The 'Doubles Dossier' takes you inside the game to get to know the stars of the WTA's Doubles Circuit. Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski reached a career-high No.7 in doubles and has qualified for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen in the last three seasons. Dabrowski sat down with WTA Insider at the 2020 Qatar Total Open for a wide-ranging discussion of her tough path to the WTA Tour and her vision for the future of the doubles circuit. This is Part II of that interview.
For Part I, click here.
WTA Insider: You have spoken about the financial difficulties early in your career that led to you choosing to focus on doubles. If you were in the position when you were younger to pursue both singles and doubles, do you think you would have?
Dabrowski: I would do both for sure, because I did always enjoy doubles more than singles. But I feel I would have made a bigger push in singles for sure just so that you can breathe a little bit. You know you're not playing the next tournament feeling you have to do well in this tournament to make it to the next tournament.
That's a lot of pressure and hundreds of players feel that now when they're in that ranking group of 200 to 400. They're getting closer, they're making Slam qualies, but it's just not quite enough to breakthrough to Top 100, where you're making main draw of Slams. That's when you've got some security in your pocket.
WTA Insider: Can you expand on the financial challenges for doubles players?
Dabrowski: It's challenging because doubles players make, percentage-wise, somewhere between 17-21% of what a singles player makes. So to be financially stable, you have to win a lot. It's very tricky because if you have a couple of bad weeks, you're in the minus.
Obviously for me, the goal has always been to do as well as I can in every tournament that I play and I've been fortunate enough to have had a lot of good results. Now, where I am in my career, I am more financially stable and that's a great blessing.
It's definitely not easy. I'm on the Player Council and we're working really hard to try to push more doubles initiatives forward because I think there is a market for doubles and a really big fan base, but we haven't been able to get the exposure that's been necessary.
In tennis clubs, the majority of members play doubles. They have their leagues and they're very competitive. They can relate to doubles.
So we're working hard on trying to bridge that gap between fans and wanting to see more doubles. I get messages all the time, when are you playing? Where can I watch you? But if the match is not being produced, there's really no way for them to see it.
So we're working hard on trying to bring doubles to more people. I think it can be really fun and exciting and we can interact more one-on-one with fans. We can have maybe more clinics, more Q&A sessions. Literally anything. Any feedback we get from fans, we can try to implement it.
Then hopefully in a few years' time, if everything goes well, we can fight for more prize money because we feel that we've got more exposure. We've got more of a fan base, more popularity, and therefore we can ask for more.
But right now, as it stands, it's really tough because the tournaments are focusing on singles. So you have to kind of convince them that there is something in it for them. We just need to try a little bit right now and be a little pushy.
WTA Insider: Being a doubles player on the Player Council, what are the primary concerns that you hear from other doubles players and what do you think is the next step for WTA Doubles?
Dabrowski: I get a lot of feedback from the players. They would love to play on bigger courts at tournaments and figure out ways to fill the stands a little bit more. I think it is doable, especially in areas of the world where doubles is bigger, like China, Japan, areas of the US market and Canada. I feel it's really important to target those places. Here's who we are, this is what we're about, come to this event, you can meet us, talk to us. Here's a clinic that we're doing, come and play and we'll do a tutorial or a demo.
So basically, the next steps are just hoping that we can interact with fans more so they get to know us. Because I feel like once somebody knows your story and knows a little bit more of your character, they'll be more inclined to follow you. But we just haven't had any of that type of exposure. Sometimes people follow what you tell them to follow. So, if we can get them to know us and understand what they want to see from us at tournaments, then I think we're moving in a good direction.
It's just challenging right now to kind of get tournaments to bite because they've been used to doing things one way for so long. It's easy to focus on top players that are bringing in an audience. But at the same time, this is the reality of tennis. This is the sport. Tennis is everything, singles doubles, mixed doubles. Tennis goes from little kids all the way to 90-year-olds. So we need to include everybody in that package, I feel.
Of course, watching all the top players is so exciting. Now I feel the depth in women's tennis is incredible. Anybody's winning on any given day and girls that are in their late 20s are winning because now they've got more experience and fitness and technology have improved. I think it's really cool. But doubles to me is this other fun dynamic and I feel that there's definitely a big market that we haven't quite tapped into yet. There's room to grow and there's a lot of potential there. So I just kind of want to see where it can go.