2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview

BNPDUBS18

Doubles Race Takes Shape in Indian Wells

The next month is set to shape the doubles race on the ATP World Tour with stops in Indian Wells and Miami. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic are still atop the rankings with almost a 1500 point cushion. Masters 1000 points could quickly change that or see Marach-Pavic run further away. They head to Indian Wells as the third seeds and making their debut together at the BNP Paribas Open. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo slot in at #1 in this week’s draw. They lost last year’s Indian Wells final to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who are no longer partnered up. The second seeds are Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers has yet to find much luck in 2018 as they come in ranked 21st. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares round out the top four seeds. They come in fresh of winning the Acapulco titles and will be looking to improve on their semifinal run in 2017.

Rounding out the seeds in this year’s Indian Wells doubles draw are Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut at #5. The French duo won the titles in 2016, but were outsted in round two last year. The sixth seeds are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau. They are just 2-4 as a tandem at Indian Wells, but did make the quarters last season. They’ve rocketed to fifth in the rankings and come in with the Dubai titles in their pockets. The Bryans come in at #7 as two-time winners here, but haven’t made it past the quarterfinals since winning their last Indian Wells title in 2014. The 8th seeds are Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram, a first time pairing at this event. This will be their fourth tournament together in 2018. They have made the semifinals of their last two.

Recent History Shows Top Seeds Struggle

The Bryan Brothers’ last title run at the BNP Paribas Open marks the last time that the top seed has been as far as the semifinals at this event. The top four seeds have had a habit of finding themselves as early upset victims the last few years. Last year, the Bryans were seeded second and lost their opener. In both 2015 and 2016, two of the top four seeds followed suit with round one defeats. Amazingly, if you track all the way back to 2006, there has only been one year where a top four seed has not fallen in their opener.

Let’s take a quick glance at the top four seeds this year and which ones might be in danger of joining that trend. (1) Kubot-Melo will battle Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in round one. Don’t dismiss the Spaniards as a random pair up, they’ve played together nine times the last two seasons, going 6-3. One of those losses as a straight sets whipping by Kubot-Melo at last year’s event in Halle on grass. Kubot-Melo have cooled off after a hot start, going 2-2 in their last two tournaments. I would not be surprised if they had to work a super tie break to escape round one and RBA-Ferrer certainly are capable of causing an upset.

The second seeds, Kontinen-Peers, will obviously be the ones many are watching and expecting to flop. Since making the Brisbane final, they are 1-2 with stunning losses at the Australian Open to Radu Albot and Hyeon Chung and then last week in their opener in Dubai to Damir Dzumhir and Filip Krajinovic. They draw Adrian Mannarino and Fabrice Martin in round one. The Frenchmen haven’t played together since 2015, but both have experience. Martin is a regular doubles player at the ATP level. Still, even with Kontinen-Peers struggling a bit, this would be a real shocker. I think the seeds fend off the challenge in this spot.

Marach-Pavic arrive as the third seeds with a little of their luster worn off. They have lost two of three since their 17 match winning streak to start the season ended. Neither was a poor loss, but they will want to find that winning feeling again early. They start against Steve Johnson and Daniel Nestor. Johnson-Nestor played once last year and were overwhelmed by Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus in Cincinnati. Nestor has been switching partners about every week with little success at 3-8 this season. It’s difficult to see Johnson-Nestor winning this match against a team with better chemistry.

That leaves us with the fourth seeds, Murray and Soares. They open against the pairing of Philipp Petzschner and Dominic Thiem. Murray-Soares have been pretty consistent at 10-3 in 2018 with two finals appearances out of the four tournaments played. Petzschner and team have never played together, but once upon a time, Petzschner was one of the top doubles players along with Jurgen Melzer before injuries stonewalled Petzschner. The German is a two-time Grand Slam champ, having won the U.S. Open titles with Melzer in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2010. He won his 7th doubles title in Bastad last season alongside Julian Knowle. Thiem hasn’t had a ton of doubles success the last couple of years, but his matches are often very close. This is the one that sticks in my brain as a possibility, even if it seems a bit far fetched.

If I had to rate them in order of best shot at losing round one: I’d go 2-4-1-3.

Doubles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Kubot-Melo
(8) Dodig-Ram

Breakdown
There are some dangerous floaters in this section that could definitely help continue the top seed curse. If Kubot-Melo survive Bautista Agut and Ferrer in round one, round two could be just as tough. They play the winners of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco vs John Isner and Jack Sock. Isner-Sock are 11-3 in the last two seasons with a title in Shanghai in 2016 and a finals appearance in Beijing last year. I’d rate them the tougher out of the two. In the bottom of this quarter with Dodig-Ram as the seeds, the winner of an opening round barn burner between Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus vs Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah loom as big threats.

Klaasen-Venus seem to have finally gelled together after winning the titles in Marseille. They did lose in the quarters in Dubai last week, but are 5-1 in their last six matches after a 2-3 start to their partnership. Cabal-Farah are 9-4 and showed they are hard court threats with their run to the Aussie Open final. They don’t have a ton of experience surprisingly at Indian wells despite their lengthy partnership, so Klaasen-Venus might be the team two watch. Dodig-Ram start against Ben McLachlan and Julio Peralta. Two good doubles players, but they’ve never played together before this week. So edge to Dodig-Ram.

The Pig-nosticator

I think it’s safe bet that one or both of the two seeds here won’t see the quarterfinals. I think Dodig-Ram might actually be the safer shot to squeeze through this quarter. I won’t be surprised at all to see an unseeded team make a run out of this bracket and into the semifinals. An unseeded duo has made the semifinals each of the last four years. Look to the survivor of that Klaasen-Venus v Cabal-Farah match as a good shot to join that club.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Marach-Pavic
(6) Rojer-Tecau

Breakdown
Marach-Pavic should get out of round one against Johnson-Nestor, but round two could have a huge speed bump in their way. Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya look to be the probable team in that spot. Mektic-Peya open with Fabio Fognini and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi. I won’t totally discount an upset there, but chemistry is better with the regular pairing of Mektic-Peya. Mektic-Peya have made two finals this year and beat Marach-Pavic in Acapulco last week. Revenge may be on the minds of the third seeds, but that won’t be an easy match at all.

The bottom half with Rojer-Tecau is interesting. The seeds here come in hot after winning in Dubai, but they haven’t had a ton of success here outside of their 2017 quarterfinal run. They open with a mish mosh pairing of Ryan Harrison and Max Mirnyi. Having lost in the first round two of their last three trips to the desert, watch out for the big serves of Harrison and Mirnyi to potentially add to their wores. The survivor gets either Juan Martin Del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov of the Lopezes, Marc and Feliciano. Team Lopez made the semis in 2016, but lost in round one last year. They lost their opener in two of four tournaments this year and despite the lack of playing together, DelPo and Dimitrov could be tricky.

The Pig-nosticator

Marach-Pavic have the motivation and could get back on a roll if they exact some revenge on Mektic-Peya along the way. Rojer-Tecau could be the sneaky pick here if they avoid the upset in round one. That’s the big question mark for them. Mektic-Peya is the unseeded threat for sure in this quarter.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Murray-Soares
(5) Herbert-Mahut

Breakdown
Murray-Soares have the tougher path to the quarterfinals. If they get out of round one against Petzschner-Thiem, they could face Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV have yet to break out at 6-6 this season, but they’ve made two semifinals this year and rarely been an easy out. Bopanna-ERV will need to skirt past Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey in round one and that may be a tight match. In the Herbert-Mahut half, the French have Dzumhur-Krajinovic to contend with in round one. Look no further than their win over Kontinen-Peers to show that the French need to be on point from ball one.

The winner of that first rounder gets either Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos or Nicolas Monroe and Santiago Gonazalez. Cuevas-Zeballos are solid veteran duo with experience and while Monroe and Gonzalez are teaming up for the first time, both are solid doubles guys with track records of winning with multiple partners. Either one could provide a tough test in round two for either Herbert-Mahut or Dzumhur-Krajinovic. This part of the draw could blow wide open if a seed falls early.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this one could fall to a seed vs seed scenario in the quarterfinals. Both teams do have some pitfalls early though. I think Murray-Soares would be the likelier to not get to the quarters because of Bopanna-ERV. That’s my unseeded team to watch in this quarter with Cuevas-Zeballos also a dark horse team.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Kontinen-Peers
(7) Bryans

Breakdown
Kontinen-Peers have a lot to prove during this Indian Wells-Miami swing. They’re off to a sluggish start and this swing has not been good to them during their previous two seasons together. As such, I don’t think they’ll be involved in the mix for a semifinal slot. They may escape round one against Mannarino-Martin. Round two would see either Diego Schwartzman and Marcus Daniell or Philipp Kohlschreiber and Lucas Pouille. Those are mix and match first time teams, but all with players who are pretty decent at doubles. I mean I have a hard time picking a team here to beat Kontinen-Peers based on talent and teamwork, but they just have not found their groove. I’d say IF they get past the French in round one, then perhaps they can work to the quarters.

It’s an all-brothers showdown in round one with the Bryans taking on the Zverevs, Mischa and Alexander. The Bryans got in a nice groove in Acapulco with a finals run and I think that carries over to start this week. A win would then likely get them a date against Pablo Carreno Busta and David Marrero. The Spaniards open against Kyle Edmund and Franko Skugor. PCB-Marrero do have some history together, but their best results have come on clay. Edmund is 1-10 all-time in ATP doubles matches, so even with a good partner like Skugor, tough to see them winning.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this quarter sets up nicely for the Bryans. The intrigue could come if Kontinen-Peers find some rhythm and we get an all-seeded quarterfinal. Kontinen-Peers have owned the Bryans with a 3-0 head-to-head record, including not dropping any sets against the American twins. That would be the big road block for the 7th seeds.

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

Your last three men’s doubles champions have been seeded 6th, 7th and 8th. 2012 was the last time an unseeded pair took home the titles with Marc Lopez and Nicolas Mahut doing the honors in an all-unseeded final against John Isner and Sam Querrey. If there is some unseeded magic this week, I think the mix of potential dark horses include Klaasen-Venus, Cabal-Farah and Mektic-Peya. My brain though is stuck on the Bryans this week, who haven’t won a title since last summer in Atlanta. If a top four seed breaks the curse, Marach-Pavic seem to have the best road in my estimation.

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The Ocho v.7

Ocho

“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, injuries again feature plus the dust up from proposed changes to the Davis Cup.

1. Juan Martin Del Potro
The 29-year-old Argentine won his biggest title in years, taking the title in Acapulco over Kevin Anderson. The 500-level win pushed DelPo up to #8 in the latest rankings. That is his highest ranking since August 2014. He showed a great combination of power and defense at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in making his second final of the season, the other coming in Auckland. With Indian Wells and Miami missing some name players, DelPo could be poised for a big month. He will have to overcome a poor history in both Indian Wells and Miami in recent years to do so. The last time he did anything of note at either tournament was making the Indian Wells final in 2013.

2. Nicolas Jarry
The 22-year-old has gone from relative unknown to promising up and comer during the course of the last month. It was highlighted by making his first ATP final in Sao Paulo this past week. he would lose to Fabio Fognini, but the Chilean’s 9-3 run in Quito, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo combined have boosted him up to a career high ranking of 61. Not too shabby for a guy who started the season ranked 113th.

Nicolas JARRY (CHI)

 

3. Kevin Anderson
Anderson was on the losing end of the Acapulco final, but he has quietly become perhaps the one of the top five most consistent players on tour. His ranking slips one notch to #9 this week, but he’s now made three finals in four tournaments played. His lone disappointment coming due to a tough draw in Melbourne, where he lost an opening round thriller against Kyle Edmund. When you’re looking at options not named Federer to put into the title mix in Indian Wells and Miami, Anderson is a guy you have to consider a threat to at least be around in the semifinals.

4. Lucas Pouille
Speaking of close calls and one title, that’s exactly where Lucas Pouille finds himself right now. He too has made three finals in 2018, including the final in Dubai this past week where he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut. Pouille has one title in Montpellier to his credit as well as a career high ranking at #12 this week. After shaking off his opening loss for the year at the Australian Open, the Frenchman has found probably the best consistency of his young career. He will be interesting to watch this month as the competition level steps up in Indian Wells and Miami. Pouille has just one top 20 “win” this year and that came against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was leading him In Montpellier when he was forced to retire. So perhaps this is a little smoke and mirrors-ish by the Frenchman.

5. Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares
Murray and Soares got their first title of the season in Acapulco and 7th as a team to make it two straight years winning the doubles titles in Mexico. It was a critical win for Murray-Soares who take a big jump up from #9 to #4 in the rankings ahead of the Indian Wells-Miami double. There figures to be a lot of reshaping of the doubles rankings in March outside of the top spot where Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic still hold nearly a 1,500 point lead on second place Jean-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. There are big points to be had in Indian Wells and Miami though and Murray-Soares could be heating up just at the right time to continue working up the ladder.

MURRAY-SOARES

6. Alexander Zverev
Sascha makes the list for the wrong reasons unfortunately. Just when it looked like he was rounding into his best form of the season, Zverev suffered a knee injury in Acapulco against Del Potro. He was able to finish the match, losing in straights, but said afterward that the pain in his knee got worse as the match wore on. That’s not promising news for the world #5 whose status is up-in-the-air for Indian Wells. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to skip Indian Wells and not risk anything. Zverev only earned 45 points at Indian Wells in 2017 and has more to defend after making the quarters in Miami last year.

7. David Goffin
Another bad add to “The Ocho” this week. Goffin will be one of the many missing Indian Wells as the Belgian said his vision is still not 100 percent after the freak accident in Rotterdam. If you missed it, Goffin was hit in the eye by a ball off his own racquet in a match against Grigor Dimirov. It doesn’t sound good that Goffin has also already announced himself unavailable for Belgium’s Davis Cup tie with the United States in April. Of course that is good news for the Americans who now figure to be the favorites to advance to the semifinals in that match-up.

8. Davis Cup Reformat
I had to throw this at the tail end of the list, even though it’s close to a week old now in discussion and has been pushed out of he news cycle. There’s going to be a lot more time to digest this before the ITF officially votes on the proposed changes, but the one thing that has come out of this flawed proposal is that it has sparked discussion. Discussion about the Davis Cup/World Cup of Tennis. When is the last time you were talking about your fellow tennis fans about the Davis Cup? Not often I would guess. So, there’s that.

Listen, the current format needs tweaking for certain. The hope from here is that players and ITF officials can come together with some frank and productive discussion to tweak the proposal. It’s flawed in the time of year they want to stick it in and it’s flawed in trying to smash what could be a good idea into a one week tournament that doesn’t really set it apart from any other tournament. The World Cup style format though is intriguing if they can figure out a way to satisfy the greed for the money that is being pumped into this proposal and common sense scheduling. Stay tuned.

2018 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Preview

ACAPULCOPREVIEW18

Rafa’s Return Highlights 2018 Field in Acapulco

It’s the fifth year for the Abierto Mexicano Telcel to be contested on hard courts after being played on clay for the first 20 years of its existence. Rafael Nadal is scheduled to return to the court this week after missing about a month due to a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open. I don’t believe Nadal for a minute, when he says he isn’t concentrating on retaking the top spot in the rankings after after Roger Federer scooted past him earlier in the month. I do believe him when he says he is simply focused on this tournament first though. Nadal will also be hoping to gain a bit of revenge for losing last year’s final to Sam Querrey. Rafa is the top seed in what is a very loaded field, maybe more dangerous even with players who are not seeded.

Rounding out the top four are Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock. Zverev makes his debut in Acapulco and Sock lost his opener in his lone visit to the tournament last year. Thiem has the most experience of this group with a title here in 2016. Thiem is 7-1 in two trips to Mexico, making the quarterfinals last year. Among the rest of the seeds, it’s 7th seed Sam Querrey who has had a surprisingly good run of luck in Acapulco. The defending champion also made the semis in 2016.

The other players in the seeded field are #5 Kevin Anderson, a finalist in 2014, sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and 8th seeded John Isner. Del Potro has never advanced past round two, while Isner is winless in two trips since the tournament flipped to hard courts. Seeds have usually been a big part of the championship mix in Acapulco with Querrey’s title run last year as an unseeded player as the only one since 2014. The top seed has had the most difficult time here with just one finals appearance in four years, a loss by Kei Nishikori in 2015.

Multiple seeds have lost their openers in Acapulco in three of the last four years since the hard court switch. With that to chew on, let’s look at this week’s Eliminati.

ELIMINATI

Ernesto Escobedo
It’s difficult not to put Jack Sock on this list these days. Yes, he did avoid his third straight one and done in Delray Beach last week, but he’s still just 1-3 on the season. Sock has lost his opening match in six of his last eleven tournaments dating back to Cincinnati alst summer. Escobedo shook off a retirement in Delray Beach qualies last week to get through qualifying in Acapulco. This is his third main draw that he has qualified for in 2018 with New York marking his best result as he made round two. They’ve never met, but this might be interesting given Sock’s struggles.

Radu Albot
I think you have to give Albot a slight shot to take down Kevin Anderson in round one. The Moldovian has played some big servers tight this season, beating John Isner once and taking him to three sets last week in Delray Beach. He also lost in three to Jiri Vesely in Auckland earlier in the season. Albot also put together a decent effort in losing in three to Kei Nishikori in New York in the quarterfinals. Anderson might be in better form than all of those combined, coming in off the New York title – but he’s had a difficult time putting opponents away in straight sets. Seven of his nine matches have gone the distance this year.

Ryan Harrison
Harrison draws John Isner who is just 1-4 this season. He did get win #1 last week in Delray Beach. Isner owns a 5-2 advantage in the head-to-head with Harrison, but they have split their only two meetings in the last two years. Four of the five sets played in those matches went to tie breaks, so there is a small margin for error for Isner. Harrison has had problems topping big servers this year with his losses coming to Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic, Ivo Karlovic and Reilly Opelka. Something has to give here and considering Isner’s 0-fer in Acapulco, Harrison could fancy his chances to get a rare win over Big John.

Steve Johnson
The American got some much needed wins in Delray Beach last week, making his first ATP semifinal since making the Houston final last April. He opens against Alexander Zverev who was a disappointing round of 16 loser to Andreas Seppi in Rotterdam when was last saw him. Sascha has played just two tournaments this year with the Davis Cup win over Australia arguably being his best tennis this season. Johnson beat Sascha at the Miami Open in 2016 in two tie break sets in their only previous match. The American’s previous experience in this tournament in conditions could be an advantage here, so keep Sascha on upset alert.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds 
(1) Rafael Nadal: 4-1 (record in Acapulco on hard court)
(7) Sam Querrey: 9-2

Breakdown
Nadal gets a familiar face to open with Feliciano Lopez. Lopez surprisingly has won their last two meetings, both coming on outdoor hard courts. The last came in 2015 in Cincinnati. Overall, Rafa is 9-4 against Lopez. Lopez is just 1-2 in two trips to Acapulco. Given Rafa’s time off, it’s easy to think Lopez will at least push Nadal in his opener. The winner takes on the survivor between qualifier Alexander Bublik and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis is again an injury question mark after pulling out of the Morelos Challenger in the semifinals due to an ankle injury. That could give the 20-year-old Bublik a chance to score his first ATP level win in 2018. In either case, as long as Rafa shakes off any rust – he looks a good shot for the quarterfinals at minimum.

The bottom half features the defending champ Querrey and he opens against Matthew Ebden. Querrey is 2-0 in his career against the Aussie and should have a shot to get out of the gates with a win. Round two would pit him against either Jared Donaldson or Nikoloz Basilashvili. Donaldson won both meetings with Basilashvili on hard courts last year. The American has dropped his opening match in his last two tournaments however and that makes this close to a 50-50 call. Querrey is a combined 4-0 against Donaldson/Basilashvili and will be confident of beating either one. This quarter could play out to a Nadal-Querrey repeat from 2017.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Jack Sock: 0-1
(5) Kevin Anderson: 7-2

Breakdown
Sock will look to avoid the early upset against Escobedo. The winner gets Hyeon Chung or Donald Young. Chung returned to the court in Delray Beach after recovering from his Australian Open blisters. He made the quarterfinals and will be looking to establish himself more solidly this week. Young lost their only previous encounter on clay and has lost his opener in five of his last six tournaments played. Chung has a legit shot to squeeze through this top portion and be in the quarterfinals. Sock would likely prefer Young whom he has beaten three out of three meetings. He’s never met Sock.

Anderson has Albot first up, who could be a little dangerous. If Anderson shows up motivated as usual though, I think he’ll escape. The winner gets either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Ricardas Berankis. The two have split four career meetings with Mannarino getting both his wins on outdoor hard courts. As long as Anderson doesn’t get caught flat out of the gates, this should set up to be a winnable quarter for him. The fifth seed is 3-1 against Mannarino and 1-0 against Berankis. I fancy Anderson in this quarter with a look to Chung as the unseeded player who could cause some upsets. An unseeded player has made the semifinals every year that this tournament has been played on hard courts.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Dominic Thiem: 7-1 (W – 2016)
(6) Juan Martin Del Potro: 1-1

Breakdown
This might be the toughest quarter of the tournament with dangerous floaters like Kei Nishikori, Denis Shapovalov, David Ferrer and Andrey Rublev. An earlier than expected loss for Thiem in Rio last week might be good for him this week. The Austrian won the title here in 2016 and made the quarters last year. His first round match against qualifier Cameron Norrie is likely to afford him a winning start. Round two will be very tough against either Nishikori or Shapovalov. This is a great litmus test for Nishikori with the young Canadian with the potential to push him.

The other half features Del Potro who lost to Frances Tiafoe during Big Foe’s 1st ATP title run in Delray Beach. DelPo didn’t look top notch, so he will need to improve this week if he’s going to be a factor. He opens against Mischa Zverev, who has lost six of eight this year. The winner gets either David Ferrer or Andrey Rublev. The “random” draw pits those two against each other for the second time this year. The Russian beat Ferrer in five sets at the Australian Open. Ferrer has struggled for wins with four straight losses. The Spaniard has dropped his opener in three straight tournaments.

I think all eyes should be on Nishikori this week. He does have a tough path, but he’s 2-0 against Thiem and has beaten Del Potro in two of their last three meetings. He needs a quick start against Shapovalov, but could curry that win into a nice run. DelPo is the other guy I like here.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Alexander Zverev: 0-0
(8) John Isner: 0-2

Breakdown
This quarter could get blown up early. Zverev opens with Steve Johnson who is coming off his best run in nearly a year. Sascha hasn’t played a ton of tournament tennis this year and this is his Acapulco debut. There’s a possibility that he could be out early. Either way, the winner of this first round match will be in decent shape in round two. Delray Beach runner-up Peter Gojowczyk or wild card Lucas Gomez is the foe. Gojo will have to contend with the championship loss hangover. Gomez is a 22-year old Mexican who is just 1-9 all-time as this level. He may not be the one to KO Gojo, but you’d fancy Sascha or Stevie J to make the quarters in this spot.

The other half is led by John Isner. I laid it out in the Eliminati that Ryan Harrison has every reason to feel like he can beat Isner in round one, despite the lopsided head-to-head. The survivor of that All-American first rounder gets the survivor of the Rio title rematch with Diego Schwartzman and Fernando Verdasco playing again in round one. It is often difficult to repeat success against the same opponent, but Verdasco had a long week playing singles and doubles. Diego should parlay that Rio title into at least an opening round win and this quarter could actually open up for him if he can keep the ball rolling.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Sizzle
Kei Nishikori
Kevin Anderson

Fizzle
Alexander Zverev
John Isner

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

You always have to believe that a healthy Rafael Nadal is in it to win it, but this is a stacked field with Rafa coming off a month without playing a competitive match. I’ll look elsewhere for the champ this week considering the top seed’s troubles in even getting to the final since Acapulco went to hard courts. Anderson seems logical as an option given good form and good history here. Keep eyes out for both Kei Nishikori and Hyeon Chung among the unseeded players. Both appear healthy and Nishikori especially seems like it’s just a matter of time before he gets back into the title mix.

Doubles Draw Preview

Seeds
1. Kubot-Melo: 0-1
2. Marach-Pavic: 0-0
3. Murray-Soares: 4-0 (W – 2017)
4. Bryans: 0-0

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo and the Bryans lead the top half. Since making the Aussie Open quarterfinals, Kubot and Melo have not won back-to-back matches in either Rotterdam or Rio. They have a potential landmine in the opening round with Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock as their opponents. Sock teamed up with Jackson Withrow to take home the doubles crowns in Delray Beach last week. Harrison-Sock have teamed up seven times before, but not since 2014. You would expect the chemistry of Kubot-Melo to win out, but this won’t be easy. The winner gets the survivor between Alexander Sascha Zverev battling Marc and Feliciano Lopez. The Zverevs are 0-1 this year, while Team Lopez is 1-3 this year. Kubot-Melo really need to turn up here and make a run in with a winnable draw.

The other half with the Bryans will see the American twins battle Fabrice Martin and Franko Skugor. Chemistry again could be a key here with Martin-Skugor not havinh paired up since 2013. The Bryans are only 1-2 since the Australian Open, so they need to get going quick in round one. If they win, they get a shot against either Santiago Gonzalez and Julio Peralta or Rio champions David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco. The Spanish duo beat them last week in Rio in a super tie break. On hard courts, it will be interesting to see if the result is reversed. This could fall to the seeds, but keep an eye on the Marrero-Verdasco v Gonzalez-Peralta winner as a dark horse.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Marach-Pavic return to the court for the first time since suffering loss #1 of 2018 in the Rotterdam final to Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Outside of that loss, it’s been a blistering start to the year for the top ranked pair who have made the final of all three tournaments they have played – winning two titles. They open against qualifiers, so they should get through to the quarterfinls. There, they will face either Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya or wild cards Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes Varela. Mektic-Peya have made the finals in two of their last three tournaments and will be the tougher out.

Murray-Soares come back to Acapulco as the defending champions and off a semifinal showing in Rio last week. Their opener comes against the mish mosh pairing of Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov. The winner gets either Ben McLachlan and Nicholas Monroe or Marcelo Demoliner and Sam Querrey. McLachlan has continued his solid doubles play that we saw in Melbourne, but it’s been with Hugo Nys. Switching partners to Monroe will challenge him to find some quick chemistry. If they do, they could be a sleeper team to watch. Otherwise, this could wind up being Murray-Soares vs Marach-Pavic in the semifinals. Marach-Pavic have a win over them already this season.

The Pig-nosticator

Sizzle
Marach-Pavic
Kubot-Melo

Fizzle
Bryans

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

The bottom half of this draw looks as if it could produce the champion this week. The two seeded pairs in Marach-Pavic and Murray-Soares have form and history here to make deep runs possible. If you’re looking for an unseeded duo to join the lengthy history of unseeded duos doing work here – look to Marrero-Verdasco and perhaps McLachlan-Monroe. This is a chance for a team to grab momentum heading into the Indian Wells-Miami double in March. Kubot-Melo got hot in that stretch last year and have the draw to get through in Acapulco. I do think this one falls to one of the seeds. I’d love to see another Kubot-Melo vs Marach-Pavic showdown.

2018 ATP Doubles Preview

KONTINEN-PEERS

Kontinen-Peers Open New Season Looking For More

2017 ended just as 2016 did with Henri Kontinen and John Peers crowned as the doubles champions at the ATP Nitto Finals. And for the second straight year, it was not enough for Kontinen and Peers to claim the year-end #1 ranking. That feat went to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in 2017. The top dogs on the doubles tour ended the season with six titles, three which came at Masters 1000 events and the cherry on top at Wimbledon. Kontinen-Peers wound up around 700 points behind Kubot-Melo, winning five titles including the Australian Open. They also added a Masters title in Shanghai to go along with the Aussie and Tour Finals as their three high profile titles.

Rounding out the top eight finishers in 2017 were Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in third, Jean Julien-Rojer and Horia Tecau at #4, the Bryans at #5, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in sixth, Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers in 7th and Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison in 8th. Murray-Soares are back as a regular team again in 2018, already notching a win at the Qatar Open. This will be their third year as a pairing with a combined record of 87-39 through the first two years of their partnership. Altough they ended 2017 with the same number of doubles titles (3) that they captured in 2016, the season seemed more of a struggle for major success. Of course the bar was set high in 2016 when they won both the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. Last year, they won two of their three titles on grass in Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club in London.

Rojer-Tecau return for their fifth year together. 2017 was a poor one by ther usual standards, but they got hot near the end of the year to get to the 40 win mark for the third time in four years. They would take hom four titles with their best run of form coming in back-to-back tournaments, winning in Winston-Salem and then claiming their 2nd Slam together at the U.S. Open.

Mahut-Herbert will be teaming up for the fourth year, although 2017 did mark the least amount of matches played together at 38. A lot of that can be attributed to both still pushing their singles play, which kept them apart for some tournaments. Overall, the season was quite the roller coaster. They did claim three Masters titles, including an impressive run back-to-back in Montreal and Cincinnati. At Slams however, the French duo flopped. They lost their opening round matches both at the French Open and U.S. Open, an flamed out in round two at Wimbledon. Their best run came at the Australian Open, where they made the quarterfinals.

BRYANS

The Bryans, Mike and Bob, are back for a 20th season together on tour. The American twins played their first complete season together in 1999 and saw a remarkable run of 40 win seasons end at 19 last year. They were just a win shy at 39-21. The Bryans recorded their lowest title tally at two in 2017 since their first years on tour, when they went without titles in 1999 and 2000. The twins, who turn 40 in April, also went a third straight year without a Grand Slam title. They did make the Australian Open final in 2017 and also scored a semifinal berth at the U.S. Open. Both the French and Wimbledon were flops though as they lost in the second round of both tournaments.

Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers have been chosen to go with different partners at least to begin 2018. Dodig is teaming with Fernando Verdasco with that tandem scoring a win in Doha this week. Verdasco may be more well known for his singles accumen, but the Spaniard has been a fairly regular doubles player as well with seven career titles. Granollers is partnering with Fabio Fognini. Granollers has gone on record saying that singles is his priority to start 2018. It seems like there is some room for a Dodig-Granollers reunion perhaps later in the season depending on commitments.

Venus and Harrison have also split and there is not expected to be a reunion with Venus choosing to go with South African Raven Klaasen as his regular partner this season. Venus-Harrison were one of the better doubles stories of 2017. They first teamed on clay in Budapest and then a month later with unseeded champions at Roland Garros. They followed that up with a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon and wound up with the last spot for the Tour Finals losing their openers in nine of the 15 tournaments they participated in together. Venus is teaming with Marcelo Demoliner this week in Brisbane, but is expected to switch to Klaasen beginning with the ASB Classic in Venus’ homeland, New Zealand.

NESTOR

Nestor Hoping to Finish With a Flourish

Canadian Daniel Nestor has announced that 2018 will be his final year on tour. The 45-year-old has stated that he’ll throw in the towel on an illustrious doubles career either after this year’s Rogers Cup or the U.S. Open. Nestor has 91 career doubles titles, although he did not win one in 2017. That ended a ridiculous 23 year run in which he had won at least one doubles title at the ATP level. Nestor completed the career Grand Slam in 2008, when he won at Wimbledon. He has a dozen career Grand Slam doubles titles, with eight coming in men’s play and four in mixed. His last Slam title came in 2012 at the French Open.

Nestor said last year’s slumping season in which he went just 21-30 helped make his decision to call it quits this season an easy one. Nestor looks likely to play partner roulette again this season. He’s teamed up with Philipp Oswald to open play at the Qatar Open, where to lost to Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in straights. The Canadian has plans to team with Donald Young next week, before switching to Jonathan Erlich for Australian Open play. Regardless of how his storied career plays out, Nestor will always have one distinction that cannot be taken away from him – he was the first player ever to win 1,000 matches on the ATP World Tour in doubles. He recorded that record setter back in January 2016 in Sydney.

New Pairings Looking to Provide Sparks For Veteran Players

As usual, there is a lot of partner swapping taking place to start 2018 and as usual, don’t expect that the changes won’t continue in the early months as players jockey for the right fit. Among the new teams announced for the new season are Americans Rajeev Ram and Brian Baker. Ram announced his retirement from singles competition last season and will have a new partner for the first time since 2014. Ram teamed up with Klaasen from 2015-2017 with the duo winning five titles, the biggest of which came last year at Indian Wells. Baker seems to have found more of a niche in doubles the last few years after suffering through injury riddled singles seasons. He’s gone 52-25 in doubles play the last two years. He had a very successful partnership with Nikola Mektic in 2017 with that pair winning titles in Memphis and Budapest. The teaming with Ram could be one to watch this season with both committed to doubles play now after up and down singles’ careers.

Nenad Zimonjic continues the doubles grind at 41. This year, he’ll team with Florin Mergea. The duo lost their debut to Dodig-Verdasco in Doha. Mergea split most of his 2017 between Dominic Inglot and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi. He finishes just 15-16 on the season. Zimonjic was 25-27 with an astonishing 20 different partners in 2017. The Serb did win his first title since 2014, while teamed up witk Viktor Troicki in Sofia. Certainly having a stable partner could help Zimonjic this season.

PAES

The man of so many partners we’ve lost count also is starting the new season with yes, a new partner! Leander Paes entered 2018 with fellow-Indian Purav Raja announced as his regular partner. The duo lost their opener in Pune, but appeared to have some chemistry while going 12-7 in 2017 when they paired up. They won back-to-back Challenger titles in Knoxville and Champaign to end the season. Paes did have eleven other partners in 2017 and failed to win a title at the ATP level for the second straight season.

The 44-year old will hope that Raja can help end that. Raja had been paired with Divij Sharan pretty regularly since 2013 with the all-Indian duo winning two ATP titles in that span through August 2017 when Raja switched to teaming with Paes. Paes has at least talked a good game, sounding like a man who wants to stick more to playing with the same partner for a good chunk of the season. Paes says he expects it may take a bit more time for the pair to fully connect and start reeling off solid results at the ATP level, but he thinks it is the right fit.

The other partnership to keep an eye on in 2018 should be Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna partnered the most with Pablo Cuevas last season, winning a title with Cuevas in Vienna near the end of the season. He also won with Cuevas in Monte Carlo and to start the season in Chennai with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. The pairing is in action this week in Pune before Bopanna and ERV connect. Roger-Vasselin was another doubles nomad in 2017, pairing with Daniel Nestor to open the year. He would also team with Frenchmen Fabrice Martin, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau as well. The Benneteau-ERV pairing produced his lone title on 2017 in Metz along with a trip to the U.S. Open quarters.

Bopanna has been a steady contributor the last few seasons with seven titles, including a Masters win each of the last two season in clay. Roger-Vasselin is no slouch with 14 career doubles titles. He has won at least one doubles title at the ATP level in six straight seasons, including the French Open titles with Benneteau in 2014. This duo has the making of one that should be a threat in the Top 10 and perhaps pushing for a spot in London.

Under-The-Radar Returnees

Two teams catch my eye for 2018. One has been a steady pairing the past few seasons, while the other burst onto the scene with some big results in 2017. Let’s start with old reliable, the Colombians. That is Juan-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah. These two first teamed up in 2010 and have been regular partners since that time. 2017 was another steady 30+ win season for the duo, their fourth straight season to do so and fifth since 2012. They won two titles together on clay with Cabal adding a third with Treat Huey later in the season.

Overall, the Colombians have won ten titles together with eight of them coming on dirt. Generally, they have been at their best during the early South American swing on clay, winning in Buenos Aires twice and in Rio de Janeiro twice. They are not completely inept on other surfaces, but their results are definitely diminished on hard courts and grass. Still, you can expect them to provide more of the same in 2018 – a couple of titles and competitive matches. I’d expect them to be on the fringe of the top ten again. They finished 12th last season.

Now a team that looks very much sink or swim in 2018 are Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. They finished 2017 just out of the running for a spot in London, finishing 450 points behind Harrison-Venus in 9th place. They won just one title together at the tail end of 2017 in Stockholm, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They paired for the first time in Miami in March, but really didn’t become a factor until the grass court swing. There, Marach-Pavic hit their stride with three straight finals appearances in Stuttgart, Antalya and at Wimbledon.

Their Wimbledon final against Kubot and Melo was an instant classic. They would lose 13-11 in the fifth set, one round after they pulled out a stunning 15-13 fifth set win in the semifinals against Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor. The remainder of their season fizzled out with an injury to Marach ending things early at the Tour Finals after a round robin loss to the Bryans. They’ve kicked off their season in Doha with a couple of wins so far. The 37-year-old Marach brings the experience with 17 career doubles titles and 21 other doubles finals’ appearances. Pavic is a young player with a big serve and great movement that really seemed ti ignite this partnership. He’s already won nine doubles titles and partnered with two others (Dodig,Inglot) in 2017 to win three combined doubles titles.

If Marach stays healthy and their chemistry continues, they could well be in position for another shot at London. They will need to prove themselves on other surfaces this year, so a quick start on hard courts would be a big boost.

The Pig-Nosticator

So with all of that said, who do I look to be in the running for those eight spots in London this season? Here’s a look, plus my own goal(s) for these duos to improve on their 2017 results or start their new partnerships off well.

1. Kontinen-Peers
A big fat duh here to the two-time defending Nitto ATP Finals champions. They’ve won ten titles combined in the past two seasons and despite some lulls each season, they’ve always done plenty to secure a spot.

Goal: Win their second Grand Slam. For all their success, they have just the one Slam title in Australia in 2016. Melbourne seems like their best bet again as they have made the final two straight years. They’ve been in the mix at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open with semifinal showings at both last year. They showed the consistency outside of a first round flop at Roland Garros, now they need to cash in with the hardware.

2. Kubot-Melo
This was the best team consistently for me in 2017 with the two 30-somethings finishing as the top duo in the rankings, around 700 points better than Kontinen-Peers. Their 49-18 mark lets you in on their proclivity for sniffing trophies last season. The pair won six titles and made four other finals. They did alot of that at the biggest tournaments.

Goal: Better Grand Slam results. The one area that they struggled outside of their Wimbledon win, was producing consistently good results at Slams in 2017. They didn’t make it past the second round in Paris or New York and were out in round three in Melbourne. The good thing is that leaves plenty of points to gain in 2018 with better results. I think they’ll need those if they want to be in the running for #1 again.

3. Murray-Soares
Another duh right? They’ve won 40+ matches in two consecutive seasons with six titles together. There was still a disappointing feel to 2017 for this tandem though with just one of their six finals appearances coming at a Masters event or Grand Slam (CincinnatI). In 2016, they won two Slams and made two Masters finals. They did make two Slam quarters last season in paris and New York, but were first round upset victims in Melbourne and second round losers in London.

Goal: Bigger results at the bigger tournaments. In 2017, they combined for a 21-13 record at Masters tournaments and Grand Slams. Their first year together in 2016, they were 28-11. They need to get to more finals, more consistently.

4. The Bryans
Even though they’ve been falling out of the Grand Slam mix as far as winning the last few seasons, the Americans still have shown they have enough in the tank to have a shot at adding to their record 16 Grand Slam victories. In making the Australian Open final last season, they ran their streak to 14 season in which they have made at least one Slam final.

Goal: Consistency. For a team accustomed to being at the top of the doubles game, the Bryans struggled with early losses too much in 2017. In 12 of their 21 tournaments played, they failed to win back-to-back matches. In order to stay within the top eight, they’ll need to improve on that number.

5. Bopanna-ERV
I really like the potential of this team. Bopanna has been a consistent player, but has lacked a permanent partnership that has yielded top results. He still found himself in two Masters finals and two quarterfinals last season. The one big stopping point was at Slams, where his best finish was the round of 16 at the French Open. In his career, he’s played in just one Grand Slam final and that came in 2010 at the U.S. Open with Qureshi. Roger-Vasselin has been two a pair of Grand Slam finals, winning the French and losing the final at Wimbledon in 2016. I think with the Frenchman focused on doubles, there is a chance for this pairing to be special.

Goal: Push the top teams. I don’t think they necessarily need to win a ton of titles to have a chance to make some noise this season. What they need to do is show that they have the chemistry to push teams like Kontinen-Peers, Kubot-Melo and Murray-Soares. If they do, the wins will come and they should be in the mix for a spot in London.

6. Venus-Klaasen
These are two solid doubles players who simply need to find a rhythm together I think to make an immediate impact. We’ll get to see if that happens in Auckland next week. Venus has been involved in 14 career doubles finals with seven titles, while Klaasen has 25 finals appearances with 13 titles. Klaasen has done that with seven different partners. For me, that speaks to his quality and ability to mesh with his partner.

Goal: Early success. The ASB Classic in Auckland was a great jumping off point for Venus and Mate Pavic in 2016. They won their first title together in that tournament and had three total by the end of February. 2017 champions Marcin Matkowski and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi won in Auckland the first time they paired up, so there is some historical success for newly minted teams. Toss in that Klaasen won there in 2015 with Leander Paes and that stop in NZ could yield big things to catalyze this duo.

7. Rojer-Tecau
Up until late in 2017, Rojer-Tecau looked like they were on their way to being a very middling team. It’s funny how a Grand Slam title changes things. Their finish to the season rekindled hope that the former world number ones can still get it done in their fifth year together.

Goal: Avoid prolonged slumps. Rojer-Tecau got mired in a slump early in the season that took them a long time to dig out of as they went just 6-5 before winning the titles in Dubai in early March. After that, it took them nearly three months to make another final in Geneva in late May. Then it was nearly three months until the next in Winston-Salem in late August, so you see the trend. During their two best seasons in 2014 and 2015, they found success much more consistently. A return to that sort of form would boost their odds of making the fieled in London in 2018.

8. The Mystery Team
In recent years, there has almost always been one surprise team to that comes out of nowhere to make this field. Maybe Bopanna-ERV are that team, but I have a feeling it could be one that I haven’t touched on or one that has not even formed yet. We saw that last year with Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus. 2016 brought us Team Lopez with Marc and Feliciano making the field as a new tandem that surprised many by winning the French Open. 2015 brought Matkowski and Zimonjic into the field of eight in London, despite not pairing up for the first time until March.

So one of the spots in London could fall to a relative unknown or unexpected squad. I think the Ram-Baker partnership might have some possibility of being in the mix or perhaps if Dodig and Verdasco stick together long enough, they might make a run. Dodig has made five straight trips to the Tour Finals with two different partners (Melo,Granollers). Keep an eye on who he plays with the most this season.

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

As always, when Grand Slams roll around – keep your eyes on the unseeded teams. Time and time again, they spring surprises on us. We’ve seen an unseeded team win at least one Grand Slam in each of the last four seasons. Down under, the surprise could be Lleyton Hewitt teaming with Sam Groth in Groth’s final tournament before retiring. As for some other random predictions for 2018, I’ll go with the Bryan Brothers winning the U.S. Open titles and then one of the brothers (Bob) retiring from the game altogether. Donald Young will become more well known for his doubles play then in singles.

… and Bethanie Mattek-Sands will return to tour in 2018 to rekindle “Team Bucie” with Lucie Safarova at some point. That in turn, should ramp up my interest in WTA doubles again which will be missing Martina Hingis due to retirement and Sania Mirza due to injury as 2018 gets underway.

The Doubles DL: 2017 U.S. Open Men’s Preview

doubles-dl

Frenchies The Form Team In New York

The men’s doubles draw begins play on Wednesday and it is the 2016 U.S. Open champions, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues-Herbert, who arrive with the best form. The French duo won back-to-back Masters titles at the Rogers Cup and Westerm & Southern Open after suffering a mostly mediocre season to that point. Herbert-Mahut have elevated themselves from being ranked outside the top ten into the third slot in the rankings as the U.S. Open begins. They are seeded third in New York.

Leading the field will be the current #2 team in the rankings, Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers won the Citi Open title earlier this summer, but struggled in both Masters events as they failed to get past the quarterfinals in either event. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo slot in as the #2 seeds this week. They are the current top ranked team and have also scuffled some since losing to Kontinen-Peers in the Citi Open final. Kubot-Melo did make the semis in Cincinnati, where they lost to Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares – the 2016 U.S. Open champs.

Rounding out the top four seeds are Murray-Soares. Last year’s champions have been solid this year, but have found consistency fleeting. This summer is a perfect example as they won two of their three titles this year on grass and then lost in the second round at Wimbledon. They started the hard court swing with a semifinal run at the Citi Open and made the finals in Cincinnati, losing to Herbert-Mahut. In between, they dropped their opener at the Rogers Cup to Benoit Paire and Gael Monfils.

Four First Timers Among Top Ten Seeds

In addition to the veteran duos at the top of the seeded field, there are several teams that will debut together at this year’s U.S. Open. That does not include the fifth seeded Bryans or the 7th seeded tandem of Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram. It does include Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers who have not played together since Wimbledon .Coincidentally, they lost to the French Open champions Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison on London. Venus-Harrison are seeded 8th and bring some big match swagger as they have won the French and made the quarters at Wimbledon. They struggled for results outside of Slams, but did make the Cincy semifinals last week to bring some confidence to the tournament.

Other first timers inside the top ten seeds include Wimbledon runners-up Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic as the 9th seeds. Marach-Pavic spent time apart after Wimbledon, but reunited to make the Rogers Cup semifinals. They lost in Cincy to Venus-Harrison last week. The 10th seeds are also teaming up for their first U.S. Open with Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas taking that spot. Bopanna-Cuevas also have not tagged up together for a bit, havin last played together at the French Open.

Among the remaining seeds in the top 16, Team Lopez with Marc and Feliciano have the best finish. They Spaniards made the semifinals in 2016. They are seeded 11th, but have been dreadful this year. Team Lopez has lost their opening match in nine of the 14 tournaments they have played. Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau bring the most experience at the tail end of the field with a 6-3 record. Their best finish was a quarterfinal run in 2015. They do come in hot after taking the Winston-Salem doubles titles, the team’s third titles together this season.

History Lesson

If this year’s Grand Slams and recent U.S. Open history have told us anything, it is that it does not pay to be a top seed if you’re going to win the titles. So far this year, we’ve seen Kontinen-Peers win the Australian Open as fourth seeds. The top seeds in Melbourne were Herbert-Mahut, who crashed out in the quarterfinals. At the French Open, unseeded Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison took home the trophies with the first seeds, Kontinen-Peers, losing in the first round. And at Wimbledon, Kubot-Melo were seeded 4th as they won the titles. The top seeds Kontinen-Peers were beaten in the semifinals.

At the U.S. Open specifically, the top seed has only won once in the last five years with the Bryans doing that in 2014. The top seeds have managed to make the semifinals three of those five years, but have failed to advance to the final two of three times. Unseeded teams have made a recent living of advancing to the semifinals with four teams doing that in the last three years. There are a few unseeded teams I see that could do a little damage, although I am a bit hesitant to say they can continue that semifinal tradition. Here’s a look at those dangerous floaters.

Outsider’s Edge

Eyserric-Skugor
This is a team with some experience. They have teamed up three times over the past two years and made the final in each event. All were on clay and two were at the Challenger level, but still there is chemistry for this team.

Cerretani-Polmans
This is an interesting team with the 35-year-old American James Cerretani and the 20-year-old Aussie Marc Polmans. They have already teamed up this year at the Citi Open and took Murray-Soares to a 19-17 match tiebreak in the quarterfinals after beating Venus-Harrison in their opener. This team is one to watch.

Molteni-Shamasdin
Another unseeded team that has experience playing togther this season. This duo has a dozen matches under their belts and they did make the finals in Atlanta, losing to the Bryans. They are in a weaker part of the draw with Rojer-Tecau and Gonzalez-Young as the seeds in their path to a possible quarterfinal. Although Rojer-Tecau played well in Winston-Salem, their season has been up and down – so there is room for an upset against them still.

Podlipnik Castillo-Vasilevski
This is the team that might have the best shot to stun and keep the unseeded semifinals streak alive in U.S. Open doubles. This mostly Challenger playing duo made the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year, knocking out Klaasen-Ram. They are perhaps the weakest part of the fourth quarter, where they could reasonably make a quarterfinal run. They would have to get through Herbert-Mahut potentially to get to a semifinal, unless someone else takes care of them first.

Benneteau-Roger Vasselin
The two Frenchman are experienced, albeit better suited to getting results on grass. Still, they are a team that should not be overlooked and they will test the #2 seeds potentially early on in round two. If they score an early knockout punch of Kubot-Melo, then this team has a chance to pick up steam and be a real threat.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
Kontinen-Peers (1)
Klaasen-Ram (7)
Bopanna-Cuevas (10)
Peralta-Zeballos (14)

Top Half Breakdown
Kontinen-Peers campaign should be afforded a good start against Americans William Blumberg and Spencer Papa. It would be difficult to think that duo will trouble the top seeds too much in round one. Round two could be a bit more difficult. They will play either Daniel Nestor and Dominic Inglot or Russians MIkhail Elgin and Daniil Medvedev. I’d say Nestor-Inglot look much more likely and they at least got their chemistry back by playing a match in Winston-Salem last week. Again, I would be hard pressed to say they will challenge Kontinen-Peers terribly, but Kontinen-Peers have only played at the U.S. Open once and lost last year in their second match. I still fancy them to move to round three.

Peralta-Zeballos are the seeds opposite of the top seeds in the top half. They are in good form, having made the Winston-Salem final. They bring veteran experience in a weak section of the draw where they start with James Cerretani and Marc Polmans. Don’t sleep on those two. Both are solid doubles players and having played together a few matches this summer, they showed good chemistry. They MIGHT be that unseeded team that makes some noise. If they get the upset early, they play the winner of Juan-Sebastien Cabal and Leonardo Mayer against Carlos Berlocq and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The winner of that Peralta-Zeballos vs Cerretani-Polmans match looks like the favorite to meet Kontinen-Peers in round three to me.

Bottom Half Breakdown
The section with Klaasen-Ram and Bopanna-Cuevas as the seeds looks a bit more difficult to predict. Klaasen-Ram open with Rogerio Dutra Silva and Paolo Lorenzi. Klaasen-Ram haven’t made it past the third round of any of the Slams this year, but should at least get the shot to improve on that here. If the 7th seeds win their opener, they play either the team of Nicolas Monroe and J.P. Smith or Jonathan Eysseric and Franko Skugor. Eyserric-Skugor I touched on above in Outsider’s Edge and they could be the tricky ones in this section.

Bopanna-Cuevas open against Bradley Klahn and Scott Lipsky. Even with the long layoff for Bopanna-Cuevas, I think they get through there. That sets them up against either Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul or Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini. The Italians might have better chemistry, but haven’t been able to reproduce the magic they had a few years ago. Paul has played some doubles, but not with Johnson. He did play with Taylor Fritz at the U.S. Open in 2015, so he at least has some experience on the big stage. Still a big ask for them to win their first time playing together with likely very little practice time as both are playing singles as well.

Quarter #2 Seeds
Murray-Soares (4)
Dodig-Granollers (6)
Rojer-Tecau (12)
Gonzalez-Young (15)

Top Half Breakdown
Murray-Soares open against Austrians Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya. Knowle-Peya have played together sporadically over the years without much in the way of good results. The fourth seeds should advance with relatively little in the way of problems. Their secound round match figures to be much tougher with either Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Fernando Verdasco awaiting or Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner. All four of those players are experienced in doubles play and will present a significant test for Murray-Soares. Daniell-Demoliner have done well at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon, going three rounds in each Slam. Don’t underestimate the Spaniards, but I think Daniell-Demoliner might just get through. They did lose their lone match against Murray-Soares in straights on clay earlier this season.

The other part of this section features Gonzalez-Young. They open with Robert Lindstedt and Jordan Thompson. Gonzalez-Young have not been able to reproduce the magic that brought them the unexpected trip to the French Open finals as they have gone 0-3 in their other matches played. Lindstedt is the regular doubles guy, but Thomspon has played plenty of doubles this year mainly with fellow Aussies to good results. He teamed with Thanasi Kokkinakis at Wimbledon, knocking off Rojer-Tecau in round one. At the French, he paired with Nick Kyrgios and made the third round. They knocked off Herbert-Mahut in round one. There is a pattern there if he can find a rhythm with Lindstedt for them to KO Gonzalez-Young.

The winner there goes up against either Andreas Molteni and Adil Shamasdin or Vasek Pospisil and Nenad Zimonjic. Molteni-Shamasdin have teamed up for a dozen matches this year, going 8-4. That might give them the edge in round one and this part of the draw could open up for them with Gonzalez-Young not being the strongest seeds.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Dodig-Granollers will need to refind their rhythm together and that makes them prone in round one against Wesley Koolhof and Artem Sitak. Koolhof-Sitak have gone 5-4 together this season, including a trip to the Atlanta final. They will be a tough out in round one. The survivor will battle Thomas Fabbiano and Yuichi Sugita or Alessandro Giannessi and Florian Mayer. I’d definitely side with either Dodig-Granollers or Koolhof-Sitak moving to round three.

Rojer-Tecau lead the other segment and will look to build on their Winston-Salem title with a run this week. They open with Damir Dzumhur and Dusan Lajovic. It would be stunning if the 12th seeds blew that win. They could wind up going against all-Argies with Diego Schwartzman and Guido Pella looking stronger and more experienced than Hyeon Chung and Yen-Hsun Lu. I really like Rojer-Tecau as the hot team here and they could easily ride that through to the quarterfinals, but their season has been a bit of a rollercoaster. They are one of those teams that has not been able to beat the truly elite doubles teams this year at all. On top of that, Dodig-Granollers did beat them at the French Open this year in three. Still, they are hot at the right time.

Quarter #3 Seeds
Herbert-Mahut (3)
Venus-Harrison (8)
Lopez-Lopez (11)
Baker-Mektic (13)

Top Half Breakdown
Herbert-Mahut will be expected to be major players in who wins the U.S. Open titles this year. They open against Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop. Don’t be surprised if the Dutch tandem challenges the third seeds some in that opener. They are both competent in doubles, so the French duo will need to be on point. The winners match up against either Christopher Eubanks and Christian Harrison or Mischa Zverev and Mikhail Youzhny. You would expect that Herbert-Mahut should get through this section and into the third round.

The other bracket in this half has Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic as the 13th seeds. This duo was hot early in the year with titles in Memphis and Budapest. They reformed last week in Winston-Salem for the first time in two months. They made the semis, but were oblierated 6-1, 6-0 by Rojer-Tecau. Baker-Mektic start with Malek Jaziri and Andrey Kuznetsov. The expectation should be for a seeded win. That sets them up against David Marrero-Benoit Paire or Steve Darcis-Dudi Sela. All four are decent doubles players, but won’t have the chemistry of Baker-Mektic. It would be a disappointment for the 13th seeds to not be in round three.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Venus-Harrison were not afforded a great draw with a dangerous French pairing as their first round foes in Fabrice Martin and Jeremy Chardy. Martin-Chardy have teamted up three times this season and made two finals, taking home the titles early in the season in Doha. This is a dangerous first round match-up and there is big time upset potential here. The winner gets either Marcin-Matkowski-Max Mirnyi or Taylor Fritz-Reily Opelka. Matkowski-Mirnyi would be the outsiders to watch. They played well on grass together, making the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Whether they can reproduce that in New York is a big question. I would not be surprised though if this part of the draw was blown up early.

On the other side, the Spaniards Marc and Feliciano Lopez might have a better draw, but do not have any sort of form coming into this week. They open against Andre Begemann and Divij Sharan. Sharan is without his normal partner Purav Raja as both decided to split prior to the U.S. Open believing their ranking as a team would not get them into the draw. So Raja is teaming with Leander Paes, while Sharan goes with the German. Even with the Spaniards in poor form, it’s a lot to ask for these two to mesh on the fly. Team Lopez MIGHT be able to snag an increasingly rare win.

The winner gets either Podlipnik Castillo-Vasilevski or Mannarino-Seppi. Podlipnik Castillo-Vasilevski are the ones to watch out for here. These are talented and experienced guys with chemistry. You probably didn’t notice, but they made the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year. Most of their work has been done at Challengers, where they have been ripping it up with three titles and four total finals appearances. They come in hot off one of those titles at the Portoroz Challenger. In a weak part of the draw, they have serious dark horse capability.

Quarter #4 Seeds
Kubot-Melo (2)
Bryans (5)
Marach-Pavic (9)
Groth-Qureshi (16)

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo begin their U.S. Open campaign against the mish mosh team of Ken Skupski and Guillermo Duran. The second seeds should get through with minimal hassle. Round two is where it could be testier with veteran Frenchmen Julian Benneteau and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin as likely opponents. Benneteau-ERV open against Basilashvili and Haider-Maurer, the latter of whom retired in his singles match in round one. Benneteau-ERV have only played together once this season, but have been regular partners in the past. Grass however has been their best surface with hard courts not producing the best results in the last two seasons when they have paired up. Do remember however that Roger-Vasselin teamed up with Fabrice Martin at the Rogers Cup to beat the current world #1s. An upset is definitely not unimaginable.

The other side of this half features Sam Groth and Aisam-Ul-Haq-Qureshi as the seeds. Both are solid doubles players, but have no experience together. That makes round one against Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev intriguing. Neither of the Russians are regular doubles players, but they have played enough to be threatening. I would expect Groth-Qureshi to probably get out of round one, but maybe just barely. That’s where they will see either Paes-Sharan or Tipsarevic-Troicki. Leander Paes is playing in his 24th U.S. Open, but he hasn’t made big runs at Slams much in the past two years. He did team with Radek Stepanek to win the USO titles in 2013, but hasn’t been past round three since then. The all-Serb squad teams up for the second straight Slam. They went 1-1 at Wimbledon. Based solely on doubles prowess, Paes and Sharan are the pick, but not overly confident in that selection.

Bottom Half Breakdown
This could be a great segment of the draw with the Bryans and Marach-Pavic as the seeds. Those two played once this season with Marach-Pavic winning on grass in Stuttgart during their magnificent summer grass swing that ended in a Wimbledon finals appearance. After starting the summer well with titles in Atlanta, the Bryans have been unable to get past the top tier teams as the tournaments grew bigger and the fields got more battled tested. They lost in the semis in D.C. to Kubot-Melo and then were beaten by their nemesis team, Herbert-Mahut, both in Montreal and Cincinnati. The French are 5-0 lifetime against the Bryans.

The Bryans open with the all-Czech tandem of Roman Jebavy and Jiri Vesely. They have played together quite a bit this season, but appear best suited to clay where they did win a title in Istanbul. The Bryans should be alert though as this might be a tough test, especially given their struggles of the past few years. A win there might see them against dangerous Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Matt Reid. Kyrgios-Reid play Joao Sousa and Jan-Lennard Struff in round one. Kyrgios-Reid are 5-3 when teamed up in 2017 with wins over a couple of the seeds in this year’s field in Bopanna-Cuevas and Baker-Mektic. They are an X-factor in this segment, although the Bryans did beat them in Miami in straights.

Marach-Pavic open with young Americans Vasil Kukov and Danny Thomas. They are making their ATP and Grand Slam debut. As such, Marach-Pavic should get off to a comfortable start. A win would set them up against either Sa-Oswald or Krajicek-Withrow. The American team of Krajicek-Withrow have played together a ton this year, but all at lower level events. They might have a shot to upset Sa-Oswald who have not played together, but I would not expect them to go further than round two. Marach-Pavic really should be in great position heading to round three. They could get the Bryans in a great potential match, but I’m not sold the twins will be there.

Guesstimated Quarterfinals
Kontinen-Peers vs Bopanna-Cuevas
Murray-Soares vs Rojer-Tecau
Herbert-Mahut vs Podilpnik Castillo-Vasilevski
Marach-Pavic vs Benneteau-ERV

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

I think three of the four top seeds in this tournament have beneficial draws conducive to deep runs. Kontinen-Peers, Herbert-Mahut and Murray-Soares are those teams. You have to consider the third seeded Frenchman the favorites with their dominance at the two Masters events over the last month. It would be fitting for them to put a cherry on top of that big month with the titles in New York, where they won the first of two Slams together. A win would also catapult the Frenchies into the second spot in the rankings and possibly make for a really tight race down the stretch.

Murray-Soares have the most to lose here, defending champions’ points that could see them plummet in the rankings to where their spot in London at the end of the year will really have to be earned again. It would be fitting to see the two teams that have played cat and mouse at #1 and #2 most of this season face off with Kontinen-Peers and Kubot-Melo, but this doesn’t feel like that spot. Kontinen-Peers however could get right back on the heels of Kubot-Melo for the top spot if they take home the title. Kubot-Melo have nothing to lose this week since they were not a team last year, all points won add to their lead at the top.

I still really like Marach-Pavic as seeded “outsiders” with a chance to be in the mix at the end. They’ve shown the ability to beat Kontinen-Peers and played that epic five set final at Wimbledon against Kubot-Melo, so they are near or at the same level as the dogs. I will still go with a slod nod to Herbert-Mahut with Marach-Pavic and Kontinen-Peers as my secondary choices. Longshots seeded outside the top ten would include Rojer-Tecau and perhaps one of those unseeded teams like Benneteau-ERV if they can produce a stunner early.