Paul McNamee's eyes brightened when someone mentioned August's U.S. Open. McNamee has never won the event and would be the first to tell you that he probably never will--in singles, that is.
McNamee, 27, is a doubles player extraordinary. He and Peter McNamara (the "Super Macs") are ranked No. 2 in the world, although they defeated the No. 1 team, John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, at Wimbledon this month to win their second title there.
A victory at Flushing Meadow would make them No. 1.
This week, McNamee is in Washington and McNamara isn't, so the former has teamed with best friend Chris Lewis of New Zealand and they have done quite well for themselves--a center court semifinal today in the D.C. National Bank Tennis Classic, to be exact. Surprising?
"Not really," said Lewis, "I've got such a good partner."
Never so good as yesterday. With McNamee and Lewis leading, 4-3, in the third and deciding set against South Africans Freddie Sauer and Skalke Van Der Merwe, the best doubles player on the court took over.
Stationed at the net, McNamee poached on his partner three times, producing three winners. A strong service game for McNamee two games later and the match was history, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. It is history that has repeated itself again and again for McNamee.
"I felt that it was time to exert my will in the match," he said. "It was a critical time."
McNamee calls doubles a "totally different game from singles," explaining how players like Fleming, Sherwood Stewart and Frew McMillan can win the major doubles titles while not faring well alone.
"In doubles, you can use all your strengths and eliminate all your weaknesses," said McNamee. "You can't do that in singles."
Of the top 10 players in the latest ATP computer rankings, only McEnroe and the Mayer brothers, Gene and Sandy, compete on a regular basis in doubles. But McNamee believes that this is not just because the top players find doubles a nuisance, but also because not all top singles players make top doubles players.
"Someone who may rely on good ground strokes to win may not necessarily be able to do well in doubles where volleying is so important," McNamee said.
McNamee and McNamara got together four years ago and have since won, besides Wimbledon, the Australian Open, a WCT event and numerous Davis Cup matches for Australia.
In singles, McNamee was seeded 12th in the tournament this week, but was upset by Jaime Fillol, a renowned clay-court specialist. That did not discourage McNamee
"I've always taken doubles seriously, and am very thankful for getting a name in the world from playing it," he said. "It's a great game and I love it, but I love tennis."
He will love tennis even more if he can do well in the U.S. Open, and follow that up with a Davis Cup victory in Australia against the U.S.--specifically McEnroe and Fleming--in October.
"It will be nice to get them on our turf," said McNamee.