I started playing tennis as a freshman in high school, immediately rising to the varsity level to take a position on the No. 3 doubles team. That might sound like a brag. I assure you, if you saw me playing as a freshman, you would understand that it is because I filled out the roster, not because I was any good at tennis.
Still, I enjoyed playing on the team and rose through the ranks, jumping over to singles for a while before returning to the two-man game to play No. 1 doubles with my best friend as my high school career came to a close.
Suffice it to say, while my knowledge of the sport isn’t encyclopedic, I do know a thing or two about the best country club sport (take that, croquet). Having played both singles and doubles, I understand some of the nuances of each. In singles, I understand the strategies of playing as a wall, rushing the net, switching the flow of the game, of forcing an opponent to move, even where to place a serve to try to set up a shot three strokes later.
Doubles was my first love, though. The two-man game employs the same strategies and then some when you throw two more people on the court. Now a serve designed to exploit an opponent’s weak backhand can be timed with your partner to set them up to hit an impossible-to-return volley – or hit them in the back of the head when you mess up (sorry, Jake).
The movement of two people, of choosing to keep both back, the importance of tenacious net play, the ability to predict what your opponents will do and react to them in a split second, the sheer chaos of it all, makes doubles, in my opinion, far more difficult than singles.
“I really like hitting it exactly the same place it came from and I can’t do that because there’s a net person there, so that makes me sad,” Broncs top singles player Cody Champlin said while playing doubles during the spring season. See? You don’t need to take it from me.
So imagine my surprise when I came to Cody and got to cover tennis, only to find that when state rolled around, the style I cut my teeth on was treated as second-class. How, you might ask? Simple. Doubles matches are not worth as many points in the team standings as singles matches. There are twice as many players. How on earth are doubles matches worth fewer points? The WHSAA rules require the best player play No. 1 singles, regardless of if they want to or not. Changing the point values helps incentivize that. It’s been that way since the 1980s.
Tradition isn’t a good reason to keep an unfair system and the current system is unfair to doubles players. As it is, a victory at No. 1 doubles is only worth as much as a victory in No. 2 singles.
Case in point: in 2019, the Fillies swept the state tournament in doubles. They took third place as a team. Cody outright won a majority of the individual championships and still took third as a team. Would making the point values equivalent (No. 1 singles worth the same as No.1 doubles and so on) have made a difference? Well, the Fillies were out of first by three points in 2019. Making the value equal would have given them six additional points. You do the math.