Night and day. That’s how British six-time Grand Slam doubles tennis champion Jamie Murray describes the last decade-plus of change in doubles tennis. And with recent buzz surrounding doubles — from singles stars pairing up to enticing mixed doubles teams in major events — Murray loves the attention his sport garners and he doesn’t expect it to slow down anytime soon. 

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“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations,” Murray says. “Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles.”

Murray has done just that. He won his first Grand Slam, the Wimbledon mixed doubles championship, with Jelena Jankovic in 2007 and has followed that up with two Grand Slam men’s doubles titles in 2016 with Brazilian Bruno Soares and three additional mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, including the last two at the US Open. Having won in 2017 with the now-retired Martina Hingis, he teamed with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win it in 2018. The pair is back to defend the title this month in New York City. 

As more eyes turn to doubles, Murray is taking advantage of that interest, signing new sponsorship deals and beginning a YouTube channel with on-court doubles tips and behind-the-scenes documentary-style footage. 

The rise in doubles, Murray says, started years ago when doubles first started gaining television coverage. “It was a huge step because a lot more people had access to it,” he says. “That helped get it out there to more people.” And to more countries. Once that awareness improved internationally, the tours started to do a better job showcasing doubles during tournaments. Murray remembers a time he’d play a Grand Slam semifinal on an outer court at the same time as the sport’s biggest singles stars were playing. “We had no chance,” he says, “give us a break. To go on at the same time is silly.” 

With awareness and scheduling dialed in, the sport’s money increased. “The money in the game has grown so much that the whole pie has gotten bigger, so there is more money in the doubles game,” Murray says. With the allure of money comes top-tier singles players entering events. 

While Murray doesn’t agree with singles players being able to enter doubles tournaments solely on singles rankings without taking into account past doubles performances and, subsequently, bumping doubles players from the field, he does think that having more singles players in the doubles events provides an overall positive for the game. “It is great for the doubles event and there is absolutely more buzz around the event with more people coming out to watch the matches,” he says. “All the doubles guys enjoy that.” 

With recognizable names in the doubles draws, from ATP Tour events to Grand Slams, tournaments have started to shift doubles matches to primetime on stadium courts. 

Add in that tour doubles offers a shortened format — the best-of-three match uses a super tiebreak format of the first team to 10 points in lieu of a full third set — makes it easier for players to enter singles and doubles while reducing the wear and tear on their bodies. “I think in general tennis players are playing longer because people know how to look after themselves better and the motivation is there because the money is so great,” he says. With Grand Slam events shelling out $40,000 for a first-round appearance, Murray points out that athletes can make over to $150,000 before even hitting a ball. 

For those who put their entire focus on doubles, such as Murray, 33, there’s another unique aspect, besides the style of play: the dynamics of a partner. Murray won two Grand Slams with Soares, but he split up with the Brazilian after the 2019 Australian Open and is playing the 2019 season, including the upcoming US Open, with fellow Brit Neal Skupski. Mixing partners keeps the game interesting, Murray says, staving off boredom. Also, the higher the ranked player, the easier it is to commit to a full season with someone because they can guarantee they will get into tournaments together. 

Murray says that as players drop down the doubles rankings to those ranked 30 to 50, they need to move up in the rankings to guarantee placement into Masters-level tournaments and the guys ranked 50 to 75 are just hoping to get into 500-level events. “You might need to chop and change (partners) to get into those tournaments,” he says about ever-evolving doubles relationships. So, in the doubles realm, you’ll often see players sign up for short blocks of time with a partner to see how it goes because it can be difficult to commit with someone at a ranking that doesn’t allow for future success. 

For Murray, who also partnered with younger brother Andy this summer at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., he’s spent the 2019 season following the Australian Open with Skupski. The pair, though, has lost in the first round of both the French Open at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon. They are committed to play together through the end of the season. 

Jamie Murray says mixed doubles, generally only found in Grand Slams, provides an opportunity to win a Grand Slam, “which is cool.” He’s done so four times in mixed doubles. 

“I play because I enjoy it,” he says about the format. “It is less stressful than, say, the men’s doubles, with everyone a bit more relaxed. You see players laughing and smiling and stuff and a lot of people enjoy that aspect of it. If you come to watch tennis it is all serious business, except if watching (Nick) Kyrgios, and I think the fans enjoy that aspect of (mixed doubles).”

Add in the fact that it is rare in sports to see men and women playing on equal footing and mixed doubles showcases something entirely singular. 

Murray has also started to showcase his life both on and off the court, with his YouTube channel. He hopes fans can catch a glimpse of what life is like on the tour, help them see what goes into preparation and the emotions of the sport, the winning, the preparation, the recovery, the fall out of a loss. 

He cites an example of losing in Washington, D.C., with Andy and then, while in an ice bath recovering from the match, being on the phone looking for flights to Montreal for the Rogers Cup, emailing the tournament to organize transportation from the airport and reorganizing his hotel booking, all “while dealing with the frustration of losing.” 

The instructional videos — he posts new ones each Monday — offer an opportunity to highlight the different skill sets needed for doubles. “There is not much out there that showcases the performance at the level we need to,” he says. “The cool thing about it is that everyone can improve their doubles not necessarily by hitting the ball better, but improving positioning on the court, movement on the court and being in the right spot at the right times. People can do that at their own pace and time.” Murray says he enjoys creating the free tips on the road during down time and has received great feedback. 

As Jamie’s star continues to rise and his presence becomes more commonplace in tennis, even as a doubles specialist, he has started to understand the business side of sponsorships and how they have changed in tennis. “Before, it was all about getting a patch on your sleeves,” he says. “Now social media is huge, and sponsors are more interested in that side of things.” While he sees younger players struggling to find the clothing sponsors they want, he knows sponsorship is important to supplement tennis income — which fluctuates based on success — with the guaranteed income of a sponsorship deal. 

“I don’t think it is as easy to find sponsors,” he says, but his experience in the game helps him settle on the best offers for him. For Murray, he knows he needs to play to his personal brand, a UK-based fanbase. “It is not like I’m going to get a Japanese company wanting to sponsor me,” he says. “I need somebody active in the UK and with contacts in that market to get me the best chance to bring on more partners.”

Murray’s largest sponsors are currently the European-based car manufacturer Peugeot, a large supporter of tennis; racket brand Dunlop, a major player in tennis gear; and clothing maker PlayBrave, an independent British brand. 

“We believe that Jamie truly embodies the fighting spirt and ethos of the brand,” says John Prenn, PlayBrave chairman. “Winning his first Grand Slam at the age of 21, he has continued to push himself and persevere, overcoming obstacles to perform at his personal best. Jamie has really helped to raise awareness of the doubles game and continues to inspire at all levels — whether it be through his continued work with children and charities or sharing his expertise on his new launched YouTube channel. He provides a powerful British voice and one we are honored to be a part of.” 

The British voice of Jamie Murray knows all things doubles tennis. 

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