2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview


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

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

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

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

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.


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.


2018 Davis Cup R1 Doubles Previews


Saturday’s doubles rubbers in World Group play look to be key swing matches for some of these ties. Here is a look at the prospective match-ups along with some potential substitutions that could sway the action.

Japan vs Italy
(Tied 1-1)

Yasutaka Uchiyama
Ben McLachlan

Simone Bolelli
Paolo Lorenzi

This sets up well for Japan who got what they needed with the split on day one. I thought the Italians would consider swapping Lorenzi out, but with both Fognini and Seppi going five sets on Friday – they might need the rest for Sunday although Seppi’s match was only about three and a half hours in length. Fognini’s was closer to four. Still, Lorenzi has played just one doubles rubber in his Davis Cup career, so they may risk Fognini or Seppi. Both Fognini and Seppi have good experience with Fogs at 6-4 in doubles rubbers and Seppi at 4-2. Fognini has been the choice for Italy since 2013 in all their doubles ties, so if they swap, he looks to be the choice.

I talked in the preview about the chemistry between Uchiyama and McLachlan. To revisit that – these two won the doubles titles at the Japan Open last year and also got their feet wet together in Davis Cup play last year. McLachlan comes in off the big run at the Aussie Open with Jan-Lennard Struff. This is going to be one helluva doubles rubber I think and this tie really could be the best of the weekend when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Uchiyama-McLachlan win in five sets

Australia vs Germany
(Tied 1-1)

John Peers
Matthew Edben

Tim Puetz
Peter Gojowczyk

I don’t think there is much chance that Gojowczyk stays in the mix for Germany barring any fatigue or injury issue with Jan-Lennard Struff. I expect him to take that spot alongside Puetz. Those two paired up in the World Group play-off last year against Portugal and delivered an instrumental five set win. It is the lone doubles rubber for each. Alexander Zverev does have doubles experience too, but I don’t see that being an option given the importance of his singles rubber against Kyrgios on Sunday. Peers will be responsible for incorporating last minute sub Matthew Ebden into the mix. They have never paired up and Ebden has not been a part of Team Australia since teaming with Lleyton Hewitt to win a key doubles tilt back in 2013 against Uzbekistan.

Peers had a good year in Davis Cup doubles during the Aussies semifinal run in 2017, going 2-1 with Sam Groth as his partner for two rubbers and Jordan Thompson in the other. This could be the key rubber for this tie with the Kyrgios-Zverev reverse singles rubber due up first on Sunday. Kyrgios leads that head-to-head 3-1 and will be expecting to put his friend away. I think that makes this mostly a must-win for Germany. If the Germans sub in Struff, I do think they can take this one. If they stick with Gojo, then I would lean to the Aussies.

Prediction: Puetz-Struff win in five sets

France vs The Netherlands
(Tied 1-1)

Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Nicolas Mahut

Jean-Julien Rojer
Matwe Middelkoop

This becomes a much bigger rubber for the French with their injury problems. Gasquet delivered big against Haase to even the tie, but they will have Adrian Mannarino running back out against Haase on Sunday. Mannarino subbed in late for Lucas Pouille who has a neck injury and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was ruled out with a knee ailment. Mannarino does have a couple of wins over Haase in his ATP career, but he’s been thrown into all of this at the last minute. Maybe he gets his feet under him with a day in between now, but this duobles clash still looks very big overall for France.

Herbert-Mahut will reprise their role as the leads in doubles for the defending champions after Mahut was excluded in last year’s final against Belgium in favor of Gasquet. The pair are 3-1 in their Davis Cup careers together. Rojer and Middelkoop will team for the first time if selections hold. Haase is an option as he’s teamed with both players for big Davis Cup wins, but I think the Dutch brought both guys here to play together this time. I think chemistry is a big thing in doubles and Herbert-Mahut despite a lackluster start to their ATP season, have that in this situation. If Rojer and Middelkoop mesh well to start though, this is a real barn burner and an upset isn’t a shocker.

Prediction: Herbert-Mahut win in four sets

Spain vs Great Britain
(Tied 1-1)

Pablo Carreno Busta
Feliciano Lopez

Great Britain
Jamie Murray
Dominic Inglot

The Brits have to be ecstatic to be tied after day one. Cameron Norrie’s heroics against Roberto Bautista Agut will go down as legend. In case you missed it, Norrie won his first match EVER on clay at any professional level other than Futures against RBA as he rallied from down two sets to love! It was his Davis Cup debut and one hell of one at that. That sets up the Brits to make this tie way more interesting than it appeared after Kyle Edmund was declared not fit to perform this weekend. Murray and Inglot bring experience to the table on Saturday. They are 3-1 in Davis Cup play as a team.

Carreno Busta and Lopez don’t have the Davis Cup experience together and don’t have any matches together for that matter. Feliciano has been the doubles man for Spain along with Marc Lopez in the past, but he sports just an 8-11 record. He hasn’t been part of a doubles win for Spain since 2011. I’m going to scale back on my opinion of this tie in lieu of the Norrie win. I really think the Brits are going to make Spain work on Sunday if Spain is able to win. The home side may need two wins on Sunday.

Prediction: Murray-Inglot win in four sets

Croatia vs Canada
(Tied 1-1)

Ivan Dodig
Franko Skugor

Daniel Nestor
Vasek Pospisil

This is right where the Canadians want this tie to be, but if they want to have their best chance to score the win – I think they need this doubles rubber. They’ve got a chance with the combo of Nestor and Pospisil. I do worry about fatigue for Pospisil who subbed in for singles at the last minute for Peter Polansky. Pospisil was coming off a Challenger title this past week and I really though they were going to rest him on Friday. Nestor-Pospisil are 6-4 all-time as a tandem in Davis Cup play.

Dodig is the experience for Croatia with Skugor having just three doubles rubbers to his credit. The good news is he and Dodig are a perfect 2-0 when they have played alongside each other. Dodig is 11-13 overall in doubles rubbers in DC play, but has not lost in his last five rubbers played. Like so many of these doubles rubbers on Saturday, this is hugely important. The fourth rubber is Borna Coric against Denis Shapovalov (watch for my preview of that one). I talked about it in the weekend preview that the Canadians want to avoid a fifth rubber, where we are likely to see Marin Cilic subbed in to go up against Pospisil. This is their shot to do that, but it will be tough.

Prediction: Dodig-Skugor win in five sets

(Belgium leads 2-0)

Julien Cagnina
Joris de Loore

Marton Fucsovics
Attila Balazs

Ruben Bemelmans’ win over Marton Fucsovics in the first rubber really opened this tie up for Belgium. At 1-1, I think they would have subbed in Bemelmans for doubles. They still might and go for the kill in three. With Goffin set for the fourth rubber, they do have the luxury to keep Cagnina in the mix if they choose to get the 23-year-old some experience. Since de Loore has only played with Bemelmans though, I think that could ultimately be the choice with the idea that Bemelmans won’t be called on again even if they lose. That means no worries about him being too tired on Sunday for more singles play.

Fucsovics and Balazs have a difficult task, although they have scored some big wins in Davis Cup play. Last year, this tandem went iron man as they will in this spot, and scored big doubles wins in ties against Slovakia and Russia. This is a tougher spot as they had a lead in both of those ties. In this do or die situation, they may find the pressure too much. I give them a better shot if Cagnina stays in, but give the edge to the Belgians if Bemelmans subs in for Cagnina. The more I think about it, the more I think the Belgians go for the kill on Saturday.

Prediction: Bemelmans-de Loore win in straight sets

Kazakhstan vs Switzerland
(Kazakhstan leads 2-0)

Timur Khabibulin
Aleksandr Nedovyesov

Luca Margaroli
Marc Andrea-Huesler

Perfect set-up for the Kazakhs to go for the sweep in three. The win by Popko in the opening rubber really set the stage for this to be a bit easier than I thought. Even though Adrian Boomer was drafted into singles play, I still think there is a good chance that he subs in for Huesler with the Swiss desperate for the win. Boomer paired with Margaroli against Belarus last year, a tight three set loss. At this point though, it could be about getting the 21-year-old Huesler his first Davis Cup action with this tie all but done.

Prediction: Khabibulin-Nedovyesov win in four sets

Serbia vs USA
(USA leads 2-0)

Nikola Milojevic
Miljan Zekic

Ryan Harrison
Steve Johnson

I wonder how tempted Captain Nenad Zimonjic would have been to pulling a Lleyton Hewitt in this one and putting himself into play for Serbia if it was 1-1 ? At 0-2, I don’t think it’s any chance. Zimonjix announced his retirement from Davis Cup last year, but Hewitt proved that is meaningless. This would mark the first non-Zimonjic doubles match for Serbia since the first round back in 2006. Otherwise, the Serbs look woefully mismatched in this one with Milojevic and Zekic both making their Davis Cup debut. That’s an obvious plus for the Americans, even if Ryan Harrison hasn’t played this competition since 2012.

Harrison has earned his spot with improved doubles and singles play on tour. Johnson is 3-0 all-time in DC doubles play, having teamed with Jack Sock for two wins last year and Sam Querrey for another in 2015. Harrison and Johnson played five times together on the ATP Tour last year, making the Memphis final – so I don’t think there is any temptation for a sub. Milojveic and Zekic do play doubles regularly on the Futures and Challenger circuits, but never at this level. It’s a big ask and I think if they take a set, that would be a nice get for them.

Prediction: Harrison-Johnson win in straight sets

2018 Davis Cup World Group Preview: Part II


This is part two of the Davis Cup preview for this week’s first round action in the World Group. Be sure to check back in on part one with some updated information on the match-ups.

Serbia vs USA
Surface: Indoor Clay

Laslo Djere
Dusan Lajovic
Nikola Milojevic
MIljan Zekic

Sam Querrey
John Isner
Steve Johnson
Ryan Harrison

It will be interesting to see if this Serbian squad puts up a good fight. They made the semifinals last year and won the opening rubber against the French, before losing the next three. Lajovic is the experience for this side with an 8-6 mark in singles. This time around however, the 27-year-old is being counted on as the anchor for his side with no Viktor Troicki or Novak Djokovic to depend on. Djere opens play on Friday against Sam Querrey. The 22-year-old made his Davis Cup debut against France last year, losing in straights to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on clay. Querrey himself only has 16 singles rubbers played with a 7-9 record. Only two of his career Davis Cup wins have come on clay. Clay is Djere’s preferred surface. Experience is the obvious drawback, but don’t believe he’s not without a chance if Querrey doesn’t play well.

Lajovic will feel like he has a great shot to beat Isner in the second rubber. The Serb is 1-3 against Isner at the ATP-level, but that one win was on clay in Buenos Aires in 2016. He has also taken a set off of Isner the last two times they met, despite ultimately falling in three sets. Isner is 13-11 all-time in Davis Cup action, going 7-5 on clay. This is going to be a real battle I think and depending on what happens in the opener, there could be a lot of pressure on Isner. The doubles rubber should favor the Americans with Johnson and Harrison. Serbian Captain Nenad Zimonjic has Milojevic and Zekic set to pair up, but they have zero experience in this competition. It would not shock me to see Lajovic subbed into one of those spots or he could roll the dice and see what they are able to do.

Pig’s Bottom Line
When you don’t see Djokovic or Troicki on the nomination list, the temptation is to think this should be a win for the USA. Not so fast. Surface is big here as the Americans have only played one clay court tie in this competition since 2012. The indoor nature of the event could give them a bit of help, but the Serbs they face are very crafty. While you might consider Lajovic the key component for the Serbs, I think it’s actually Djere. Lajovic’s record of fighting tough against Isner and a win against Querrey on hard courts means he probably will at worst split those two rubbers. I think doubles goes to the Americans, so that means in order for the Serbs to spring an upset – Djere needs at least one win and that might not be enough.

Djere did have the perfect prep to face these hard hitting Americans though as he played Ivo Karlovic at the Australian Open. He lost in straight sets with two going to tie breaks. That gives him a little taste of the power serves he will face. I’m just not sure he’ll be able to keep pace with them even with clay being somewhat of an equalizer. I think this tie is going to be fairly intense and an upset would not be the biggest surprise here for the home side. I do think as long as the Americans don’t get swept on Friday though, that they will tough it out with the doubles rubber perhaps being the big get for them this weekend.

Prediction: USA wins 3-2

Australia vs Germany
Surface: Outdoor Hard

Alex De Minaur
Nick Kyrgios
John Peers
Matthew Ebden

Alexander Zverev
Jan-Lennard Struff
Peter Gojowczyk
Tim Puetz

Edben was a late sub for Jordan Thompson and don’t underestimate the importance of that move. Thompson provided big wins for the Aussies during their run to the semifinals last year and teamed with Peers for a win against Belgium in their semifinals loss. Ebden meanwhile has not played Davis Cup since 2013. All eyes will be on De Minaur in rubber #1 on Friday. The 18-year-old makes his Davis Cup debut after his star rose dramatically with big runs in Brisbane and Sydney prior to a first round loss at the Australian Open to Tomas Berdych. It’s a big ask for the teen though as he faces off against Zverev. Sascha is still pretty green in this competition himself with just a 1-3 mark in singles, but those matches are a big experience edge. Kyrgios faces Struff in the second rubber. Those two have never faced each other either.

Kyrgios is 8-4 in singles play in DC action, while Struff is 4-2. Struff has a big serve to match Kyrgios, but lacks the overall electricity of NK in his ground game. The worst case for the Aussies should be a split on day one. The Germans will likely make a sub for doubles on Saturday. Puetz teamed with Struff last year in the World Group play-off with the pair pulling out a five set win against Portugal. Given Struff’s recent run at the Australian Open in doubles, it seems a natural switch. That could make the doubles rubber a tough call. With Peers and Ebden not having played together before, chemistry might be an early issue.

Pig’s Bottom Line
All eyes are going to be fixated on a possible Kyrgios-Zverev showdown on Sunday in the fourth rubber. I don’t see either country sweeping through the first three, so it should set up to be the key rubber of the tie. Kyrgios is 3-1 against Sascha in tour events and arrives with a better vibe than Zverev from his burn out against Hyeon Chung in Melbourne. Still, a best of five setting makes this all the more intriguing. Zverev has had his issues as we know in that setting in Grand Slams, but this figures to be a quick paced match void of a lot of heavy rallies. That helps both players, but the key may be NK’s increased calm on court that has kept him a bit more even keel in matches. Zverev has shown a propensity for going away when things go wrong for him in these best of five matches. Given the way the universe works though, I would not be surprised if this tie gives De Minaur a shot at glory or to be totally gutted in a fifth rubber.

Prediction: Germany wins 3-2

Croatia vs Canada
Surface: Indoor Clay

Borna Coric
Viktor Galovic
Ivan Dodig
Franko Skugor

Peter Polansky
Dennis Shapovalov
Vasek Pospisil
Daniel Nestor

Two things stand out in this one: no Marin Cilic (at least on Friday) for Croatia and Polansky getting the singles shot over Pospisil. I think that might be more to due with Pospisil winning a Challenger title in Rennes in recent days and Captain Martin Laurendeau fearing burnout. That puts Polansky into DC play for the first time since 2014. He faces Coric in the opening rubber. Polansky did beat Coric back in 2014 in qualifying for a Challenger event as their only meeting. The 21-year-old Croat is just 5-6 all-time in DC play, so this is a challenge for him to raise his level as the lead singles player. He has not played a singles rubber since 2016, but do recall he has some heroics under his belt. Remember the win over Jack Sock in the 5th rubber that led Croatia to an upset win over the Americans in the quarterfinals?

I think it is a huge spot for Croatia and Coric NEEDS to win if they are going to take this tie. A loss and you put a ton of pressure on inexperienced Viktor Galovic. Galovic is 27, but has just one DC rubber to his credit and it was a dead one in Croatia’s World Group play-off win over Colombia last year. Shapovalov got some good big match experience in this competition last year and helped spearhead the Canadians win over India in the playoffs with two singles wins. I don’t see him losing to Galovic. The doubles rubber turns pivotal on Saturday with both teams bringing a wealth of experience. Dodig has played 24 doubles rubbers in his career, while his partner is far less experienced – Skugor and Dodig have played twice in DC play together and are 2-0. Pospisil and Nestor are very familiar. They played twice in DC action last year, going 1-1 and are 6-4 for their careers together in this competition.

Pig’s Bottom Line
It is crucial for Croatia to get a win from Coric in the opener. A loss there and this could go quickly to the Canadians. The doubles rubber is really hard to call with both teams being experienced in big matches. The home factor could just edge that one for Croatia and put the pressure on Shapovalov to beat Coric in the fourth rubber. That’s a big one that I am really looking forward to and hoping it’s a live rubber! Those two have never met and I think El Shapo’s offense against Coric’s defense would be something to behold. This is another tie that I really think could come down to the final rubber and who isn’t all-in on a Galovic-Polansky decider?

Don’t forget than Marin Cilic and Vasek Pospisil are on their respective squad’s nominations list and likely available Sunday for singles. There is no way in hell that Cilic doesn’t lace up his sneakers on Sunday if Croatia needs a win in the fifth rubber. As such, I think Croatia probably just gets it done in this one unless Coric flops in the opener and then there is a good chance that Cilic doesn’t come into play at all with Canada stealing the tie.

Prediction: Croatia wins 3-2

Belgium vs Hungary
Surface: Indoor Hard

Ruben Bemelmans
David Goffin
Julien Cagninna
Joris De Loore

Marton Fucsovics
Atilla Balazs

The Hungarians do have more than just Fucsovics and Balazs on their roster, but they’ve been listed as the players for all five potential rubbers this weekend. That is nothing new for Hungary’s dynamic duo who played in all eight of their country’s Davis Cup rubbers in 2016. The Belgians finished as runners-up in 2017, the second time they’ve accomplished that in the past three years. Goffin is the obvious star in the field and he’ll be expected to win twice if needed. Bemelmans is experienced, but being called on for singles for the first time since Belgium beat Germany in this round last year. He’s been utilized more in doubles. Fucsovics has beaten him twice in Challenger play and arrives hot off his fourth round showing in Melbourne. I do think Hungary can get a win to open. That means Goffin will be expected to be Balazs to pull the Belgians even on Friday. Balazs is 10-7 in DC play in singles, but he’s rarely had to play anyone of Goffin’s caliber.

Don’t be surprised to see Bemelmans or Goffin sworn in for doubles duty on Saturday. Cagninna is a Davis Cup virgin and that doubles rubber is one the Belgians would like to win to set up Goffin for a potential clincher in singles on Sunday. As such, I would bet that Bemelmans might be the choice with the thinking that if all goes well – he wouldn’t be needed on Sunday in singles any how. Fucsovics and Balazs definitely won’t be pushovers as they helped crafted a win over the Russians last year in the playoffs that had what most would consider better talent. They will need the doubles rubber to have a realistic chance at a possible upset.

Pig’s Bottom Line
Fucsovics is the one to watch in this tie. He’s playing with confidence, so it will be interesting to see how he matches up against Goffin. Goffin will be happy to be playing indoors where weather plays no factor in his demise as it did in Australia. He’s been ridiculous in Davis Cup play at 21-3 in singles. He’s won nine straight rubbers since Andy Murray beat him in the fourth rubber in Great Britain’s 2015 Davis Cup clinching victory. He’s been an animal at this event, perhaps taking a cue from “The Shark” Steve Darcis, his Belgian teammate who isn’t included in this squad due to injury.

Prediction: Belgium wins 3-1


The Ocho v.1


Each week in this section, you’ll find the eight players or doubles teams that I found to be the most influential in the previous week. That means this will be a constantly changing list and won’t just be some list of the top players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal every week. I will sprinkle in some WTA doubles teams to this list, but mostly it will be confined to the ATP World Tour as is the rest of this site.

As always, your feedback is welcomed and I invite you to tweet me @tennispig to let me know who you most influential players were from a given week!

THE OCHO: Jan.1-7, 2018

1. Nick Kyrgios
A no-brainer for me to be my #1 choice for the opening week of the season. It’s not just that Kyrgios won the title at the Brisbane International, it’s how he did it that impressed me. He overcame adversity this week as he picked up a left knee injury in training. It certainly bothered him enough early as he dropped his opening sets in his first two matches to Matthew Ebden and Alexandr Dolgopolov. Still, NK stayed in those matches MENTALLY – something that we have not seen much from the talented 22-year-old during his past few mercurial seasons. Seeing him handle that adversity and the pressure of being in his home country has Kyrgios tipped by many now to be a power player at the Australian Open.

2. Alex De Minaur
I guess it’s appropriate to see the top two spots on this debut list go to Aussies with the season kicking off down under. Kyrgios’ run is the only thing that kept 18-year-old Alex De Minaur from topping the list. De Minaur scored upset wins over Steve Johnson and Milos Raonic this week to announce his arrival on the new season. The teen has been tapped for future success since finishing as the runner-up to Denis Shapovalov at the 2016 Wimbledon juniors event. He served notice last year in Brisbane that he could play at this level by beating Mikhail Kukushkin and Frances Tiafoe in qualifying for his first main draw, where he lost to Mischa Zverev.


De Minaur finished last year by winning the Australian Open play off to secure a main draw wild card into this year’s Australian Open. His run to the semifinals in Brisbane last week further showcased his ability with straight sets wins over Johnson, Raonic and Michael Mmoh. He put up one hell of a fight against Ryan Harrison on the semis before going down in three sets. He may struggle to match his early burst in Australia as the season wears on, but keep an eye on this kid – it looks like he could be the next young gun in a stable of weapons for Australian tennis in the foreseeable future.

3. Andrey Rublev
Speaking of young guns, this 20-year-old Russian has already made his name known after making a shocking quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open last Fall and making the “NextGen” finals in Milan. Now, Rublev looks ready to raise his stock further in 2018. He started strong at the Qatar Open in week one, making his third career ATP final. He fell flat against Gael Monfils, but still looked strong overall for the week with wins over Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric and Guido Pella. This heavy hitter has swagger and confidence. I think once he finds a level of consistency on serve, he’s going to be a real threat to move towards the top ten.

4. Henri Kontinen/John Peers
The two-time ATP Tour Finals doubles champions kicked off 2018 with a title run in Brisbane last week. Kontinen-Peers have now tallied eleven titles since pairing up back in 2016. The win in Brisbane was their second at that tournament and now they head to Melbourne without a doubt as the team to beat. They will seek to become the first doubles team to successfully defend their doubles titles in Melbourne since the Bryans did it in 2010-2011. The early win also slots them in at #1 in the doubles rankings this week.

5. Gilles Simon
If you thought the 33-year-old was fading into the sunset of his career, think again. The Frenchman surprised the field at the inaugural Maharashtra Open in Pune. Simon knocked off the top three seeds en route to his first title since 2015 in Marseille. The win also catapulted Simon up 32 spots to #57 in the latest ATP rankings. The wins over Marin Cilic (1), Kevin Anderson (2) and Roberto Bautista Agut (3) serve notice that Simon may once again be the pest to watch out for at Grand Slams.

6. Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic
One of the doubles teams that I highlighted in the 2018 doubles preview made good in week one with a trip to title town in Doha. Marach-Pavic claimed their second title together and were impressive in beating Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the title match in Doha. The duo will have a chance to continue their win streak this week at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. They enter as the top seeds, but with a tough path to title #2 this year. They could face Pune champs Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop in the quarters. New partners Michael Venus and Raven Klaasen are the second seeds in that tournament.


7. Kiki Bertens/Demi Schuurs
Bertens and Schuurs teamed up for just the third time in their careers and find themselves with a title to show for it. They’ve now made the final in two of the three career tournaments they have played together with Brisbane being the best result. They beat three of the top four seeds last week with the highlight being a win over #2 seeds Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua. That semifinal win set the stage for the finals showdown with 4th seeds Andrea Klepac and Maria Martinez-Sanchez. Bertens-Schuurs won 7-5, 6-2.

It looks like a one-off pairing again for this duo with Bertens teaming up with regular partner Johanna Larsson this week in Sydney. Still, their run to the Brisbane titles was a strong one that could carry over confidence for both as they go their separate ways.

8. Pablo Carreno Busta
PCB is this list for all the WRONG reasons. The Spaniard continued to have an awful time of it to start 2018. His first match loss to Borna Coric in a gut wrenching 10-8 tie break in the third branded Carreno Busta with his ninth loss in is last ten matches since making the U.S. Open semifinals last year. He has now lost his first match in six of his last seven tournaments played. PCB is off this week before the start of the Australian Open. Given his lack of success right now, he’ll be one of the higher seeds on upset alert in round one in Melbourne.


2018 ATP Doubles Preview


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.


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 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.


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.


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.