Monday 12 November 2012
For a professional doubles player, 31 isn't old, it's middle-aged. Look at the doubles field at the season-ending championships in Greenwich, and you will see that many of them are closer to 40 than they are to 30. So Mark Petchey, Andy Murray's former coach, has suggested that Wimbledon doubles champion Jonny Marray, who turned 31 this year, could be playing world-class doubles for the best part of the next decade.
"Could Jonny be at the top for a while? Yes, why not? He could play for ages. He could comfortably play at the top for the best part of a decade," Petchey said of Marray, who has been competing alongside Denmark's Freddie Nielsen, his fellow Wimbledon champion, here in south-east London. When the tournament began, Marray was at a career high of 20 in the doubles rankings, and he and Nielsen were the first pair to qualify for the knock-out stages, so he is expected to be even higher on the next list.
"Once you're up there in the rankings, unless you have a particularly bad year - so not just a bad few months, but a bad year - you're not going to fall out of the top, as you're getting into tournaments which others don't," said Petchey. "Therefore if you have at least four or five pretty good tournaments a year, you're going to keep your ranking to a certain degree. You're not going to be in the top 10 but you're going to be up there playing the main tournaments."
Petchey was not at all surprised that Marray and Nielsen played so well in London, including beating last year's champions Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor in their second match. "Winning Wimbledon clearly wasn't a fluke," said Petchey. "You don't win Wimbledon, and beat the guys that they beat, and then suddenly turn into average doubles players a few months later. They're great doubles players. They've dug out some tight matches, but that's how the doubles has been during this tournament - tight. They're great players and certainly deserve their place in the semis."
As Nielsen still has ambitions in singles, and so can't commit to a full schedule of doubles events in 2013, Marray has been looking for a new regular partner for next year. "Freddie has his reasons why he wants to play singles and to be honest I understand that. As fun as it is to watch doubles, and I'm sure to play, not everyone is cut out to travel the world and only play on half a court," said Petchey.
"Some people actually enjoy playing on the full court. It's a different skill. If it's not a deep passion for Freddie to play doubles full-time then he's not the partner that Jonny needs anyway."
Petchey has always felt that Marray was talented. "I always thought that he was a better singles player than he made, to be honest. I felt that at times he didn't believe in himself on the singles court as much as other did. But, on the doubles court, he does, and he has developed that belief. I'm delighted for him. He has always been so quick behind the serve with his volleys. It's no surprise that he holds on to his serve so well."
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