For some reason doubles doesn’t get either the exposure or the credit it deserves, and that’s a real shame, because many tennis fans seem to be missing out on one of the most exciting parts of a professional tennis tournament. In Acapulco, two of the top four or five doubles teams were entered, and the level of tennis that they played was absolutely top-notch.
Top seeded and top ranked reigning 2019 Wimbledon and U.S. Open champions, Panamanians Juan Sebastian Cabal (born in Colombia) and Robert Farah (a Canadian by birth) ran through their draw and ended up in the finals playing second seeded Lukasz Kubot (a Pole) and Brazillian Marcelo Melo. All four of these players had, individually, been ranked as the #1 doubles player in the world at one point or another in their careers, and they each take doubles to the heights of excellence in which your ordinary fan would appreciate the stroke production, the strategy, the movement, and the excitement produced. I think the fans also get a kick out of watching the players communicate among themselves, and show more emotions, because with four players on the court, the game gets a tad more social. The display of truly world-class doubles that they exhibited in the finals, which took place just prior to Saturday night’s singles finals, was worth the price of admission alone, without question.
To get to the finals Farah/Cabal ran through Luke Bambridge/Ben McLachlan in the first round 0 and 5, which sounds somewhat non-competitive, but is inaccurate. Bambridge/McLachlan are a terrific team, and their whitewashing in the first set was more a testament to the level of play the Panamanians produced then any weaknesses the losers showed. Remember that every game in the doubles tournament is played with no-ad scoring. In no-ad scoring, when the teams find themselves locked in a game at deuce, the receiving team picks one of their two players to receive serve to determine who wins the point, which is simultaneous game point. The winner of that single point notches the game. Because of this scoring, it’s very possible for a match to be ultra-competitive, yet see the scoreboard read something quite different. It can be maddening to get used to.
The top seeds then eked out a quarterfinal appearance against Belgians Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen, where they needed a Match Tiebreaker to eventually subdue a very game team 6-7, 6-4, 10-8. Gille/Vliegen came within a couple of points of knocking off the #1 ranked team in the world in that one. From there, Cabal/Farah overcame the French team of Adrian Mannarino/Fabrice Martin in straight sets in one of their more efficient displays here.
The eventual champions, Kubot/Melo, knocked off the Spanish team of Lopez/Lopez, got a break when Grigor Dimitrov/Taylor Fritz pulled out of the doubles draw to give each the opportunity to play their respective singles matches at full strength, and then subdued Nikola Cacic/Dusan Lajovic 10-6 in a Match Tiebreaker, to move into a clash with the top seeds on Saturday night. It’s a shame to simply dismiss Cacic/Lajovic with a wave of the hand, because they came within inches (literally) of knocking Kubot/Melo out, but the ATP has chosen to treat doubles almost as an afterthought, and it forces both the media and fans to respond in kind.
In the finals, there was nothing between the two teams, although in the first set they did trade service breaks. They remained very even, and proceeded into a Match Tiebreaker for the title after splitting two tiebreaker sets. In the first, Kubot/Melo won the breaker 8-6, and in the second Cabal/Farah evened the match up with a 7-4 tiebreaker win that came about when, with the score tied 4-all, Cabal/Farah ran off three points in a row. The Champions Tiebreaker, in this case very aptly named, went to the second seeds 11-9, after the tiebreaker score was tied at 9-all. At that point, both teams were two points away from winning the title. The closeness that the scoreboard showed indicated just how tight this match was, and in this case was entirely accurate. With that competitiveness came a boatload of excitement, which this match never lacked for, and the knowledgeable fans showed their appreciation for both teams, as the winners raised their peach trophies and donned their Champions’ Sombreros.
The spoils? Kubot/Melo picked up 500 doubles ranking points, their terrific trophies, the Champions Sombreros (which are pretty nifty) and split the champions’ check of $119,750. Cabal/Farah earned 300 ranking points and get to split the runners-up prize money of $58,620.