We’re about six weeks into the new season and it’s about time to see some jockeying for position in the doubles ranks. With 500-level tournaments in Rotterdam this week, Rio next week and Dubai after that, points are there to be taken. All of that leads up to the Masters double in Indian Wells and Miami in March.
Here’s a look at this week’s points grab in Rotterdam.
Mahut Seeks Back-to-Back Titles
World #1 Nicolas Mahut is back to defend the 2016 doubles titles at the ABN AMRO World Team Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. He’ll do it with a different partner however, after winning the 2016 titles with Vasek Pospisil. This time around, he’s with his regular partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Both are also playing singles this week. They are the top seeds in the doubles draw, but are still seeking their first title in 2017.
Top Half Seeds
Mahut-Herbert will need to be sharp in their opener. They will go up against Marin Cilic and Nenad Zimonjic. Zimonjic teamed with Viktor Troicki last week in Montpellier, where he won his 54th career doubles title and first since 2014. Cilic-Zimonjic obviously aren’t regular partners, but they could provide a stiff opening test. The other seeds in this top half are Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers. This new duo for 2017 had a successful debut at the Australian Open with a run to the quarterfinals. They were beaten there in three sets by the Bryans. In Rotterdam, they open against random tandem Grigor Dimitrov and Lucas Pouille. Don’t sleep on those two who might be better known for singles, but are more than capable of winning.
There are some dangerous floaters in this half that could step up and surprise. Two of them play each other to open in round one. Dominic Thiem and Phillip Kohlschreiber are one team, set to battle Mate Pavic and Alexander Peya. Pavic-Peya have been hit or miss in the early days of their new partnership. They’ve played four tournaments with two semifinal showings and two first round exits. Thiem-Kohlschreiber are both adequate doubles players capable of a scalp. They teamed up several times in 2016, so they do have some chemistry. They rarely went down easy in losing, so don’t be surprised if they push Pavic-Peya to three sets or score the win.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Dodig-Granollers should have the easier path to the semifinals in this draw. A win in their opener would then see them against either Tomas Berdych-Rohan Bopanna or Dutch team Robin Haase and Glenn Smits. Mahut-Herbert might have a tougher time with their opener and then either Thiem-Kohlschreiber or Pavic-Peya. So it could well be Dodig-Granollers who are the better shot at making the final in this half.
Bottom Half Seeds
Team Lopez (2)
The bottom half is stacked with some tough teams outside of the seeds. Marc and Feliciano Lopez are the top seeds in this half, but the Spaniards are scuffling. Since making round three of the Australian Open, they lost a Davis Cup thriller in five sets to Marin Draganja and Nikola Mektic in Croatia. On top of that, they lost to Malek Jaziri and Albano Olivetti in their opener in Montpellier. That could have been a hangover effect, but it was still a poor loss. This week they open with Dutch qualifiers Tallon Griekspoor and Niels Lootsma. A loss there and the alarms should sound.
Team Lopez is likely to have a difficult time advancing much further regardless as they will face either Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin or Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the quarters. Rojer has played well in this “home” tournament the last three years with two finals appearances, including a title win (2015) and a semifinal run last year. Rojer-Tecau have been stuck in neutral so far this year at 3-4, but this could be a good spot for them to make a run.
In Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo’s draw opposite of the Lopezes, they’ll have to contend with newly minted Montpellier champs, the brothers Zverev – Mischa and Sascha. Those two have a tough opener though against Dutch pair Wesley Koolhoof and Matwe Middelkoop. Koolhoff-Middelkoop have cooled since winning the doubles titles in Sydney in January, but they’re solid and likely to be eager to impress the home crowd. Kubot-Melo are still seeking their rhythm as a new team with a 2-2 record. This will be just their third tournament together and they face David Goffin and Fernando Verdasco to start. That should afford them a good start against two players not familiar with each other, although both decent in doubles.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Upsets look to be on tap in this half. I would not be surprised if neither seeded team made the semifinals, although Kubot-Melo appear to have a better shot. I’m thinking one of the Dutch-led teams makes some noise in this half, be it Rojer-Tecau or Koolhoff-Middelkoop. You can’t count out the Zverev brothers either due to their good play last week, although you wonder if Sascha would keep going if he’s on another deep run in singles?
ATP Tour Stops: Memphis, Buenos Aires
The ATP Tour also makes stops in Memphis and Buenos Aires this week. Buenos Aires looks the more interesting from a doubles perspective with Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah as the top seeds. The Colombian pair are your defending Argentina Open champions. Second seeds Pablo Cuevas and Pablo Carreno Busta are also in the mix. You’ll also see the Italians, Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, this week in Argentina. That could be a boost after they paired up in Davis Cup play recently there. They lost in five in their rubber, but now some match play under their belts. They could be in the path of 4th seeds Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos, although health is a question there after they retired in the Quito final on Sunday. Zeballos has a neck injury that could be problematic.
In Memphis, the top seeds are Max Mirnyi and Treat Huey. They are just 1-2 this season, but have a nice draw for the top half of the Memphis Open draw. The other seeds in their half are Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Leander Paes. They could have a tough time getting out of round one as they go up against Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic who showed good chemsitry in Melbourne. Keep an eye on Americans Sam Querrey and Donald Young who are also in that top half. The bottom half is led by second seeds Oliver Marach and Fabrice Martin along with third seeds Robert Lindstedt and Michael Venus. Lindstedt-Venus contend with Quito champs James Cerretani and Philipp Oswald in round one, but should have the surface advantage.
One thing is certain in Memphis, there will be new champions. Two-time defending champions Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Santiago Gonzalez are not in this year’s draw.
WTA Tidbits: Hingis Dumps Coco
I touched on this at the Australian Open, but this moved seemed inevitable. Martina Hingis announced that she has split from Coco Vandeweghe. The pairing just never fully jived. Martina and Coco were together for together for six tournaments dating back to their debut last year in Cincinnati. At the time, the pairing looked to be a good one after Hingis and Sania Mirza split earlier in the year. Hingis and Vandeweghe made the Cincy final and faced off against Mirza and her new partner, Barbora Strycova. They would lose the final, but regrouped for a nice semifinal run at the U.S. Open in their next tournament together. That however was the highwater mark as the next four tournaments saw #CocoTina unable to win back-to-back matches.
The #CocoTina split is going to have a trickle down effect. Hingis announced she will team with Yung-Jan Chan, one half of the very successful Chan sisters, who just won a title in Tapei City. Hingis and Chan make their debut together at this week’s WTA Premier event in Doha. They’ll have a tough opener together against the experience team of Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson. Bertens-Larsson won the doubles titles in Auckland to start 2017 and have four titles together now in the last 13 months. Immediate success might not happen for Hingis-Chan aka #ChanTina (you love it) with Hingis coming in off Fed Cup play this past weekend. They’ll have to do a crash course in learning each other’s style and preferences.
Keep an eye on Hingis’ former partner as well this week. Mirza-Strycova are set to play in Doha also and will be looking to rebound from a flat performance at the Australian Open. The duo did win a couple titles together, but their Grand Slam results have not been good with a quarterfinals loss at the U.S. Open last year and then the third round dud at the Australian Open this year. Mirza and Hingis split because “the results weren’t there” and right now, that’s still the story with new partners. I’ve still got money on a Mirza-Hingis reunion this year.