Men’s Doubles Draw
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares are the defending champions of this event. The year-ending #1 team is seeded second for this year’s Australian Open. Murray-Soares have gotten off to a decent start in 2017, but have yet to bring home any hardware in this first two tournaments. They will seek to be the first team since the Bryan Brothers in 2010 and 2011 to successfully defend the doubles titles. Murray-Soares will have the go against recent history as the top seeds with the Bryans as the only #1 seeds to win the Australian Open doubles titles since 2010. They did it three times in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Since 2013, Murray-Soares’ win last year as the 7th seeds was the highest seeded team to have won the titles.
Unseeded teams have a very good track record at sneaking into the championship mix in Melbourne. Over the last five years, an unseeded team has been in the final every year and have claimed half the semifinal slots in three of the last five years. Twice, an unseeded team has won the titles. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli did it in 2015 and Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek did it in 2012. So here is a breakdown of the two halves of the draw with a focus on those dangerous floaters as non-seeds who could make a big splash.
Quarter #1 Seeds
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are both solely focused on doubles after both were ousted in the first round in singles. They’ll hope that will help ignite a turn around as they come to Melbourne with a 1-1 mark after being upset by Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis in Brisbane in the quarterfinals. Herbert-Mahut were runners-up in 2015 at the AO, but crashed out early last year in round two by an unseeded team. The second round may be a trouble spot for them again with Polish duo Marcin Matkowski and Jerzy Janowicz possible or the veteran duo of Fabio Fognini and Fernando Verdasco. Although neither team is a regular pairing, the Poles both have big serves that could keep a match tight and Fognini-Verdasco boh have a wealth of experience in doubles.
Elsewhere in the top portion of this half, Daniel Nestor and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin are the highest seeds opposite of Herbert-Mahut. Seeded 8th, Nestor-ERV did make the semifinals in Brisbane, also losing to Thompson-Kokkinakis, in their lone tune-up match. They face capable Argentines Andres Molteni and Diego Schwartzman in round one. Nestor in particular has a good track record in Melbourne though with multiple partners as he has made the semifinals or better in four of the last six years. Last year, Nestor lost in the title match to Murray-Soares with Stepanek as his partner.
Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea, along with Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau are the other seeded teams in the top portion of this draw. Both have not gotten out of the gates strong this year. Rojer-Tecau were bumped out in the quarterfinals by non-seeds Lucas Pouille and Adrian Mannarino last year when they entered this tournament as the top seeds. Inglot-Mergea did make the quarters in 2015, the last time they entered this event paired up together.
Quarter #2 Seeds
In this quarter, Henri Kontinen and John Peers are the highest seeds at number four with Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram behind them at number six. Kontinen-Peers lost their lone match in Brisbane and lost here in round two last year. They face a possible pitfall in their opener against David Marrero and Santiago Gonzalez. Marrero and Gonzalez teamed up last week in Auckland and played fairly well. They lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. Klaasen-Ram were quarter finalists a year ago, losing to the eventual champs. There is a chance they could see the team that beat them in Brisbane to start the year, if both make the third round. That would be Sam Groth and Chris Guccione.
The teams of Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi, and Jean-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah are also in this half as seeds. Cabal-Farah had a nice showing in Sydney with a semifinal run that was ended by Murray-Soares. The Colombians made the round of 16 last year and this draw could see them with a chance to make another solid run. Huey-Mirnyi had just one match of prep, a loss to Leander Paes and Andre Sa in Auckland. They will hope to reprise their success from last year in Melbourne, when they made the quarters in just their second tournament together. That could be considerably harder with Paes-Sa to open and perhaps Groth-Guccione in round two if they make it that far.
Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop may be the most dangerous unseeded team in this year’s draw. The Dutchmen head to Melbourne with the Sydney titles in tow after beating Murray-Soares in the championship match. They may both be short on winning at this event, but a hot team can do major damage like Murray and Soares did last year. The draw looks kind with Rojer-Tecau as the first seeds they would see. They already beat them in Sydney. They might have Nestor and Roger-Vasselin to contend with and Herbert-Mahut are in their quarter, but they are the hot team right now on the ATP tour.
Of the other floaters here, the most dangerous duo could be home-standing Aussies Sam Groth and Chris Guccione. The pair beat Klaasen-Ram in Sydney and have won two titles together. They’re drawn to possibly face Huey-Mirnyi in round two or Paes-Sa, but if they start hot, they could see Klaasen-Ram in the third round that might be advantageous for the unseeded pair. Also, keep an eye on the French duo if Benneteau and Chardy. They don’t pair regularly, but both are solid doubles players. Chardy already has a title this year with Fabrice Martin. They will be a tough out.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
This half of the draw looks as it it could produce at least one unseeded team as a semifinalist. Koolhof-Middelkoop are the hot team, but might run into the veteran duo of Nestor-ERV along the way. I think one of those two teams takes a spot rather than the top seeds. In the other quarter, Kontinen-Peers and Klaasen-Ram certainly have the chops to be in position to run deep in Melbourne. The unseeded pairings in that half have a few more question marks, so I tend to side with a seed taking the other spot. If Kontinen-Peers get past a tough round one match, they could be that team.
Quarter #3 Seeds
3. Bryan Brothers
The Bryans are six time champs here, but have not been past round three in the past three seasons. The American twins did not play a prep tournament this year, so they will have to hit the ground running in Melbourne. They open against Benoit Paire and Paul-Henri Mathieu, which should afford them a good start. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are the highest seed opposite of the Bryans. They are 0-2 this year, but the losses have come to good teams. They face an experienced veteran duo in Andreas Siljestrom and Johan Brunstrom. There’s some upset potential there if they aren’t careful. Round two also poses a possible threat with Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak possibly waiting. Monroe-Sitak made back-to-back semifinals in Chennai and Auckland to start the year.
Of the other seeds in this quarter, Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers are ones to watch. Both have experience here with deep runs with Granollers making the semifinals most recently in 2016 with Pablo Cuevas. They have an easier early draw than Kubot-Melo, which could leave them to contend with the Bryans for a semifinal slot. In the Bryans half, they look to be the best bet. Mate Pavic and Alexander Peya had a nice run in Sydney to the semifinals, but could be in for a hard time against vets Jurgen Melzer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The only problem for the non-seeds there is that both have susceptible serves, which should give Pavic-Peya the better chance to win. I like the seeds to be in control of this quarter, unless Kubot-Melo get booted early.
Quarter #4 Seeds
5. Marc and Feliciano Lopez
The defending champs will be happy enough with their early draw. An opening match with Sam Querrey and Donald Young should see them through to round two. They will need to be on alert in round two potentially against Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky. The Auckland finalists are a solid duo, but still regularly a notch below the second seeds. Murray-Soares could be on a collision course with Bopanna-Cuevas for a quarterfinal showdown. The 15th seeds haven’t had a ton of time together early this season, but their draw gives them a good shot if they find some rhythm with each other.
The other half of this quarter looks much more competitive for the seeds. Team Lopez, last year’s French Open champions, start with Alexandr Dolgopolov and Gerald Melzer. That should be a win, but their second rounder will be much tougher. They’ll take on the winner between Jonathan Eysseric-Fabrcie Martin and Purav Raja-Divij Sharan. Raja-Sharan made the Chennai final and are a solid duo. Martin has proven to be a good doubles partner, winning a title with Chardy earlier this year. If he finds good chemsity with Eysseric they could be dangerous as well.
Vasek Pospisil and Radek Stepanek are a team I have talked up and I believe they have the ability to make a nice run here. Their second round match could be troublesome though if Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez are waiting. PCB proved to be a really good doubles player last year and this duo made the U.S. Open final. If there is an unseeded team poised for a run, they could be it.
As mentioned above, PCB and GGL are a team to monitor. The Spaniards surprised with their U.S. Open finals run last year, beating several quality teams along the way. They face Aussies Alex De Minaur and Max Purcell to start. The two young Aussies will need a once-in-a-lifetime match I think to win, but stranger things have happened. If the Spanards open with a win, then watch out. They would face Pospisil-Stepanek in round two, a tough match for sure. Still, #PopStep still only have a few matches together this year plus singles obligations. An upset would not be totally shocking.
Of the other floaters mentioned, it would likely take some help for them to make a serious run here. The winner of that Eyserric-Martin vs Raja-Sharan first rounder seems most likely as they could surprise the 5th seeded Lopez boys. Team Lopez was formidable in 2016, making the Tour Finals, but this is their first tournament together in 2017. They were second round losers a year ago at the AO.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
I think the Bryans have a chance to get past the third round this year, but they will need to click from Jump Street. If not, then Pavic-Peya look the nest best option for one of the semifinal spots. The other should go to Murray-Soares. I think they will at least be in position to get back to the final for a shot to defend the titles.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
Although Murray-Soares look to have a chance to get to the semifinals or final, the recent history of the defending champions not being able to complete the double could again be true in 2017. The dream set-up would see last year’s Tour Finals champs, Kontinen-Peers, against the year-end #1s, Murray-Soares. Or perhaps seeing the Bryans get a crack at Grand Slam title #17. Dreams don’t often come true for the high seeds in Melbourne though, so expected the unexpected. If an unseeded duo strikes, watch Koolhof-Middelkoop, PCB-GGL or perhaps one of the first time French pairings for the new year like Benneteau-Chardy or Eysseric-Martin to step up.