The Doubles DL: Dodig-Granollers Aim for ATP #1

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Dodig-Granollers Make Power Play in Rotterdam

Last week’s biggest points grab on the ATP World Tour came in Rotterdam. The 500-level ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament saw Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers crowned as the doubles champions. It was a huge week for Dodig-Granollers who upset top seeds Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the semifinals, before beating Dutch tandem Wesley Koolhoff and Matwe Middelkoop for the titles. It’s a good result for the newly paired Dodig and Granollers who have now played just two tournaments together in 2017. Their first was the Australian Open, where they made the quarterfinals. The win in Rotterdam sling shots them into the #3 spot in the rankings behind The Bryan Brothers at #2 and Henri Kontinen and John Peers, who hold onto the top spot.

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You could arguably think that Dodig-Granollers are the top team right now with Kontinen-Peers and the Bryans both riding their spots due solely to their Australian Open results. Kontinen-Peers were the champs in Melbourne, while the Bryans lost to them in the title match. The Bryans are back in action this week in Delray Beach. Kontinen-Peers are again not in action this week.

Rio Open Offers Next Opportunity

As the only 500-level tournament this week, the Rio Open is the focus for doubles teams looking to make a move. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares are the top seeds. The former world number ones are ranked 26th this week and in need of a boost. They started the season well enough with a semifinal in Qatar and a final in Sydney. A first round loss in Melbourne however sunk them low in the rankings after the duo won the doubles titles there in 2016. The second seeds in Rio this week are Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo. They’re just 3-3 on the season. The team that could make some noise again in Rio are two-timpe champs Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. The Colombians are 10-1 all-time at this event and fresh off winning their first title of 2017 last week in Buenos Aires. They are currently ranked 8th, but within a couple hundred points of moving into the top five. Cabal-Farah are in a workable portion of the Rio draw that could see them in prime position to defend their titles on Sunday.

#SanTina #SanTina #SanTina

Does it work like Beetlejuice? Say it three times and they appear?

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Every week that goes by without a title for Sania Mirza or Martina Hingis with different partners puts gasoline on the fire of a Mirza-Hingis reunion. Sure, it might only be me that is thinking it right now, but the movement will gain steam. Hingis did well enough I suppose with her newest partner Yung-Jan Chan in Doha last week. They made the semifinals before they were booted out. The same went for Sania Mirza and her regular partner Barbora Strycova. Mirza-Strycova have now played eight tournaments togethter since first pairing up last year after the SanTina split. They do have two titles, but none this year with just one finals appearance in three tournaments.

Hingis of course had paired with Coco Vandweghe originally after the SanTina split in 2016, but with very average to below-average results. Hingis pulled the plug on that partnership earlier in the month and chose Chan to partner up with next. Sure, a semifinal with a brand new partner is a good start, but Hingis has now gone nine tournaments without making a final and has not won a WTA doubles title since pairing with Mirza to win in Rome last May. I think Hingis will be patient with Chan for a bit, but I still maintain that if the clay court season doesn’t yield titles – both Mirza and Hingis might be eager to try what worked in the past.

If the truth was that SanTina split because of a lack of results, their stretch without success in 2016 was far less than what both are experiencing now. Both Hingis and Mirza are playing in Dubai this week with difficult quarterfinal match-ups looming. Chan-Hingis play Hlavackova and Peng who have been one of the new sensations in 2017. Mirza-Strycova face Abigail Spears and Katarina Srebotnik. The same duo that iced them last week in the semis in Doha. Stay tuned.

ATP Team of the Week
Cabal-Farah

The Colombians really thrive when the calendar flips to South American clay. Last year, they did the double in Buenos Airea and Rio de Janeiro. They are half way there again in 2017 after beating Santiago Gonzalez and David Marrero for the Argentina Open titles last week. This is a handy little duo that has now won five clay court titles in the past two years, but just one outside of South America (Munich 2016). They are a testament to hard work and experience, having first teamed up back in 2013. They have made 18 ATP finals together, winning nine titles along the way.

WTA Team of the Week
Spears-Srebotnik

An easy call as the only champions last week on Doha. These two seem to have a good, natural chemistry as partners this season. This was just their second tournament together with a semifinal showing in Brisbane to start the year. For Spears, it’s definitely been a learning curve after splitting with Raquel Atawo. The two had been one of the longest-standing partnerships since 2010 and a successful one at that. Both however could be retiring after the 2017 season, so it appeared that they wanted to switch things up. Srebotnik took home her 37th career title with last week’s win. For Spears, it was title #19.

This Week’s Rando Team of the Week
Haas-Pospisil

Every week, there are several one time partnerships at tournaments due to prior commitments, etc. This week I don’t know what brought these two together, by the random team of the week is in Delray Beach. Tommy Haas and Vasek Pospisil. Haas is playing his first doubles draw since the U.S. Open in 2015 and wouldn’t you know it – they won their opener this week against Steve Darcis and Adrian Mannarino. They battle Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi in the quarterfinals.

The Doubles DL: ATP Rotterdam Preview + Hingis Changes Partners

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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 (1)
Dodig-Granollers (3)

Breakdown
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)
Kubot-Melo (4)

Breakdown
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.

The Doubles DL: Australian Open Update

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While most eyes are on the singles draw, the doubles portion of the Australian Open got underway this week as well. On the men’s side, a big upset started things off with Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares falling in round one.

ATP: Defending Champs Out, Mahut-Herbert Start Strong

They may not have been at their very best to start the season, but Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares looked primed to make a run at defending their 2016 Australian Open men’s doubles titles. Those hopes were dashed in round one by an unlikely source. Americans Sam Querrey and Donald Young sprung the massive surprise with a 6-5, 7-6 (5) win. Querrey has now been on the “right end” of two of the biggest recent Grand Slam upsets in modern memory. Querrey was teamed up with Steve Johnson in 2015 at the U.S. Open, when they ousted the top seeded Bryan Brothers. Querrey-Johnson parlayed that into a semifinal run. In Melbourne, Querrey-Young might be hoping to do the same. They won their second round match against Russians Andrey Kuznetsov and Karen Khachanov yesterday. They will face Aussies Alec Bolt and Bradley Mousley who upset 15th seeds Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas last round. It appears that the Australian Open will continue to live up to its recent reputation of unseeded teams making deep runs as one of those two teams is guaranteed a quarterfinal spot.

With Murray-Soares out, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert garner all the attention as the top seeds. They’ve had no issues in winning two matches in straight sets, but face a large test with 11th seeds Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea as their foes in round three. Other seeds who are still alive and looking solid are the Bryans (3) and Henri Kontinen and John Peers (4). The Bryans benefit from Murray- Soares losing as they are now the highest seeds left in the bottom half of the draw. Fifth seeds Marc and Feliciano Lopez might have something to say about hat. The Spaniards have the toughest third round test though with U.S. Open runners-up Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez as their opponents.

Unseeded Party Crashers

With the tournament rolling into the third round, unseeded pairings are now getting closer and closer to locking down semifinal spots. I mentioned Querrey-Young and Bolt-Mousley earlier. One of those teams will have a shot to get there. Remember that half the semifinal slots have gone to unseeded tandems in three of the last five years in Melbourne. Carreno Busta and GGL also bear watching. If they knock off the Lopezes, it will guarantee an unseeded team moves into the semifinals with the Querrey-Young vs Bolt-Mousley winner awaiting the survivor of that all-Spanish clash.

In the top half of the draw, another unseeded team is guaranteed a quarterfinal spot. Aussies Sam Groth and Chris Guccione, who always looked like they would be tough in this draw, take on Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner in round three. The Double Ds upset 6th seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram last round. The Aussies took down 10th seeds Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi in their last match. The other unseeded duo left is also all-Aussie with Marc Polmans and Andrew Whittington awaiting a third round clash with 11th seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.

WTA: Top Heavy Draw Continues

On the ladies side, the four top seeds are still standing as of round three. Frenc duo Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic survived a tough three set match in round two. They face 14th seeds Katerina Srebotnik and Saisai Zheng next. The reunion of Team Bucie, aka Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, has worked albeit for just one match. Team Bucie got a walkover in round two and will be up against perhaps the hottest team on tour in Timea Babos and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Babos and the Russian won the Sydney titles prior to the AO and have looked good again this week. Big time upset potential in that clash.

Third seeds, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, could be headed to a showdown with one of the other hot teams from early on this season. That would be 12th seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Shuai Peng. They won the Shenzhen titles and then took Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova to a match tiebreak in Sydney before losing. If seeds hold, that could be a great match in the quarterfinals between the Russians and Hlavackova-Peng.

The aforementioned Mirza-Strycova tandem continues to rack up wins. The fourth seeds face Japanese duo Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato in round three. Mirza-Strycova look to be set up for a quarterfinal clash with 9th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova with both teams having advantageous third round match-ups.

Despite the top four seeds all being alive at this point, I do see room for upsets here at the tail end of the tournament. Aussie duo Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua loom as a possible quarterfinal opponent for the top seeds from France. Barty-Dellacqua already took down sixth seeds Coco Vandeweghe and Martina Hingis. The Aussies look dangerous. And as I said earlier, I would be surprised I think if BMS-Safarova made it to the semis with the tough match against Babos-Pavlyuchenkova next, although if they do win, then they could be set up nicely to the semifinals.

Bottom line right now, I think Mirza-Strycova still look the favorites to me despite their lower seeding. They’ve already beaten King-Shvedova this season and might relish a chance at revenge for their Sydney loss to Babos-Pavlyuchenkova if that is the semifinal match-up. In the top half, the Russians, Vesnina-Makarova, may sneak straight into the final – but watch out for those Aussies. They could continue to stun the field.

2017 Australian Open Doubles Preview

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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
1. Herbert-Mahut
8. Nestor-ERV
11. Rojer-Tecau
15. Inglot-Mergea

Breakdown
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
4. Kontinen-Peers
6. Klaasen-Ram
10. Huey-Mirnyi
14. Cabal-Farah

Breakdown
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.

Dangerous Floaters
Koolhof-Middelkoop
Benneteau-Chardy
Paes-Sa
Groth-Guccione
Daniell-Demoliner

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
7. Kubot-Melo
9. Dodig-Granollers
13. Pavic-Peya

Breakdown
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
2. Murray-Soares
5. Marc and Feliciano Lopez
12. Pospisil-Stepanek
15. Bopanna-Cuevas

Breakdown
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.

Dangerous Floaters
Erlich-Lipsky
Carreno Busta/Garcia-Lopez
Raja-Sharan
Eyserric-Martin

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.

The Doubles DL: BMS New #1 + Sydney Previews

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Your dose of nothing but doubles.

ATP Game, Set, Match: Brisbane, Doha & Chennai

Tournament Winners
Brisbane: Jordan Thompson-Thanasi Kokkinakis
Doha: Jeremy Chardy-Fabrice Martin
Chennai: Rohan Bopanna-Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan

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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

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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

Top Seeds
1. Murray-Soares
2. M.Lopez-Granollers
3. Melo-Kubot
4. Rojer-Tecau

Breakdown
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

Top Seeds
1. Mirza-Strycova
2. Hingis-Vandeweghe
3. The Chans
4. King-Shvedova

Breakdown
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.