Davis Cup Qualifiers – A Bad Day For (Men’s) Doubles Tennis

If you know me or follow my website, you also know that I might not be the biggest tennis fan in general, but I am a huge fan of Davis Cup Tennis (with a big favor for the Indian team) and I love watching double tennis. I feel it is more dynamic, more versatile, I also prefer the skill set which is or at least used to be necessary. Without a player like Leander Paes, who has been a genius at the net, the the Australian team Todd Woodbridge and Marc Woodforde, I would have very likely not run into the sports that deeply at all. The recent weekend of 3rd to 5th February 2023 made afraid of the future of doubles tennis in general.

Here are my thoughts. Thereby, I want to emphasize that I don’t want to blame individual performances. As an Indian tennis fan, I know best that Davis Cup performances do not reflect what is happening on the ATP Tour (ATP = Association of Tennis Professionals, the organization of male professional tennis). Nonetheless, I believe there is a deeper message behind these things. Hope you enjoy reading.



I unfortunately did not make it to the tie of the Indian team in Hillerod, Denmark, this time. But the results in doubles broke my heart. If you look at the doubles rankings only, India, who had a comfortable 1-1 score after the first day, were the absolute favorites. The very experienced Rohan Bopanna (ATP Doubles Ranking #17) and Yuki Bhambri (ATP #90) had a by far better so-called combined ranking (i.e. the sum of their rankings) of 107 compared to the Danish pairing Johannes Ingildsen and Holger Rune, whose combined ranking was 554 at that day. Rohan Bopanna just recently played the final of the Australian Open (in Mixed Doubles). Denmark won 6-2 6-4.

It is just an individual match – and there are many stories behind it. One, of course, is that the match was in Denmark, they had choice of venue, surface and had the home crowd. Thus, there was an advantage for the host nation. Furthermore, Holger Rune is #9 in the ATP Singles ranking, he is a world-class player in the “other world”, the one which is in the media frequently. Doubles tennis does not get the attention which I feel it deserves. The later rounds of Grand Slams and Master Tournaments, the Olympic Games and the Davis Cup are the main showcases.


Some Facts about the Davis Cup Weekend

It was of course not a single match, which triggered me to write this posting. And, to be very clear, the loss of India against Denmark in doubles was not the biggest upset on that weekend. I give you a full reference of the two highest groups the Davis Cup Qualifiers and World Gorup I Play-Offs (there was also World Group II, but they typically have rather high rankings) below. I only concentrated on the doubles ranking and majorly compared the sum of the ATP Doubles Rankings of the players to the in-fact result. If the team with the higher (i.e. worse) combined ranking won, I call it an upset. Overall, I looked into 24 ties, twelve each in every division.

In the Davis Cup Qualifiers, there were six out of twelve upsets. The most remarkable ones definitely happened in La Serena, Chile, and Espoo, Finland. The Chilean team Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejando Tabilo (combined: 1724) beat Kazakhstan with Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (113) in straight sets. In Finland, the locals celebrated a three set victory of Emil Ruusuvuori and Harri Heliovaara (840) against Maximo Gonzales and Andres Molteni (Argentina). Four of the 48 players nominated this weekend did not even have an ATP Doubles ranking.


Situation in World Group I

World Group I did only feature four upsets, you have to state, though, that half of the matches featured at least one unranked player as well. It is questionable if a “World Group” can stand that nations nominate players, which are obviously not used to play this discipline. Turkiye won the doubles again Slovenia with a fully unranked team. Another remarkable match was the victory of Japanese Ben McLachlan / Yosuke Watanuki (combined: 1348) at home soil against Lukasz Kubot / Jan Zielinski (Poland, comb. 266) in three sets. An interesting fact: if you take the ATP Doubles ranking of all four players as a metric of the “potential quality” of a match, the doubles match in Denmark was the sixth best one of all 24 this weekend (including Qualifiers).


Some more Statistics

I just give you a few facts before I come to my conclusion:

  • I just mentioned that you could argue, summing up the rankings of the four doubles players could be some sort of “metric” of the potential quality of a match. In that regard, the Austrian upset by Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler in Croatia versus Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic was the doubles match of a weekend. The summed up ranking was 124, i.e. in average each player was roughly ranked #25.
  • Even though they were playing to qualify to the Finals, Czech Republic played with two unranked players, i.e. who hadn’t played an official professional level doubles match the year before that tie.
  • Excluding the four unranked players, 34 of the 96 players involved in doubles in both division are ATP Top 100 in Doubles (Qualifer only: 26/48 players). Of course, many nations have more than two players in that part of the rankings and a few nations don’t need to qualify. But the stat feels very low.
  • Even worse, the average doubles ranking of these 96 players, already excluding the 13 unranked ones, is 379.2. For the Qualifiers only, this average is at 242. I feel this is drastically bad. I compared it to the average ATP Singles ranking of the four players used for singles in the Qualifiers division on Day 1 (Day 2 might be not representative due to dead rubbers), which is 149.2. This means that that the average ranking of a Davis Cup doubles player is 100 spots worse than the singles one.


Why Do I Feel that this is worth mentioning

In general, in whatever blog posting I do, I assume that people act smart. So do I in here. I believe that all 48 Davis Cup captains nominated their best doubles team. However, they obviously several times went for players which are successful in singles – and they succeeded in quite many cases. Doubles tennis has a lot of trouble and bringing it back on track is one of the key issues tennis has in my point of view. The reformed scoring system did not bring back singles players into doubles as tennis dreamed. Roger Federer, for example, was known to be an excellent doubles player, but he went for that skill more or less only if there was a chance for an Olympic medal or to save his country in Davis Cup.

This is what is worrying me. There seem to be better doubles player out there, like Holger Rune. They just don’t compete in that discipline for various reasons. The much I love doubles tennis, the much can understand these reasons and do not criticize them. The problem is: how can you take doubles tennis seriously if you know that at least a part of its top class players is not competing? In several occasions, like in Olympic Games, these players can use their singles ranking to qualify into doubles. It feels unfair, but maybe it is, in case of my example Holger Rune (who is still having a decent doubles ranking), more realistic. His ranking does not reflect his strength.

The Identity of Doubles Tennis

The daily business of tennis are all the tournaments out there. The ATP Doubles Ranking determines who is thought to be the best doubles player in the world. Likely, current #1, Wesley Koolhof (Netherlands) is indeed the best doubles player of the world. But does the rest of the table tell you a good story?

To me it feels like winning a medal in high jump knowing that others might be better, but they just cash in better in long jump. Or in 100 meter sprint racing. You are always second class, subordinate. And you can never emancipate. Because you cannot proof that I am wrong does not work. Maybe doubles specialists might be superior over a whole season, without home crowds and Davis Cup. But they cannot proof it. Because this competition never takes place.



Reference – Davis Cup Results of the Weekend

Here are the Davis Cup results in doubles of the weekend. The winning pair is given in bold in the set score columns, the favorite regarding the Doubles Ranking (ATP ranking as of 30th January 2023) is highlighted in the ranking cell. An empty field in the ranking cell means that the player is unranked and does not have an ATP Doubles Ranking, I marked the sum with an UNR in that case.  As in the posting as such, I only looked into the Davis Cup Qualifiers and the World Group I ties.

Davis Cup Qualifiers (to the Davis Cup Finals)
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Croatia Ivan DODIG 11 19 3 6
Nikola MEKTIC 8
Austria Alexander ERLER 49 105 6 7
Lucas MIEDLER 56
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Hungary Fabian MAROZSAN 485 2004 6 7
Mate VALKUSZ 1519
France Nicolas MAHUT 51 202 2 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Germany Andreas MIES 21 41 6 6 6
Tim PUETZ 20
Switzerland Dominic STRICKER 615 1677 7 3 4
Stan WAWRINKA 1062
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Uzbekistan Sanjar FAYZIEV 189 602 2 4
Sergey FOMIN 413
USA Austin KRAJICEK 9 12 6 6
Rajeev RAM 3
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Columbia Juan Sebastian CABAL 23 46 4 4
Robert FARAH 23
Great Britain Daniel EVANS 82 83 6 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Norway Viktor DURASOVIC 165 165 + UNR 4 6 3
Serbia Nikola CACIC 70 70 + UNR 6 3 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
South Korea JiSung NAM 152 299 7 7
MinKyu SONG 147
Belgium Johan VLIEGEN 53 108 6 6
Sander GILLE 55
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Chile Tomas BARRIOS VERA 572 1724 6 7
Alejandro TABILO 1152
Kazakhstan Andrey GOLUBEV 48 113 4 5
Aleksandr NEDOVYESOV 65
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Sweden Andre GORANSSON 66 885 4 2
Elias YMER 819
Bosnia and Herzegovina Tomislav BRKIC 59 484 6 6
Mirza BASIC 425
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Netherlands Wesley KOOLHOF 1 20 6 6
Slovakia Lukas KLEIN 607 883 3 3
Alex MOLCAN 276
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Portugal Nuno BORGES 122 183 7 7
Francisco CABAL 61
Czech Republic Tomas MACHAC UNR 5 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Finland Emil RUUSUVUORI 830 840 7 4 6
Argentina Maximo GONZALES 45 81 6 6 4
Andres MOLTENI 36


World Group I Play-Offs
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Japan Ben McLACHLAN 79 1348 4 7 7
Yosuke WATANUKI 1269
Poland Lukasz KUBOT 251 266 6 5 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Greece Alexandros SKORILAS 625 762 6 4
Petros TSITSIPAS 137
Ecuador Gonzalo ESCOBAR 43 136 7 6
Diego HIDALGO 93
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Denmark Johannas INGILDSEN 358 554 6 6
Holger RUNE 196
India Yuki BHAMBRI 90 107 2 4
Rohan BOPANNA 17
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Brazil Rafael MATOS 27 165 6 6
China Jie CUI 1216 1927 2 3
Ze ZHANG 711
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Thailand Pruchya ISARO 455 1011 4 6 6
Thantub SUKSUMRARN 556
Romania Marius COPIL 511 618 6 2 4
Victor Vlad CORNEA 107
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Latvia Ernests GULBIS UNR 3 3
Israel Daniel CUKIERMAN 247 731 6 6
Edan LESHEM 484
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Mexico Isaac Arturo AREVALO 2070 4369 6 4
Cesar RAMIREZ 2299
Taiwan Chun-Hsin TSENG 474 643 7 6
Yu Hsiou HSU 169
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Peru Ignacio BUSE 632 948 6 7
Jorge PANTA 316
Ireland Simon CARR 783 783 2 6
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Ukraine Ilya BELOBORODKO 531 676 6 6
Vladyslav MANAFOV 145
Lebanon Benjamin HASSAN 434 434 4 3
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Turkiye Cem ILKEL UNR 7 4 6
Slovenia Sebastian DOMINKO 1269 1269 + UNR 4 6 4
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
New Zealand Artem SITAK 133 149 6 3 6
Michael VENUS 16
Bulgaria Alexander DONSKI 281 800 4 6 3
Country Player DBL Rank. Comb. Rank. 1 2 3
Lithuania Tadas BABELIS 1802 3133 1 6 6
Vilius GAUBAS 1331
Pakistan Aqeel KHAN UNR 6 2 2
Aisam-Ul-Haq QURESHI

Title picture taken from my 2022 Norway vs. India Davis Cup coverage


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