What a Week for Doubles Tennis!

Tennis is usually thought of in the media as singles, ATP play. Yet doubles, mixed-women or men, is the more popular sport played by non-professionals. Though not seen as often on TV, ESPN-Tennis Channel-BEING, it is by far the most entertaining tennis you can watch.  The net play, coordination, touch, power, strategies, formations… There is nothing like a doubles match. The court is shared, as is the prize, but where else can we different nations play side-by-side for glory and fun?

Doubles teams are often as temporary as henna tattoos. Like crossword puzzles or tennis coaches, they should never be written in ink. The ever-changing teams gives us endless opportunities to see the sport in all of its splendor and mystery.

The two most well-known and most winning doubles teams happen to be American siblings, the Williams sisters and the Bryan Brothers. This week both are in the news. On Sunday the Bryan brothers, twins Bob and Mike, were in the Madrid Final playing for the title and the honor to hold the number one doubles ranking again at forty years old. Unfortunately, Bob suffered a hip injury forcing them to retire from the match. Pole Lukasz Kubot and Brazilian Marcelo Melo remain at the top of the standings. The Bryans hold sixteen grand slam titles, a gold and a bronze Olympic medal. Hopefully, this does not end the Bryans’ careers. It would be nice for them to go out on top!

Venus and Serena Williams have fourteen grand slams and three gold medals as the most dominant women’s doubles team at 23-1 . Their power and perfectly synched game outmatched the competition for many years. They began in 1998 and Wimbledon 2016 is the last slam they won; their last match was Fed Cup 2018 Week 1, which served as a return post maternity for Serena and a pin in the hope for the 2020 Olympics. As they both focus on their singles games, it is unlikely they will play doubles again. This week Venus paired with Madison Keys in Rome to win their first match together against Krejcikova/Siniakova. Their win could be the beginning of a new tennis team for Venus but she is not quite finished with singles so Keys and the doubles court will have to wait!

Another newly minted doubles team that took many by surprise in Rome is Svetlana Kuznetsova and Karolina Pliskova. The pair won their first match in straight sets against Chan/Mattek-Sands. The right-handed twin, hasn’t played doubles with her left-handed twin, Kristyna, for some time as Karolina has rocketed to the number five singles ranking. Clearly finding and keeping a doubles team active is as difficult as rocket science with the number and complexity of factors required for success.

Another team who fizzled after great success was Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. They  won five grand slams between 2012-14 and held the number one ranking. Their partnership ended and both emerged as strong singles top ten players reaching. While Errani is still playing, this week Vinci retired. The thirty-five year old Italian who turned professional in 1999 will be remembered for eliminating Serena Williams in the semifinal US Open and her chance to be the fourth woman to complete a calendar slam. Vinci went on to compete in the first all Italian final, losing to Flavia Penneta. Vinci’s last match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome was well attended. She was bested by Aleksandra Krunic in three sets.

Doubles players’ careers are enviable to singles players. Many are playing well into their thirties and even forties. Some bounce back and forth to singles play, but many find their game better suited to doubles after injury. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza both retired from singles to find success as doubles players. After Hingis’ second retirement, she was no more impressive on the court than playing with Mirza. Her finesse, touch, and Mirza’s booming forehand could knockout opponents like an Isner ace. Hingis’ mixed doubles grand slam is as important as all her other accolades. In 2017 she retired for the third time. Now, two of her partners are being queried about their end dates.

Mirza has been out since October 2017 with a knee injury. She was scheduled to return ahead of the clay season. Instead, in April she announced her pregnancy and goal to return for the 2020 Olympics. Leander Peas, also sees no retirement in his future. After twenty-six years on tour and after becoming the tennis player with most doubles victories in Davis Cup—43, he foresees no end to his prolific tennis career.

So who would you like to see on the doubles court together?

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