The Doubles DL: Loaded Field in Cincinnati

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Herbert-Mahut Make Big Move

It’s been a rather mediocre season for the French duo of Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Still, two big wins now have them in the thick of the race for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals. Herbert-Mahut topped Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 to take the Rogers Cup doubles titles. It was just their second title this year, but the other also came in a Masters-level event in Rome this Spring. The win in Montreal catapulted the Frenchies five spots in the rankings and put them into fourth place. They now stand just a few hundred points behind the Bryans for third, but also just 15 points ahead of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares who dropped down to the 5th spot.

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Slotting in behind Murray-Soares in 6th are Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram who moved up a spot from last week. Klaasen-Ram had a semifinal run in Montreal to give them the slim five point lead over Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison who stand in 7th. The French Open champs continue to struggle for wins in non-Slams, although they did end a four match losing skid on Monday in Cincinnati. Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers dropped down to the final spot in the race for London at #8. They will drop out of the race with Dodig partnering regularly with Rohan Bopanna at least through the U.S. Open. Bopanna-Dodig are ranked 22nd with just three tournaments played, but one big title could push them into the London conversation.

The top three spots were unchanged with Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot remaning as the #1 team despite losing their opener in Montreal. They hold a 1,710 point lead over Henri Kontinen and John Peers. The Bryans remained in third, still well behind the #2 spot by 1,295 points. Unlike singles where many of the top players are missing in Cincinnati this week, the top seven men’s doubles teams are all in action at the Western & Southern Open this week with more positional jockeying likely ahead of the U.S. Open.

Cincinnati Features Battle For Overall #1 Ranking

Outside of the team races, there is also an interesting race for the #1 overall doubles player shaping up on the ATP tour. Marcelo Melo assumed the top spot in early July after winning the Wimbledon titles with Kubot. He took that spot from Henri Kontinen who had moved up to #1 overall with little fanfare in April despite Kontinen-Peers struggling at the time for positive results. Now in Cincinnati, it’s possible that Kontinen could recapture the #1 spot from Melo. Kontinen-Peers will again be the top seeds this week. After winning the Citi Open the week before, they were disappointing quarterfinal losers to Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. Marach-Pavic look poised to get into the mix for London if they can secure a few wins this week.

Kubot-Melo will be seeded second and are in a rare spot where they have lost two straight matches after a 17 match win streak that started with the grass court swing. They were upset in their opener last week in Montreal by Fabrice Martin and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin with the top ranked team looking flat. Murray-Soares are seeded third in Cincy with the Bryans rounding out the top four seeds.

Western & Southern Preview

Play has already begun in Cincinnati with several doubles matches going down on Monday. So here is a look at the draw in progress with some quick thoughts on what could shake down in Cincinnati where there will be a different champion for the third straight year with the now defunct team of Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo winning here last year.

Kontinen-Peers Quarter (1)
It’s a tricky quarter for the top seeds with Marach-Pavic seeded 8th and placed in the other half of the quarter. Kontinen-Peers will open against Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer, who beat Paolo Lorenzi and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a super tiebreak on Monday. Marach-Pavic have a tougher get with Harrison and Venus as their first foes. Harrison and Venus beat Steve Johnson and Daniel Nestor in round one action 6-2, 6-3. Marach-Pavic were back together in Montreal for the first time since losing the Wimbledon final. Their chemistry was still there with an upset win over Kontinen-Peers before losing to the eventual champions, Herbert-Mahut.

Kontinen-Peers might be keen to get a shot at redemption against Marach-Pavic this week, but the quick conditions in Cincinnati will give the big game of Pavic a chance to shine again. Venus-Harrison could factor in as well after finally shaking off that losing streak, which makes this quarter really wide open.

Bryans Quarter (4)
Bob and Mike won’t be too happy to see Herbert-Mahut stuck in this quarter. The French duo beat them last week in Montreal and have now won all four career meetings between the two teams. The Bryans will face either Alexander Zverev and Leander Paes of the Spaniards, Marc and Feliciano Lopez. Team Lopez has been down this year, but contended two of the testiest Grand Slam matches of 2016 against the Bryans. They won both at Roland Garros and the French Open in three sets. They are just 8-14 together this season and have lost five straight. It will be an all-French opener on the other side with Herbert-Mahut battling Martin-ERV. Martin and Roger-Vasselin took down John Isner and Donald Young 10-6 in a super breaker to open on Monday.

This is another difficult quarter to predict with tough teams around every turn. You’d like to thnk Herbert-Mahut might be about to reel off a big win streak after last week, but their opener is tough. If they make it through that, then you like their chances although the Bryans have rarely been stopped short of the semifinals in Cincinatti.

Murray-Soares Quarter (3)
This might be the toughest quarter overall in a loaded field. Murray-Soares have been a bit up and down in the last month or so after winning two titles on grass early in June. Last week in Montreal, they dropped their opener to Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire. This week, they face Spaniards Fernando Verdasco and Pablo Carreno Busta. Both are excellent doubles players, so this will not be easy. Verdasco-PCB won their opener in Cincy against Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov. On the other side, 6th seeds Klaasen-Ram have a tough task as well with Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau as their first opponents. Rojer-Tecau defeated Jared Donaldson and Stefan Kozlov in straight sets on Monday. These two teams played once before back in 2015 when Klaasen-Ram prevailed 11-9 in a super tiebreak. Rojer-Tecau are a tough out, but have had problems beating top tier teams this season.

If this comes down to the two seeded teams, it could be one of the better matches of the tournament. Murray-Soares and Klaasen-Ram met four times last year with both teams winning twice. Three of the four matches went the distance. Give Klaasen-Ram a slight edge.

Kubot-Melo Quarter (2)
It’s been rare for Kubot-Melo to struggle for wins and a two match losing skid isn’t quite cause for alarm just yet. They do get a good early draw this week. They will face either Diego Schwartzman and Mischa Zverev or Nikola Mektic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. Mektic-Qureshi would certainly be the more problematic team if they win, but certainly a very winnable match still for the top ranked duo. On the other side of the quarter, 7th seeds Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig should be afforded a chance to meet Kubot-Melo in the quarters. The 7th seeds take on either Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow or Juan-Sebastien Cabal and Fabio Fognini. The chemistry of Bopanna-Dodig should be enough to see them past either team.

This is one semifinal spot that definitely should fall to a seeded team. Bopanna-Dodig are dangerous and in rhythm after making the Rogers Cup final. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the title mix again this week in Cincy.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

Last week, I said it felt like we wouldn’t get another #1 vs #2 situation like we saw in the Citi Open final and this week again has that sort of feel to it. It’s a loaded field with a small draw, so that means tough matches almost every round for the seeds. For me, that also means more chances for upsets. If one of the top two teams is going to get to the final, I’d give a slight advantage to Kubot-Melo who have a slighty better draw over Kontinen-Peers. For me, Bopanna-Dodig and Marach-Pavic are the teams to watch this week as possible “outside” title contenders.

WTA: Makarova-Vesnina Take Over Top Spot

Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina have firmly established themselves as contenders to the throne as the WTA’s best team. The Russians won the Rogers Cup titles in Toronto last week and in doing so, moved past Martina Hingis and Yung Jan Chan for the top spot in the rankings. They now hold a 450 point lead of Hingis-Chan who lost in their second match last week in Canada. The newly minted number ones are the top seeds in Cincinnati this week. The Russians have won ten straight matches.

MAKVES

Hingis-Chan will be seeded second this week for the Western & Southern Open. Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycove serve as the third seeds. They made the semifinals in Toronto last week. Sania Mirze and Shuai Peng are slated in as the fourth seeds. Mirza’s disasterous recent run continued in Canada last week, where Peng was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury. The pair had won their opener at the Rogers Cup. Of late, Mirza’s partners have had trouble staying health with Yaroslava Shvedova, Coco Vandeweghe and Kirsten Flipkens all coming up injured while partnership with the former world #1.

Still waiting for that Hingis and Mirza reunion. Am I the only one who sees the sense it makes?

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The Doubles DL: Rogers Cup Previews

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Top Teams Edging Further Ahead

As the summer hard court swings to back-to-back Masters events, the doubles draw will again feature all the teams in the running for the ATP World Tour Finals. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo remain well ahead in the top spot in the rankings as the only team qualified for London. Last week however, they saw a 17 match win streak ended in the Citi Open final at the hands of the second ranked team, Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers had been fairly mediocre since winning the Australian Open, but they have now turned it back up a notch with the season in its final few months. Kontinen-Peers now also have two wins over Kubot-Melo this year with the third meeting between the two at Wimbledon seeing Kubot-Melo taking it in a tense five set thriller. For Kubot-Melo, they have been the most consistent team still with five titles and two other finals appearances in 2017.

The top two duos on the ATP Tour look to have separated themselves quite a bit in the rankings race. Kubot-Melo come to Montreal with a large lead still at around 1,900 points over Kontinen-Peers. Kontinen-Peers put some space between themselves and the third ranked Bryans. Kontinen-Peers lead the Bryans by about 1,300 points. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares round out the top four in the rankings. They come to the Rogers Cup just 75 points behind the Bryans for third. Last week showcased these top four teams who were all in the semifinals. Clearly at this point, these four teams have established themselves with good consistency in the last four to six weeks.

Other Seeds Provide Depth to Draw

This week marks the return of French duo Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Herbert-Mahut have not played together in doubles since a second round exit at Wimbledon. This week’s fifth seeds have not been able to capture the magic of 2015 and 2016 this season. They are just 16-8 after winning 73 combined matches the previous two seasons. They have just one title this season, winning in Rome – which was also their only finals appearance in 2017. Behind them in the sixth slot are Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram. Klaasen-Ram scored both their titles early in the year on hard courts in Delray Beach and Indian Wells. As a team, they are just 1-2 all-time at this event.

Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig reunited as the 7th seeds. They have teamed up just one other time this year at Queen’s Club, where they made the semifinals. Both played with different partners last week in DC with both losing in the quarterfinals. The 8th seeds are Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic who are back together for the first time since losing that epic five set battle in the Wimbledon final to Kubot-Melo. They went 11-3 on grass as they seemed to find a groove after going just 7-7 since they first teamed up for the Miami Open. It will be interesting to see if they can rekindle the chemistry that propelled them from non-factors to the #11 spot in the rankings. They are just over 300 points back of the 8th spot, so they could move up rapidly again if they catch fire.

ATP Rogers Cup Draw Preview

The top half features top seeds Kontinen-Peers, Herbert-Mahut, the Bryans and Marach-Pavic. Kontinen-Peers didn’t get the best of draw as they could see Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in their opener. Rojer-Tecau battle Santiago Gonzalez and Donald Young in round one. Gonzalez-Young will be tough in their own right. The surprise French Open finalists have been a tough out everywhere they have played. Rojer-Tecau do own a win over Kontinen-Peers from early in the season in Dubai. Either team has upset potential even with Kontinen-Peers in good form. Marach-Pavic are the other seeds in their top quarter who could block them from the semifinals. Do watch out for the team of Nikola Mektic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. They are a first time pairing, but both are skilled doubles players. They open against Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Pablo Carreno Busta. Cabal’s regular partner Robert Farah is still recovering from an injury suffered from Wimbledon, forcing his fellow Colombian to seek new partners.

In the other quarter in this half, Herbert-Mahut and the Bryans are the seeds. Herbert-Mahut will see either Marc and Feliciano Lopez in round two or Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Herbert-Mahut are 1-3 against Team Lopez over the last season and a half. The Bryans had a six match winning streak halted by Kubot-Melo in the Citi Open semifinals. They have had trouble beating the elite teams on tour this season. They will face either Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison or Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin Del Potro. Venus-Harrison have had trouble outside of Slams where they are a combined 9-1 with the French Open title and Wimbledon quarterfinals appearance. Outside of those two tourneys, they are just 5-6. They have lost both matches they have played on this hard court swing. Perhaps they can change that luck this week against Dimitrov and Del Potro.

This is a difficult half to call. Kontinen-Peers have a tough road to get to the final. The pluses are that the Bryans have lost to them twice and Herbert-Mahut have not found much consistency this season. Marach-Pavic are the X-factor for me. If their chemistry is still there, they could make a push this week. Of the unseeded duos to monitor, I think the winner of the Rojer-Tecau/Gonzalez-Young match could stun Kontinen-Peers and use that as a catalyst to a big run.

Bottom Half Sets up for Kubot-Melo to Get Back On Track

Kubot-Melo are seeded second in the bottom half with Murray-Soares, Bopanna-Dodig and Klaasen-Ram as the other seeds in this half. Kubot-Melo will get either all-Canadian pair Frank Dancevic and Amil Shamasdin or all-French duo Fabrice Martin and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin to start. The all-French pair would be a tougher match-up, I think. Klaasen-Ram will likely face Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in round two. The Canadians face Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in the opening round. The Spaniards will be pesky, but Nestor-Pop really should win in the end. Klaasen-Ram might be the team to cause the most issues for Kubot-Melo. They beat Kubot-Melo in the Indian Wells final, but Kubot-Melo beat them at the Ricoh Open on grass in June.

In the other half, Murray-Soares may have to deal with Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson in their opener. Johnson-Querrey battle Paolo Lorenzi and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a very winnable match for the Americans. Focus might be the thing that keeps the Americans from pulling off the upset. Johnson is already out of the singles draw and Querrey is likely to be a little big heavy legged from travel after last week’s Los Cabos victory. Bopanna-Dodig will open against the one-off team of Karen Khachanov and Dominic Thiem who upset Nicholas Monroe and Jack Sock in a super breaker on Monday in round one. Those one-off teams do pull their fair share of round one stunners, but often flame out after that. Bopanna-Dodig should have an edge there as both Khachanov and Thiem focus more on singles.

This one smells like a highly competitive half that likely comes down to one of the seeds getting through: Kubot-Melo, Murray-Soares or Klaasen-Ram. Murray-Soares made the final last year in Toronto, but lost to Kubot-Melo twice early in the year on hard courts in Miami and Indian Wells. Both came in super breakers, so the difference between the two is small.

2007 was the last time a team outside the top four seeds took home the Rogers Cup doubles titles. This week doesn’t look like that streak might end, although perhaps one of the lower seeds could slip into the mix like Klaasen-Ram or Marach-Pavic. I don’t think we’re going to get 1 versus 2 again this week with Kontinen-Peers for me the more likely not to get to the final.

Toronto Could Tilt WTA Doubles Race

It will be an interesting week in Toronto for the Rogers Cup doubles draw on the WTA side. The Citi Open didn’t have many glamour names taking part last week as second seeds Shuko Aoyoma and Renata Voracova beat unseeded duo Eugenie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens in the championship match. The top seeds, Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu, were ousted in the semis by Bouchard and Stephens. It continued a long slump for Mirza without a finals appearance. This week, she’ll partner up with Shuai Peng who has been announced as Mirza’s partner during the hard court swing to the U.S. Open. They are seeded fourth this week.

Wimbledon champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina return for the first time since their triumph in London. They serve as the top seeds this week and sit just 260 points behind Martina Hingis and Yung Jan Chan to the top spot in the rankings. Makarova-Vesnina are the defending champions. Hingis-Chang will be seeded second in Toronto. They have combined to secure five titles this season, but have fallen short in both Grand Slams they have participated in together in 2017.

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The third seeds are an interesting combo with Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova teaming up. Remember they won the bronze medal in Rio last year, so they do have some chemistry. Strycova was Mirza’s regular partner when the year started, but they split as Strycova wanted to focus more on her singles career. Safarova of course is without her regular partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands who continues her long rehab from that knee injury suffered at Wimbledon.

The other team to watch out for in the bottom half with Hingis-Chan and Safarova-Strycova is the all-Aussie combo of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. They rank fourth in the year-end race right now and have been a consistent threat. They made the French Open final and the quarters in Wimbledon. They have three titles together this season. Much like the Bryans on the men’s side though, they have struggled to beat the top teams when presented with the chance.

This would be a great week to get the #1 vs #2 seeds and the #1 vs #2 teams in the final. Hingis-Chan beat the Russians on clay earlier this season, so let’s see who is better on hard courts heading towards the U.S. Open.

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.

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.

The Doubles DL: 2017 Preview

doubles-dl

Welcome to the Doubles Down-Low. This is where @tennispig will keep you centered throughout the season on all-things doubles. Where else you getting that?

2016: New Teams Ignite Great Race

2016 brought forth a crop of new teams that turned into power couplings on the ATP World Tour’s doubles scene.  The intentions of the brightest new duo were stated early at the Australian Open as new partners Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares won the doubles title. That would serve as a catalyst to eventually becoming the world’s #1 doubles duo. Murray-Soares would win just three titles in 2016, but two of them came at Grand Slams in Melbourne in and then at the U.S. Open. They would also make two Masters 1000 finals. Murray and Soares will take a tenuous hold at #1 into the new season with French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues-Herbert just a couple dozen points behind them. More on the French in a few.

Another new pairing for 2016 was Finland’s Henri Kontinen along with Aussie John Peers. Peers had ended a very successful partnership with Murray after 2015, but found great success with Kontinen. The pair would win five titles together in 2016, including the first one in Brisbane and impressively at the last tournament, the ATP Tour Finals. The only thing that kept Kontinen-Peers from more notoriety in 2016 were their poor showings at Grand Slams. They would lose in the second round at three of the four Slams. A quarterfinal run at Wimbledon was their best. They take a #4 ranking into the new season.

The other new pairing that made waves in 2016 was Spaniards Feliciano and Marc Lopez. Team Lopez would surprise to open the season in Doha with the doubles crown where they beat Murray-Soares along the way. That success kept the Spaniards together for most of the year in doubles and it proved to be a good fit. Despite some struggles in the Spring, they would reach their crest at the French Open. There, Team Lopez stunned Mahut and PHH in the third round en route to a Grand Slam championship at Roland Garros over Mark and Bob Bryan. That would fuel an intense rivalry between those two teams that saw the Spanish duo beat the Americans again in a feisty quarterfinal at the U.S. Open. Team Lopez would would make the semifinals there after not playing at Wimbledon together. They would earn a spot at the Tour Finals as one of the top eight doubles teams in 2016.

Mahut-Herbert Dominate First Half

As for the previously mentioned French pairing of Mahut and Hugues-Herbert, this veteran partnership was a dominant force on the doubles scene through Wimbledon. Mahut-PHH won the first three Masters events of the season and culminated their superb first half with the Wimbledon doubles title. That marked their second Grand Slam win together after winning the 2015 U.S. Open doubles crown. Post-Wimbledon though, this team struggled to the finish line going 11-8. They would make a pair of finals in that final stretch in Antwerp and Paris, but dropped both finals. The French pair were also swept out of the ATP World Tour Finals with an 0-3 mark in group play. Still, the year was a tremendous success for this duo with Mahut becoming the 48th player in ATP history to capture the top spot in the solo doubles rankings in June at the age of 34.

Bryan Brothers Continue Slam Drought

Bob and Mike Bryan suffered through another inconsistent season in 2016. The American twins missed out on a Grand Slam title in 2015, the first year without one since 2004 that they did not take a Slam title. That drought continued in 2016 as the Bryans would win just three titles, their lowest output since turning pro in 2001. All their titles in 2016 came on clay. After another bungling trip down under in Australia, where they lost in round three at the Aussie Open, the Bryans were more consistent at Slams with a French Open final, a quarterfinal at Wimbledon and a quarterfinal at the U.S. Open. They also qualified for the Tour Finals for the 13th time, including consecutive appearances since 2008. If the 38-year-olds are to recapture some of their previous Grand Slam glory, they’ll need to fix their issues in Melbourne. The Bryans have gone out in round three for each of the last three years since winning the title in 2013.

2017 Outlook

The top four teams that ended the year will be back partnering up again in 2017. Murray-Soares, Mahut-Herbert, The Bryans and Kontinen-Peers are all set as partners again. Other solid teams choosing to remain the same for the new season include Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, Fabrice Martin and Oliver Marach,Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi as well as Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram who made the Tour Finals championship match.

As usual, there is also plenty of change on the doubles scene for the new season. Long-time partners Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo have split with Dodig pairing up with Marcel Granollers for the new year and Melo choosing Lukasz Kubot as his new partner. The popular tandem of Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil is also no more as Sock chooses to concentrate more on singles. Pospisil will continue to play plenty of doubles and will team with Radek Stepanek regularly. Can I get a #PopStep ?

Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea also went their separate ways with Bopanna set to team with Granollers’ former partner, Pablo Cuevas. Mergea will suit up next to hard hitting Dominic Inglot in 2017. ATP stalwart Daniel Nestor enters the new season with Edouard Roger-Vasselin set as his full-time partner. Nestor-ERV formed a formidable duo in 2016 when they teamed up. Nestor made the Australian Open final with Stepanek as his partner, but they quit after a sputtering run on clay. Nestor-ERV would begin teaming up as the North American hard court swing hit in the summer with immediate dividends, a title at the Citi Open. The duo would win again when they next teamed in Antwerp. That marked their third title together over the past two seasons.

Another split of note is Mate Pavic and Michael Venus heading in different directions for 2017. Pavic and Venus won four titles in 2016 along with making four other finals. Pavic will spend the new season with Alexander Peya, while Venus teams up with Robert Lindstedt. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the legend, Leander Paes in the first Doubles Down-Low for the new season. Paes ran through eleven more partners in 2016. Paes will make Andre Sa his 111th career partner to start 2017, but who knows where he goes from that point. Paes did not take home an ATP doubles title last season, ending an 18 year streak of winning at least one doubles title. The ATP World Tour kicks off this week with three tournaments in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai.

The WTA Tour opens in Brisbane and Shenzhen. I’ll have some tidbits from time-to-time on the WTA doubles scene, but will concentrate mainly on the ATP here. The big guns, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis, will enter 2017 as they ended 2016 – apart. Mirza will open the new season paired with Bethanie Mattek-Sands for the Australian swing. Mirza is expected to re-team with her end of the year partner Barbora Strycova again after that for the most part. That duo won a pair of titles after teaming up late in the year. Mirza also ended the year as the top ranked doubles player fot the second straight season. Hingis finished 2016 partnering with Coco Vandeweghe with limited success. Not much has been said about whom Hingis will pair up with regularly in 2017. More on that as the season kicks off.