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"He was the last of a breed" - Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink on why he feels Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula cannot emulate John McEnroe's success in both singles and doubles

From L - John McEnroe, Jessica Pegula, and Coco Gauff.
From L - John McEnroe, Jessica Pegula, and Coco Gauff.

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula have had the most hectic and intense campaigns by far on the WTA tour this season, doing double duty in singles and doubles throughout the year. But while Gauff and Pegula have been highly successful in both formats, racking up many more wins than losses, tennis journalist and Hall of Famer Steve Flink believes their schedule is not sustainable in the long run.

Pegula played a whopping 111 matches in the season (63 in singles, 44 in doubles, and four in mixed doubles). Meanwhile, Coco Gauff has played as many as 104 matches this year (60 in singles, 40 in women's doubles, and 4 in mixed doubles) - and that was before her participation in the ongoing Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

While many players in the past have managed to have long careers while extensively competing in both singles and doubles events, Flink believes John McEnroe was the "last of the breed." Speaking during a recent episode of the Court-Side with Beilinson Tennis podcast, Flink opined that the likes of Gauff and Pegula will need to be mindful of injuries as they try to emulate the McEnroe era.

"That worked out for him (John McEnroe) and he managed to pull it off. He was the last of a breed there," Steve Flink said. "He was preceded by people like John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Stan Smith, and Bob Lutz, who all were great doubles players as well as standouts in singles. Those days are over."

The American journalist went on to claim that players of the current era cannot regularly keep playing singles and doubles throughout a season, highlighting a susceptibility to injuries and wear and tear as his reasons. Flink feels that while Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are young, they will need to reconsider their schedules going forward and prioritize singles over doubles.

"If you play that much singles and doubles, can you really keep up that pace? Are you not going to make yourself vulnerable to injuries in the years ahead? That's something that players that are that good in singles and doubles, as Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff are, have to think about and the priority has to be singles," Flink said.
"It may mean cutting back on some of the doubles and maybe slightly reshaping their singles schedules. You can't go on and play that many matches year in and year out without having something go wrong with your body," he continued.

Steve Flink on why John McEnroe stands out as a singles and doubles player compared to Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and others

Coco Gauff (L) and Jessica Pegula at 2022 WTA Finals - Day 5.
Coco Gauff (L) and Jessica Pegula at 2022 WTA Finals - Day 5.

Steve Flink further shed light on John McEnroe's playing days, claiming that it was the American legend's style of play that allowed him to have long singles and doubles careers. McEnroe ended up winning 17 Grand Slam titles - seven in singles, nine in men's doubles, and one in mixed doubles.

McEnroe often chose not to practice for singles tournaments because doubles acted as a sort of practice for him, given his similar playing style in both. That is why he could afford to play both formats back in the day, according to Flink.

"Looking back, it's remarkable. He wasn't getting hurt very much either. John, maybe because of his style of play and attacking as much as he did, short points in singles. He loved doubles and therefore didn't practice as much as the other guys might have for singles because the doubles was giving him that practice," Flink expressed.

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are currently ranked inside the top 10 in the WTA Rankings for both singles and doubles. Gauff is No. 4 in singles and No. 7 in doubles, while Pegula is No. 3 in singles and No. 6 in doubles.

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Edited by Anirudh
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