Both entering their thirties, Abigail Spears (left) and Raquel Kops-Jones are extending their tennis careers through great doubles play.
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American James Cerretani (right) has had to scramble to find partners in 2012, teaming with 13 different players and counting.
© Leon Neal/Getty Images
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
WIMBLEDON, England -- Career highs come at different ages and different points for various players. Not every one can win multiple Grand Slams or reach the No. 1 ranking. In fact, most players don't even reach the top 20 in either singles or doubles.
That's why it's important to realize that when players actually reach their potential, like Americans James Cerretani and the team of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears have at 2012 Wimbledon, it's more notable.
Spears, a native of San Diego, California, tuned 30 last July and Kops-Jones, a native of Fresno, will do so at the end of the year. A few weeks ago at Roland Garros they were seeded at a major for the first time. At Wimbledon, they came in seeded No. 10 and now have reached the quarterfinals.
"When we decided to play doubles only one of our goals was to be in the second week of the Grand Slams and the other was to win Grand Slams," Kops-Jones said.
Both women like to serve and volley, so attacking on grass is pleasurable, even though both say that the surface has slowed down since they first started laying on it.
Kops-Jones and Spears have won two titles as a tandem. This season, they have reached the final of Brisbane, the semis of Sydney, and the final of Doha. The duo hit the skids a stretch starting at Indian Wells through the clay court season, but three weeks ago they reached the semis of Birmingham before they went down to No. 1 ranked team of Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber.
Both women have played singles and had it not have had brief pause in their double partnerships to try and become relevant singles players again, they might not have taken a pause in a relationship that began to flourish in 2008 when the reached he quarterfinals of the US Open.
Neither are sure how long they want to continue to play, even though they don’t have firm post-retirement plans. With a giggle, Spears mentions wanting to get married. She then talks about coaching, while Kops-Jones says she might want to become a physical therapist.
"When you are still playing its hard to put focus on another career," Spears said. "Tennis will always be there, and whether or we stay in it we don’t know, but the good thing about tennis is we know we always have it as our backup plan."
The two have had to be patient amidst the frequent Wimbledon rains. Already in the quarterfinals, they were waiting for two matches to be completed before they knew who their opponents would be: Both of those teams have U.S. elements: the super-accomplished Williams sisters, or Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her partner from India, Sania Mirza.
"We are taking in day by day and that's all you can do," Spears said. "We've bumped a couple top seeds in our career so we believe we can do it, it's whether or not we execute, plus there are always a thousand of other variables."
While most singles players can plan ahead, doubles players can't always do that - especially is they don’t have regular partner. Cerretani, a lefthander who graduated from Brown University in 2004 and is a recently elected member of the ATP Players Council, has had 13 different partners this year already.
Just two weeks before Wimbledon at the Queens, Cerretani didn’t have a committed partner, so he approached France's talented Edouard Roger-Vasselin and the two decided that if it didn’t work out with two other potential partners, they would get together.
All of a sudden, they find themselves in the Wimbledon quarters with a chance to go further as they will face another unseeded team in Frederik Neilsen and Jonathan Marray.
"Eddie likes grass, it’s my favorite surface and we have a good balance of skill," Cerretani, said. "We are both positive guys and he's one of the singles players who likes to play dubs and give everything he's got. My responsibility is to keep him motivated and put some doubles drills into our practices."
Cerretani has learned to become a point-by-point, match-by-match guy, but that does not mean he does have high hopes. He may not be involved in the more glamorous singles side of the sport, but if he reaches the semis, the payout will equal what he's earned all year. And that counts for something.
"I don't have expectations, but don't put limits on myself either," he said.