Todd Woodbridge has applauded Coco Gauff‘s decision to make doubles a priority in the early stages of her career, claiming that it could accelerate her journey to the world No.1 singles ranking.
Gauff, who burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old and is widely considered one of the most likely players to inherit Serena Williams‘ crown, has entered the doubles draw at grand slams consistently over the last two years, climbing to the No.1 ranking in that discipline on the back of finals at the US Open and the French Open.
Playing with another singles star, Jessica Pegula, Gauff has made another deep run at a grand slam this Australian Open, with the American pair squaring off against Japan’s Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama in Friday’s semi final.
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“Two top 10 singles players playing doubles, you’ve got to love that,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve.
“And to me watching Coco Gauff over the last 12 months become the number one doubles player in the world is only going to make her, in time, the number one singles player as well.”
Woodbridge is not in favour of all singles players jumping across to the doubles format at grand slams but said players who are still in the early stages of their career, such as Gauff, 18, could only benefit due to the skills required to succeed.
He added that Gauff may be following the blueprint set by retired Australian star Ash Barty, who was dominating women’s tennis before she retired at 25, as well as Sam Stosur, who rose to the No.1 doubles ranking and won doubles grand slams at the French Open and US Open before achieving her greatest feat in singles, a US Open title in 2011 when she beat prime Serena Williams in the final.
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”It depends on where they’re at with their singles, where their bodies are at, but I love the fact that some of the younger ones are doing it because it’s about building the skill set to become as good a player as you can,” Woodbridge said.
“Ash Barty has probably done that to the mindset of a lot of the singles players because she did that, lost in a few finals with Casey Dellacqua [won the US Open with CoCo Vandeweghe in 2018 – was ranked five in the world], but then you also go back a little bit further than that to Sam Stosur, who won grand slam titles before she won the US Open singles title, so it makes absolute sense, and the (men), more of them should be doing it as well in my opinion.”
Earlier this week Wimbledon joined the other three grand slams in reducing men’s doubles to a best of three format, bringing an end the long-held tradition of playing men’s doubles over best of five.
While Woodbridge wants to see more young men’s singles players cross to doubles, he lamented the All England Club’s decision due to make a prestigious tournament more of a “lottery” for the doubles stars.
“It’s disappointing. Look, I’m a bit of a traditionalist in tennis, and particularly about Wimbledon,” Woodbridge said.
“It was probably inevitable that it was going to happen at some point but I know that in my career I was very lucky to win nine of them. I don’t think I would have won nine of them if it was best of three because it’s more of a lottery.
“Having been on our morning show just recently with the Bryan brothers, they’re in agreeance with that because it’s one of those surfaces, grass, where you don’t get a lot of breaks in serve and you need time to create opportunity.”
Ultimately, according to Woodbridge, the idea that more singles stars from the men’s draw would enter the doubles at Wimbledon due to the change was flawed logic.
”I don’t believe that that’s going to make any difference and I think it becomes more of a lottery where the best teams don’t get through necessarily,” he said.
“But, you know, it’s Wimbledon and they do a great job at running their tournament, and I’m going to get in and support them and we’ll see what happens once it stays in that way.”
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