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British doubles stars showcase Louis Cayer's teachings in WTT action
Neal and Ken Skupski as well as Johnny O'Mara and Luke Bambridge have all bought into Cayer's philosophy.
Published Jul 30, 2020
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.—Some doubles players this World Team Tennis season have a huge advantage in their corner and he's not even here with them. Coach Louis Cayer has been the secret behind British tennis' doubles success, and a few WTT players are reaping the rewards of his tutelage.
"There's nothing else to it, it's Louis Cayer," Luke Bambridge says. "Plain and simple. It's just him."
"The LTA have invested quite a lot in doubles with Cayer," Ken Skupski says. "That brings us all together and we all sort of play by the same playbook."
Great Britain has seven doubles players ranked inside of the ATP Top 60 and four of them— Skupski, his younger brother Neal, Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara—have been competing this month in West Virginia. France has five in the Top 60 and Germany and the United States follow behind with four each.
Fabrice Martin has been playing doubles and mixed doubles for Philadelphia. (Ryan Loco)
"I hear a lot of good things about Cayer," France's Fabrice Martin says. "And he's changed the way British play doubles. That's impressive for a small country and they don't have that many singles players but they have a lot of doubles guys, even at the Challenger and Futures levels."
Martin, the current world No. 24, is competing for the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms heading into this weekend's season playoffs. Ken Skupski's Orlando Storm is also into the playoffs as is Neal Skupski's New York Empire. The fourth team to qualify was Chicago Smash.
On Saturday, New York Empire will take on the Philadelphia Freedoms, while Chicago Smash faces Orlando Storm. As three of the five sets in each match, doubles has been crucial at WTT.
Cayer has worked mainly with Neal Skupski's ATP tour partner, Jamie Murray, but he holds training camps and assists the LTA with many players, as well as coaches at Davis Cup.
"At the end of the year usually in Boca Raton we have a training camp," Bambridge says. "Throughout the year at the Slams, he usually makes an appearance."
"His role in the LTA I think has changed over the years," Ken Skupski says. "When I first came out of college [in 2007] I knew all about him. I'd read his book about his philosophy on how doubles is played and it's a little bit more by the numbers. It was interesting to see."
Ken Skupski in action for the Orlando Storm. (Ryan Loco)
Cayer's book Doubles Tennis Tactics was published in 2004. The Montreal native would relocate to England just three years later. He spent 12 years coaching Canadian Davis Cup squads before joining the British federation, helping Great Britain win the Davis Cup in 2015. During his career, he has coached multiple No. 1-ranked doubles specialists and over 20 of his pupils have been inside the Top 50.
"My philosophy of doubles is that it is less about winning points than making your opponents miss,” Cayer told UTR. “Not so much hitting aces and winning returns, or being ‘amazing.’ You want to make the opponents play badly."
They call Cayer the “Archimedes of the alleys” for good reason. His coaching style is all about court positioning and angles not complicated plays and big shots. The 66-year-old became famous for his use of ropes to visually show players what he was trying to teach about the court.
"He'd studied the games in terms of angles," Ken Skupski says. "And it's not until you put ropes down on the court that you actually realize areas of the court that you don't need to cover. You think you have to cover everything, but you don't. That was something that was very mind blowing when you actually get out there and you do it."
It's not just Brits that are benefitting from Cayer's wisdom. When Brazil's Bruno Soares was Murray's partner, he reaped the rewards, and American Rajeev Ram is picking up a lot of intel as Joe Salisbury's partner. The duo won the Australian Open in January.
Neal Skupski, the younger brother of Ken, has teamed with Jamie Murray on the ATP tour. (Ryan Loco)
"They have a coach that specialized in developing their own doubles players, which I've gotten to be a part of because my partner is British," Ram says. "Cayer is the ringleader of the whole group. Honestly, nothing against the guys, I don't think any of them necessarily would have—or a lot of them—would have had careers in singles to the extent that they have in doubles.
"Then they've become professional tennis players and had great careers because of the system that they're in."
Overall, the doubles mindset is very different in the U.K.
"In France, doubles is not seen as a good thing," Martin says. "In Futures and Challengers, I would always try to win the tournament in singles and doubles. I never got why they would play singles and go home, or play doubles one round and tank. That's the French mentally and still is now."
While Murray wants to see Cayer credited and utilized even more by the LTA, other countries can look at Great Britain as a model of what should be done to build and promote doubles.
"I think their federation does a good job of prioritizing it in a certain way," Ram says. "And actually trying to make guys have careers in doubles. I don't think any other federation, at least not to my knowledge, really puts that much into it."
'They just see it as a different sport," Martin says. "We don't have that mentality which is just the way it is. Even at the French tournaments you feel that it's all about the singles; doubles put them on court 25."
The investment is paying off for Great Britain and for WTT. Cayer's teachings could be on full display this weekend if the Skupski brothers face off in the final.
"We all bought into it," Ken Skupski says. "Once you buy into something and you buy into a philosophy and you all stick to it you've got a better chance of doing well."
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