The Doubles DL: Loaded Field in Cincinnati

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Herbert-Mahut Make Big Move

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

PHHMahut

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

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

Cincinnati Features Battle For Overall #1 Ranking

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

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

Western & Southern Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTA: Makarova-Vesnina Take Over Top Spot

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

MAKVES

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

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

The Doubles DL: Rogers Cup Previews

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Top Teams Edging Further Ahead

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

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

Other Seeds Provide Depth to Draw

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

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

ATP Rogers Cup Draw Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto Could Tilt WTA Doubles Race

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

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

RCDUBS

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

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

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

The Doubles-DL: Rajeev Ram to Focus on Doubles

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Bryans Lead Field in Atlanta

The Bryan Brothers return to action in Atlanta on Tuesday. They are the top seeds in the draw and currently find themselves ranked fourth despite winning just one title this season. Opposite of them are Slam specialists Michael Venus and Ryan Harrison aka Team Venison. Venus-Harrison enter the week just 145 points behind the Bryans. The third seeds in Atlanta are Nicholas Monroe and Donald Young with Purav Raja and Divij Sharan seeded fourth. Raja-Sharan won their opener against Treat Huey and Robert Lindstedt in a super tiebreak on Monday.

One of the fun teams to watch in Atlanta will be Jack Sock teaming with his brother Eric. It will be the first time the Sock Brothers have teamed up for a professional event. It’s a great story after Eric’s battle a few years ago with bilateral pneumonia and a rare infection called Lemierre Syndrome. Eric was on life support for eight days during that stretch, so being able to play alongside his brother this week is a dream come true for both. They will play Hyeon Chung and Jeevan Nedunchezyihan. Even if they lose big, it’s a great story.

SOCKS

As for the draw itself, the Bryans have a tough opener against Aussies Matt Reid and John Patrick Smith who are coming off a finals loss in Newport over the weekend. They’ll be a tough out. Monroe-Young are the seeds in the top half with the Bryans and are both solid doubles players that have played together many times. Still, if the Bryans can escaped round one, this is a draw conducive to a finals run.

In the bottom half, Venus-Harrison have to contend with Raja-Sharan and Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky, who are dangerous floaters in this half. Gonzalez-Lipsky won their opener Monday and battle Raja-Sharan for a semifinal spot. Gonzalez-Lipsky have played together in Atlanta three previous times with the quarters as their best finish. Raja-Sharan won their lone meeting back in 2014 in clay in Houston. Venus-Harrison seem the class of the bottom half, but in a 250-level event I’m wondering about their motivation. They did win their first title together at a 250 in Estoril this season, but they are just 1-3 in non-Slams since that win.

Regular Teams Off

Most of the teams taking part in the clay tournaments in Gstaad and Hamburg are mix and match for the week as most regular tandems are off for the week. That will change next week in Washington at the Citi Open. Wimbledon champions and world #1s Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot are confirmed to lead the field along with Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, the Bryans, Venus-Harrison and more. Both halves of the Wimbledon runners-up, Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, will also be in the field. They will however be with different partners with Marach pairing with Nikola Mektic and Pavic teaming with Ivan Dodig for the second straight week. Dodig-Pavic are currently taking part in the German Open in Hamburg.

Ram Will Focus on Doubles

Rajeev Ram made it official this week as he announced his retirement from singles play on the ATP World Tour. It does not come as a surprising move with Ram ranked #237 in singles. Ram went 57-93 in his ATP singles career with two career titles, both coming on grass in Newport. The 33-year-old has found success in doubles easier to come by with 13 career titles. His best success has come recently with Raven Klaasen. The duo has won six titles in the past three season and lost a thrilling super tiebreak to Henri Kontinen and John Peers in last year’s ATP World Tour Finals championship match.

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Ram has three titles this season in the doubles rank with his last coming with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in Newport. His other two titles came with Klaasen at Delray Beach and Indian Wells. Klaasen-Ram are currently ranked 7th in the doubles race for London. Ram said the wear and tear the last few years of playing singles and doubles had begun to take its toll on his body. Ram lost his final singles match last week in Newport to Matthew Ebden.

Mirza Chooses Peng for Hard Court Season

On the WTA front, Sania Mirza will play with her sixth different partner this year as the season flips to hard courts. Mirza has announced that she will pair with Shuai Peng as the season heads towards the U.S. Open. Peng is a two-time Grand Slam winner who started the season in a winning partnership with Andrea Hlavackova. They won the titles in Shenzhen to start the season and followed that up with a finals appearance at the Australian Open. They would make the final in Dubai before parting ways after Miami, where they made the semifinals.

Peng played with Ying-Ying Duan during the clay swing with a 2-2 mark ending with a third round exit at the French Open. Peng has not played doubles since Roland Garros. Apparently this partnership has been in the making for some time, but this is the first time that the stars have aligned for Mirza and Peng to play together. Mirza will be hoping that this partnership can return her to the winner’s circle. Mirza has just one title this season which came during her first tournament this season in Brisbane, teaming up with Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Keep following @tennispig for the low-down on doubles.

2017 Wimbledon Men’s Doubles Preview

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Defending Champions Seek History With Repeat

It’s been nine years since a team won back-to-back doubles titles at Wimbledon. In 2007 and 2008, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won the men’s doubles titles to become the 6th team in the Open Era to accomplish that feat. This year, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues-Herbert hope to add their name to the list. The French duo comes to London seeded second, but with just one title (Rome) to their credit. That comes on the heels of a season in 2016 when they won three Masters titles and Wimbledon together among their six overall titles. They’re also looking to make it three straight years with a Grand Slam title after winning their maiden Slam at the U.S Open in 2015.

This year’s top seeded team is Henri Kontinen and John Peers. The 2017 Australian Open champions have had plenty of difficulty following up their first Grand Slam title. Since Melbourne, Kontinen-Peers have failed to make the final of another tournament. Following Kontinen-Peers and Herbert-Mahut in the top four seeds are third seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. Murray-Soares with three titles this year, including two on grass. The current number one ranked team, Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot, come to the All-England Club seeded fourth. Last week’s AEGON International champs, the Bryan Brothers follow as the fifth seeds. That was the first title for Bob and Mike one over a year. It’s been nearly three years since their last Grand Slam title when they won the U.S. Open doubles titles in 2014.

First Timer’s Club Looks to Extend Their Reign

Recent years have seen a rash of first time teams winning their maiden Grand Slam doubles title. Since the beginning of 2014, 11 of the last 14 Slams have been won by teams with players claiming their very first Grand Slam title. Wimbledon has seen that feat completed in four of the last seven years with Herbert-Mahut breaking a two year string of first timer winners when Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock won in 2014 and then Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau won in 2015. So is there a duo this year that fits the bill? Here are some notable teams without a Grand Slam title who could make some noise over the next week and a half.

(7) Raven Klaasen/Rajeev Ram
This team really seems to turn it up when the surface switches to grass. Since becoming a regular tandem around the grass court turn in 2015, Klaasen-Ram have won two Halle titles (2015-2016), and made the semis at Wimbledon last year. In the grass prep this year, this duo lost in the Ricoh Open final to Kubot-Melo and then were eliminated in the Halle semifinals by the Zverev brothers. They are stuck in a quarter that includes the hottest team right now in Murray-Soares, but the 7th seeds went 2-2 against them last year.

(16) Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic
The second hottest team on grass was this one. They made the finals in both Stuttgart and Antalya. It’s a little iffy picking them to make a deep run after they were forced to retire in the Antalya final over the weekend. I wasn’t able to find a reason whether it was purely heat related or an actual injury, so take that with a grain of salt. Still, they made finals in Stuttgart and Antalya and appear at their best right now if fully fit. They have to contend with Herbert-Mahut in their quarter, but the defending champs from France have been struggling with consistency, losing both their grass prep matches. This team could surprise in the bottom half of the draw.

Outsider’s Edge

Unseeded teams have a pretty rich history of making noise on the doubles side in the past decade at the All-England Club. Since 2007, unseeded teams have made the semifinals nine times. That’s one quarter of the semifinal slots in that span. That has included non-seeds Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil winning the titles in 2014 as well as several teams making the final. That included last year’s French runners-up Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. So who are the dangerous floaters in this year’s draw? Here are a few to monitor with legit chances for deep runs.

Julien Benneteau/Vasek Pospisil
An interesting tandem here. You have half of the 2016 runners-up in Benneteau and a former champ in Pospisil. Benny and Pop did team up once before, way back in 2014 in Beijing on a hard surface. They had good chemistry, making the final before losing to Rojer-Tecau. They’ll be dangerous and could take down a seeded duo early with Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers, the 8th seeds, in their way potentially in round two. Dodig-Granollers have been a solid team, but had no grass court play together this year. If Benny-Pop show that chemistry again and pull of that early upset, the top quarter where a shaky Kontinen-Peers reside, could open up for this unseeded duo.

Leander Paes/Adil Shamasdin
Paes is in rare territory, playing with the same partner for the third straight tournament. The man of a billion playing partners has found a good groove with Shamasdin. They have meshed well since their first team-up this season at the Leon Challenger early in the season, where they won the titles. They rejoined for the first time since that triumph when the surface switched to grass, taking the AEGON Ilkey Trophy doubles crown. They followed that up with a semifinal showing last week at the Antalya Open. They open against Julian Knowle and Philipp Oswald and then could see 14th seeds Florin Mergea and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi who have not found much success lately when paired up. They’re stuck in the quarter with Kubot-Melo though, so getting to the quarterfinals will be difficult, yet not impossible if they continue to click.

Santiago Gonzalez/Donald Young
It’s hard to know what to make of this team after their improbable run to the French Open final. They are slated to start against the defending champions (Herbert-Mahut) so this team will be boom or bust out of the gates. I’m intrigued to see how they work together this time around and facing an experienced duo. They stunned Murray-Soares at the French Open, so there’s definitely a vibe here between the two that works. If they can pull off the stunner in round one, then they obviously will have a shot to build a reputation as Grand Slam specialists.

Draw Predictions

Quarter #1 Seeds
Kontinen-Peers (1)
Dodig-Granollers (6)
Harrison-Venus (10)
Nestor-Martin (13)

Projected Quarterfinalists
Kontinen-Peers
Benneteau-Pospisil

Quarter #2 Seeds
Kubot-Melo (4)
Bopanna-ERV (8)
Rojer-Tecau (9)
Mergea-Qureshi (13)

Projected Quarterfinalists
Kubot-Melo
Bopanna-ERV

Quarter #3 Seeds
Murray-Soares (3)
Klaasen-Ram (7)
Cabal-Farah (12)
Peralta-Zeballos (15)

Projected Quarterfinalists
Klaasen-Ram
Murray-Soares

Quarter #4 Seeds
Herbert-Mahut (2)
Bryans (5)
Lopez-Lopez (11)
Marach-Pavic (16)

Projected Quarterfinalists
Bryans
Marach-Pavic

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

The two teams headed into this tournament with form and solid chemistry are Murray-Soares and Kubot-Melo. Both have won two titles on grass in June and will be expecting deep runs. Kubot-Melo are in the top half with Kontinen-Peers who just have not been the same team since winning in Australia. There are some tough duos in this half, but Kubot-Melo look like they have what it takes to be in the final. If there is a shock unseeded duo though, it’s Benneteau-Pospisil that I think have the best shot to get to a final, albeit an extremely tough path to do so.

In that bottom half, Murray-Soares have the tougher potential road to match them. Klaasen-Ram will be a difficult out if that plays out to be the quarterfinal match-up. A win there and they may still have to see the defending champs, Bryans or another hot team like Marach-Pavic to work into the final. This half seems much more open to a seed outside the top four moving to the final.

Kubot and Melo have been the best team since winning the Indian Wells title. They’ve added three more and should be eager to make up for their flop to Harrison-Venus at the French Open. They are definitely the team to beat for me with the best route. I think their finals opponent comes from the group of Murray-Soares, Klaasen-Ram or the Bryans. If the first timer’s club strikes again, I do fancy that Klaasen-Ram might be the team to continue that streak.

2017 Australian Open Doubles Preview

aomensdubs

Men’s Doubles Draw

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares are the defending champions of this event. The year-ending #1 team is seeded second for this year’s Australian Open. Murray-Soares have gotten off to a decent start in 2017, but have yet to bring home any hardware in this first two tournaments. They will seek to be the first team since the Bryan Brothers in 2010 and 2011 to successfully defend the doubles titles. Murray-Soares will have the go against recent history as the top seeds with the Bryans as the only #1 seeds to win the Australian Open doubles titles since 2010. They did it three times in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Since 2013, Murray-Soares’ win last year as the 7th seeds was the highest seeded team to have won the titles.

Unseeded teams have a very good track record at sneaking into the championship mix in Melbourne. Over the last five years, an unseeded team has been in the final every year and have claimed half the semifinal slots in three of the last five years. Twice, an unseeded team has won the titles. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli did it in 2015 and Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek did it in 2012. So here is a breakdown of the two halves of the draw with a focus on those dangerous floaters as non-seeds who could make a big splash.

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

Breakdown
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are both solely focused on doubles after both were ousted in the first round in singles. They’ll hope that will help ignite a turn around as they come to Melbourne with a 1-1 mark after being upset by Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis in Brisbane in the quarterfinals. Herbert-Mahut were runners-up in 2015 at the AO, but crashed out early last year in round two by an unseeded team. The second round may be a trouble spot for them again with Polish duo Marcin Matkowski and Jerzy Janowicz possible or the veteran duo of Fabio Fognini and Fernando Verdasco. Although neither team is a regular pairing, the Poles both have big serves that could keep a match tight and Fognini-Verdasco boh have a wealth of experience in doubles.

Elsewhere in the top portion of this half, Daniel Nestor and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin are the highest seeds opposite of Herbert-Mahut. Seeded 8th, Nestor-ERV did make the semifinals in Brisbane, also losing to Thompson-Kokkinakis, in their lone tune-up match. They face capable Argentines Andres Molteni and Diego Schwartzman in round one. Nestor in particular has a good track record in Melbourne though with multiple partners as he has made the semifinals or better in four of the last six years. Last year, Nestor lost in the title match to Murray-Soares with Stepanek as his partner.

Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea, along with Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau are the other seeded teams in the top portion of this draw. Both have not gotten out of the gates strong this year. Rojer-Tecau were bumped out in the quarterfinals by non-seeds Lucas Pouille and Adrian Mannarino last year when they entered this tournament as the top seeds. Inglot-Mergea did make the quarters in 2015, the last time they entered this event paired up together.

Quarter #2 Seeds
4. Kontinen-Peers
6. Klaasen-Ram
10. Huey-Mirnyi
14. Cabal-Farah

Breakdown
In this quarter, Henri Kontinen and John Peers are the highest seeds at number four with Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram behind them at number six. Kontinen-Peers lost their lone match in Brisbane and lost here in round two last year. They face a possible pitfall in their opener against David Marrero and Santiago Gonzalez. Marrero and Gonzalez teamed up last week in Auckland and played fairly well. They lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. Klaasen-Ram were quarter finalists a year ago, losing to the eventual champs. There is a chance they could see the team that beat them in Brisbane to start the year, if both make the third round. That would be Sam Groth and Chris Guccione.

The teams of Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi, and Jean-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah are also in this half as seeds. Cabal-Farah had a nice showing in Sydney with a semifinal run that was ended by Murray-Soares. The Colombians made the round of 16 last year and this draw could see them with a chance to make another solid run. Huey-Mirnyi had just one match of prep, a loss to Leander Paes and Andre Sa in Auckland. They will hope to reprise their success from last year in Melbourne, when they made the quarters in just their second tournament together. That could be considerably harder with Paes-Sa to open and perhaps Groth-Guccione in round two if they make it that far.

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

Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop may be the most dangerous unseeded team in this year’s draw. The Dutchmen head to Melbourne with the Sydney titles in tow after beating Murray-Soares in the championship match. They may both be short on winning at this event, but a hot team can do major damage like Murray and Soares did last year. The draw looks kind with Rojer-Tecau as the first seeds they would see. They already beat them in Sydney. They might have Nestor and Roger-Vasselin to contend with and Herbert-Mahut are in their quarter, but they are the hot team right now on the ATP tour.

Of the other floaters here, the most dangerous duo could be home-standing Aussies Sam Groth and Chris Guccione. The pair beat Klaasen-Ram in Sydney and have won two titles together. They’re drawn to possibly face Huey-Mirnyi in round two or Paes-Sa, but if they start hot, they could see Klaasen-Ram in the third round that might be advantageous for the unseeded pair. Also, keep an eye on the French duo if Benneteau and Chardy. They don’t pair regularly, but both are solid doubles players. Chardy already has a title this year with Fabrice Martin. They will be a tough out.

The Pig’s Bottom Line
This half of the draw looks as it it could produce at least one unseeded team as a semifinalist. Koolhof-Middelkoop are the hot team, but might run into the veteran duo of Nestor-ERV along the way. I think one of those two teams takes a spot rather than the top seeds. In the other quarter, Kontinen-Peers and Klaasen-Ram certainly have the chops to be in position to run deep in Melbourne. The unseeded pairings in that half have a few more question marks, so I tend to side with a seed taking the other spot. If Kontinen-Peers get past a tough round one match, they could be that team.

Quarter #3 Seeds
3. Bryan Brothers
7. Kubot-Melo
9. Dodig-Granollers
13. Pavic-Peya

Breakdown
The Bryans are six time champs here, but have not been past round three in the past three seasons. The American twins did not play a prep tournament this year, so they will have to hit the ground running in Melbourne. They open against Benoit Paire and Paul-Henri Mathieu, which should afford them a good start. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are the highest seed opposite of the Bryans. They are 0-2 this year, but the losses have come to good teams. They face an experienced veteran duo in Andreas Siljestrom and Johan Brunstrom. There’s some upset potential there if they aren’t careful. Round two also poses a possible threat with Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak possibly waiting. Monroe-Sitak made back-to-back semifinals in Chennai and Auckland to start the year.

Of the other seeds in this quarter, Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers are ones to watch. Both have experience here with deep runs with Granollers making the semifinals most recently in 2016 with Pablo Cuevas. They have an easier early draw than Kubot-Melo, which could leave them to contend with the Bryans for a semifinal slot. In the Bryans half, they look to be the best bet. Mate Pavic and Alexander Peya had a nice run in Sydney to the semifinals, but could be in for a hard time against vets Jurgen Melzer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The only problem for the non-seeds there is that both have susceptible serves, which should give Pavic-Peya the better chance to win. I like the seeds to be in control of this quarter, unless Kubot-Melo get booted early.

Quarter #4 Seeds
2. Murray-Soares
5. Marc and Feliciano Lopez
12. Pospisil-Stepanek
15. Bopanna-Cuevas

Breakdown
The defending champs will be happy enough with their early draw. An opening match with Sam Querrey and Donald Young should see them through to round two. They will need to be on alert in round two potentially against Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky. The Auckland finalists are a solid duo, but still regularly a notch below the second seeds. Murray-Soares could be on a collision course with Bopanna-Cuevas for a quarterfinal showdown. The 15th seeds haven’t had a ton of time together early this season, but their draw gives them a good shot if they find some rhythm with each other.

The other half of this quarter looks much more competitive for the seeds. Team Lopez, last year’s French Open champions, start with Alexandr Dolgopolov and Gerald Melzer. That should be a win, but their second rounder will be much tougher. They’ll take on the winner between Jonathan Eysseric-Fabrcie Martin and Purav Raja-Divij Sharan. Raja-Sharan made the Chennai final and are a solid duo. Martin has proven to be a good doubles partner, winning a title with Chardy earlier this year. If he finds good chemsity with Eysseric they could be dangerous as well.

Vasek Pospisil and Radek Stepanek are a team I have talked up and I believe they have the ability to make a nice run here. Their second round match could be troublesome though if Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez are waiting. PCB proved to be a really good doubles player last year and this duo made the U.S. Open final. If there is an unseeded team poised for a run, they could be it.

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

As mentioned above, PCB and GGL are a team to monitor. The Spaniards surprised with their U.S. Open finals run last year, beating several quality teams along the way. They face Aussies Alex De Minaur and Max Purcell to start. The two young Aussies will need a once-in-a-lifetime match I think to win, but stranger things have happened. If the Spanards open with a win, then watch out. They would face Pospisil-Stepanek in round two, a tough match for sure. Still, #PopStep still only have a few matches together this year plus singles obligations. An upset would not be totally shocking.

Of the other floaters mentioned, it would likely take some help for them to make a serious run here. The winner of that Eyserric-Martin vs Raja-Sharan first rounder seems most likely as they could surprise the 5th seeded Lopez boys. Team Lopez was formidable in 2016, making the Tour Finals, but this is their first tournament together in 2017. They were second round losers a year ago at the AO.

The Pig’s Bottom Line
I think the Bryans have a chance to get past the third round this year, but they will need to click from Jump Street. If not, then Pavic-Peya look the nest best option for one of the semifinal spots. The other should go to Murray-Soares. I think they will at least be in position to get back to the final for a shot to defend the titles.

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

Although Murray-Soares look to have a chance to get to the semifinals or final, the recent history of the defending champions not being able to complete the double could again be true in 2017. The dream set-up would see last year’s Tour Finals champs, Kontinen-Peers, against the year-end #1s, Murray-Soares. Or perhaps seeing the Bryans get a crack at Grand Slam title #17. Dreams don’t often come true for the high seeds in Melbourne though, so expected the unexpected. If an unseeded duo strikes, watch Koolhof-Middelkoop, PCB-GGL or perhaps one of the first time French pairings for the new year like Benneteau-Chardy or Eysseric-Martin to step up.