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World doubles set for revival
- Houston to hold meet alongside year-ending singles Masters Cup in November
Bhupathi says it's great to have the championship back on calendar.

Calcutta, Aug. 9: John McEnroe may be of the opinion that doubles is a dying art, but the ATP refuses to throw in the towel.

After injecting generous doses of innovation at the start of the season to make the event more spectator-friendly, Mark Miles & Co. are set to take another step in the right direction by reviving the season-ending world championship.

Having been forced to drop last year’s meet, the ATP will this time run the doubles concurrently with the year-ending singles event in Houston from November 8-16. In fact, they have struck a two-year deal whereby Houston will organise both singles and doubles in November 2004 as well.

It will have a new name, though — the Masters Cup Doubles championship, to go with the Masters Cup Singles. The format will remain unchanged, with the top eight teams in the year-end ATP Doubles Race — to be identified after the completion of the Paris Masters Series meet on November 7 — qualifying for the prestigious Masters Cup Doubles.

Bangalore hosted the last two World Doubles Championships — as it was then called — in December 2000 and January 2002. The 2001 event, due in November but postponed in the aftermath of the September 11 World Trade Centre tragedy, was actually rescheduled two months later.

Last year, the ATP was banking on India continuing its love affair with men’s doubles. Potential sponsors had other ideas, earmarking all sports funds for the cricket World Cup. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi’s split added fuel to the ‘fire’.

The ATP had no option but to cancel the 2002 championship, as was reported by The Telegraph on October 28. There was some talk of the doubles event being clubbed with last November’s Shanghai Masters Cup Singles, but local organisers were against that concept.

From an Indian point of view, the Houston leg will mark the first time Paes and Bhupathi won’t be playing together at the world championship. The Indians have never won this season-ending event in five appearances, despite featuring in the title-round thrice.

“It’s great to have the world championship back on the calendar,” Bhupathi said from Montreal. “Like all other top teams, Max and I are looking forward to Houston… we want to sign off on a high and finish the year as the No. 1 team.”

As of now, both Team Bhupathi and Team Paes are certainties to qualify for Houston. Bhupathi and Mirnyi are No. 3 on the ATP Doubles Race with 498 points. Paes and David Rikl have a point less and occupy the fourth position.

THE CURRENT TOP 8 — 1. Bob & Mike Bryan (655 points); 2. Mark Knowles & Daniel Nestor (640); 3. Mahesh Bhupathi & Max Mirnyi (498); 4. Leander Paes & David Rikl (497); 5. Martin Damm & Cyril Suk (460); 6. Jonas Bjorkman & Todd Woodbridge (405); 7. Michael Llodra & Fabrice Santoro (401); 8. Wayne Arthurs & Paul Hanley (308).

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