Your dose of nothing but doubles.
ATP Game, Set, Match: Brisbane, Doha & Chennai
Brisbane: Jordan Thompson-Thanasi Kokkinakis
Doha: Jeremy Chardy-Fabrice Martin
Chennai: Rohan Bopanna-Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan
The opening week of the 2017 season brought forth some unexpected champions. In Brisbane, top seeds Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual champions Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis. The hard hitting Aussie duo would beat Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey in the final 7-6 (7), 6-4. Muller-Querrey took advantage of the bottom half of the draw when second seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers were booted in round one by Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem. It was a rough week for seeds in Brisbane with only fourth seeds Daniel Nestor and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin making it past the quarterfinals. They were thumped in the semis by Thompson and Kokkinakis. The win gave both of the Aussies their first ATP-level title. It doesn’t appear that their teaming up together will be a regular thing with Thompson playing doubles in Sydney this week with Matt Reid, while Kokkinakis skips doubles to focus on singles. In the usual ATP twist, Thompson and Kokkinakis drew each other in the first round in Sydney in singles.
In Doha, world #1 pairing Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares did not factor into the title mix at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Murray-Soares were beaten by eventual champions Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin in the semifinals 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6). Chardy and Martin beat three of the top four seed en route to the title as they knocked off 4th seeds Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea in the quarterfinals, Murray-Soares in the semis and then third seeds Vasek Pospisil and Radek Stepanek 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the final. The title was Martin’s third and Chardy’s fourth in doubles. Chardy and Martin are another non-regular pairing with Martin to resume his regular partnership with Olivier Marach this week in Sydney. Second seeds Alexander Peya and Mate Pavic were erased in the opening round in Doha by Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco as their new partnership got off to a rough start.
Finally in Chennai, it was another one-off pairing that captured the doubles titles. Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan took the crown in Chennai’s first-ever all-Indian doubles final. They beat Purav Raja and Divij Sharan 6-3, 6-4. Raja-Sharan had upset third seeds Leander Paes and Andre Sa earlier in the tournament and whipped second seeds Guillermo Duran and Andres Molteni in the semifinals. Bopanna-Nedunchezhiyan took advantage in the top half of the draw after top seeds Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky flopped in the first round. They would beat fourth seeds Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak via retirement in the semifinals. That was the only seeded team they had to face. The title was Bopanna’s first since 2015 after failing to win a title in 2016. That broke a string of six straight years where he had won at least one doubles title. The title was Nedunchezhiyan’s first at the ATP level.
WTA: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (BMS) New #1
The big news on the WTA Tour in the opening week was that Sania Mirza was usurped as the top doubles player in the world by her partner in Brisbane. The perils of success as Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands rushed to the title by crushing second seeds Elena Vesnina and Ekaternia Makarova 6-2, 6-3 in the championship match. That win pushed Mattek-Sands into the number one spot that Mirza had occupied for 91 straight weeks. BMS said that she didn’t really know she had passed Mirza until they announced it after the win, saying, “It took me by surprise. I mean, I’m the kind of person to lose track of score during matches! And so I think it just kind of hit me when I actually kind of got announced as being No.1.”
Mirza may not have to wait long to recapture the top spot with BMS only ahead by 130 points. Mirza will be back with her regular partner Barbora Strycova this week in Sydney, although she is defending champions’ points after winning the title alongside Martina Hingis last year. Hingis is partnered with Coco Vandeweghe this week in Sydney. They won their opener on Monday.
WTA Tournament Winners
Brisbane: Sania Mirza/Bethanie Mattek-Sands
*Mirza wins his 41st career doubles title. BMS takes her 23rd.
Auckland: Johanna Larsson-Kiki Bertens
*Team has won the title at the last three events they have played dating back to last season. Overall, it’s Larsson’s 9th doubles title and Bertens’ 6th.
Shenzhen: Andrea Hlavackova-Shuai Peng
*This was Hlavackova’s 20th career doubles title and Peng’s 21st.
Sydney Double Barreled Preview
Both the ATP and WTA stop in Sydney this week and it’s definitely the premiere doubles stop for both tours for the week. Plenty of the top teams on both tours are involved this week as we take a quick look at each draw.
ATP Apia International Sydney
Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers are already out of the tournament. In the lone doubles opener on Monday, they lost in straight sets to an intriguing pairing. Pablo Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini took them down 6-3, 7-6. They are in the bottom half of the draw where the only seeds are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau who lost their first match of 2017 last week. Olivier Marach and Fabrice Martin look the potential favorites in this half. The duo won two titles in 2016 and generally were pretty solid week-to-week. Alexander Peya and Mate Pavic are also in this half and could face PCB-Fognini in the quarterfinals. Don’t discount PCB and Fogs from being in the mix this week as the draw is pretty wide open in this half.
Up top, it’s the defending champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. They’ve got the tougher half with seeds Melo-Kubot along with a new team for 2017, Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas. Bopanna got off on the good foot with that Chennai title and they could face Murray-Soares in the quarters. Melo-Kubot are seeking their first win as a team in 2017 and they have a veteran duo to contest with in the first round, with regular partners Juan-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah awaiting them. Fortunately, the Colombians are more of a threat on clay, so Kubot-Melo should have the edge. Viktor Troicki and fellow-Serb Nenad Zimonjic are in the quarterfinals awaiting that winner after they beat Martin Klizan and Mariusz Fyrstenberg on Monday.
This tournament has been a good catapult for the champions heading into the Australian Open. Last year, Murray-Soares parlayed their win in Sydney into a Grand Slam title in Melbourne. 2014 Sydney champions Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic used the title to make a deep run to the semifinals in Melbourne. The Bryan Brothers won the Sydney titles in 2012 and 2013, making it to the final at the Australian Open both years with a title win coming in 2013. So this week could be very important to the champions.
Murray-Soares will be rightful favorites, but the top seeds have not won the doubles title in Sydney since 2013. That was also the last time there were back-to-back champions with the Bryans doing the deed. I do feel like Murray-Soares played well last week in Brisbane, they just ran into a red hot team. Although they have some bumps in the road in this draw, I think they will get it done and get back on track with a title. Do watch out for Marach-Martin and PCB-Fognini though.
WTA Apia International Sydney
3. The Chans
Just like the men, a seeded duo is already down in the draw. The Chan sisters were miserable again this week as they lost their opener in straight sets to Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. That opens up the bottom of the draw a bit for Martina Hingis and Coco Vandweghe. They won their first match with ease and look the class of this half. There are some quality teams with the Double Darias, Kasatkina and Gavrilova and Klepac and Martinez Sanchez shouldn’t be overlooked. Still, this is one where #CocoTina should find a way to the final where they might see the top seeds.
Might, because Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova have been handed an awfully difficult opener. They go against last week’s Shenzhen champs, Hlavackova-Peng. If they are able to get through, they should find an easier road after that with Madison Brengle and Arina Rodionova awaiting the winners in the quarterfinals. They slipped through their opener with a 10-8 super break win over Oksana Kalishnikova and Barbora Krejcikova. The semis would then put them in potential hot water again with either the 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslav Shvedova or Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke. It will be a well-earned trip to the finals if the top seeds make it through.
This mirrors the men’s tournament in Doha last week, where you could see it in the draw and feel it with everyone wanting to see #1 and #2, Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic. This week on the doubles scene, who doesn’t want to see Mirza-Strycova vs Hingis-Vandeweghe? It’s not a given with the tough early match for Mirza-Strycova who will be playing in their first match together since last season. Any rustiness could hand Hlavackova-Peng a route to competiting for another title this week. Hingis-Vandeweghe have it a bit easier, but need to prove they can win consistently.
The last two seasons have proven fruitful for the Sydney winners in Melbourne as well. Mirza-Hingis pulled the double last year and 2015 saw Mirza and Mattek-Sands win in Sydney and then BMS’ amazing upset run with Lucie Safarova to the Australian Open women’s doubles titles. So the winners here could fuel themselves for a run in Melbourne. If Mirza-Strycova get past their first test, I’d side with them to win here. Mirza has shown the ability to team with just about anyone and win.