while hanging around 50 in the world in singles, but it won't be so easy if they're committed to making a run to the top 20 or even top 10 in singles.  For now they've decided it wouldn't be right to break up such a good team, and seem content to see how far they can go.  However, fans of the pairing should enjoy them while it lasts, because they could be over before we know it.   

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