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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bryan Brothers Speak Out Against NCAA Format Changes Affecting Doubles; Oklahoma Men, Duke Women Climb to No. 1 in Latest ITA Rankings

The Bryan twins won their second consecutive men's doubles title at the ATP Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells Saturday, their 95th ATP title as team.  In their news conference after the match, they were asked about the format experiments taking place in college tennis, experiments that have de-emphasized doubles or eliminated it altogether. (In the College Match Days being streamed on ESPN3, six of the 10 singles-first matches have been played, with none needing the doubles point to break a 3-3 tie).  Here is the pertinent part of the transcript from Indian Wells:

"Q.  You guys have worked really hard to promote doubles in the States.  So what are your feelings on the NCAA's attempts to try to make college tennis more TV friendly and trying to also minimize the doubles by doing so, especially with like the experimental formats they have been trying?

MIKE BRYAN:  Yeah, we are not fans of shortening the college matches.  You know, the doubles, I think they are only playing to 5.  It was experimental.  I don't think it took, which is good.  You know, TV does help the game.  It can make college tennis bigger.  But there's probably other ways you can go about it.  We would like to have doubles have bigger emphasis and matter more in college tennis.  So eight game pro set is what we played back in the day, and I think they should keep the format the way it is.

Q.  Have you had a chance to talk with the coaches about any of these changes that they have talked about with the doubles game on the college level?

BOB BRYAN:  I haven't talked to any coaches.  I talked to some of the players.  They don't really like that.  I mean, college coaches recruit based on singles and doubles performances in juniors, and, you know, I think doubles should, you know, really be a high priority for these kids and for these coaches.  And when you just kind of minimize these matches, it's not good for them, I don't think."

Whether their opinion matters to anyone at the NCAA or the ITA isn't known, but the 1998 NCAA doubles champions at Stanford certainly have the credentials to speak with authority about doubles at any level.

The latest team rankings were announced today by the ITA, with the Duke women returning to the No. 1 position, and the Oklahoma men ascending to the top for the first time in program history. Oklahoma, which was No. 2 last week, had been earning the program's highest-ever rankings all season, but that climb is over. They can only tie their best ranking from now on.  Baylor, on the strength of wins over Illinois and UCLA, moved from 12 to 5 and North Carolina has also moved into the Top 10 at 6, up from 11 last week. The Tar Heels and No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers meet this Friday in Chapel Hill. Georgia, with wins over Ohio State and Florida, moved from 16 to 10.

On the women's side, Georgia, who beat both Virginia and Florida last week, made a huge leap, going from 12 to 3. Duke replaced UCLA at the No. 1 spot.

Women's Top 10:

1. Duke
3. Georgia
4. Stanford
5. Florida
6. Virginia
7. Texas A&M
8. Alabama
9. Northwestern
10. North Carolina

The men's Top 10:

1. Oklahoma
2. Ohio State
4. Southern Cal
5. Baylor
6. North Carolina
7. Virginia
8. Texas
9. Illinois
10. Georgia

The complete rankings can be found at ITA rankings page. The individual rankings are skipped this week, and will return next Tuesday. Last week, new Division III rankings were released, with no change at No. 1.  The Washington University men and Johns Hopkins women remain at the top spots.