Six experts weigh in on the current state of doubles, preview 2022 storylines and offer analysis and predictions ahead of the 2022 Australian Open.
Meet the Doubles Panelists
- Nicolas Peirera (top left) – Tennis Channel analyst and former ATP top 50 doubles player
- Katrina Adams (top center) – global speaker, author, tennis analyst, and former top 10 WTA doubles player with 20+ doubles titles
- Van Sias (top right) – Freelance writer for TENNIS.com, Baseline, and other publications
- Will Boucek (bottom right) – Founder and CEO of The Tennis Tribe, WTA Doubles Strategy Analyst, former Division III collegiate player
- Jennifer Paddock (bottom center) – Journalist at Tennis View Magazine, teaching professional, and novelist
- Hanlon Walsh (bottom right) – digital content writer for The Tennis Tribe, PR manager (by day), former Division III collegiate player
1. What were your takeaways from the 2021 doubles season?
Nicolas Peirera: Overall it was an extremely tough year for all of the players with another full year of the pandemic. It was very challenging mentally and from a prize money standpoint, especially for lower ranked players and doubles players.
Katrina Adams: On the ATP Tour, it was proven that a team from the same nation could actually play well and win. Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic played extremely well the second half of the year, winning Wimbledon, the Olympics and three ATP masters 1000 events. Pavic is the key here, having been ranked in the top spot previously. They are great friends and really work well together on the court.
On the WTA Tour, similarly, a team from the same nation got the top honors and had the best year – Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova – who finished number one after winning Wimbledon, the Olympics and the WTA Finals. These ladies speak the same language, are great friends off the court and have an incredible chemistry on the court.
Van Sias: On the men’s side, I felt that it was definitely a story of two halves. Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic were on a near-historic tear, then cooled off dramatically after winning Olympic Gold. Meanwhile, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury became the team to beat in the second half, capped off by their second Grand Slam title together at the US Open.
For the women, Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova came through at the biggest events, winning the French Open, the Olympic title and the WTA Finals. Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama, though, were the most consistent team on a week-to-week basis at the tour events.
Jennifer Paddock: The top men’s teams from last year are staying together—Mektić/Pavić, Ram/Salisbury, Granollers/Zeballos. It’s also nice to see Murray/Soares back together, who won two Grand Slam titles in 2016. I so enjoyed watching Hsieh/Mertens play last season.
Will Boucek: Two things. First, more young singles players are playing doubles, which I absolutely love. Players like Coco Gauff and Leylah Fernandez playing doubles creates a buzz around doubles that it doesn’t typically have. I watched them at Indian Wells in October and it was PACKED. Great to see!
Second, the margins are very small in doubles. I had the opportunity to scout and analyze more doubles teams in 2021 and noticed that the top teams (Krejcikova/Siniakova & Mektic/Pavic) are clearly the best, but not by much. A 1 or 2 percent difference is all it takes to go from top 20 to #1.
Hanlon Walsh: On the women’s side, we saw a big shake-up at the top with Elise Mertens/Hsieh Su-Wei teaming up after Sabalenka (Mertens’ former partner) stepped away from doubles to focus more on singles and Strycova (Hsieh’s former partner) announced her retirement. They proved to be one of the best teams of 2021, trailing only behind the Czech duo of Krejcikova and Siniakova, who they lost to in the WTA finals in Guadalajara.
In the absence of the Bryan Brothers, there were 5-6 top teams on the men’s side who each took pieces of the doubles pie, but ultimately Mektic/Pavic and Ram/Salisbury stood out from the pack. None of the teams, however, stood out in terms of grabbing the doubles spotlight.
2. Which doubles storylines will you be watching closely in 2022?
Nicolas Peirera: I would like to see more singles guys participate in doubles. It will be interesting to see how the younger guys can win more against experienced teams at the top. I’m also curious to see if many partnerships change or to what percentage teams can withstand the pressures of the competition. It appears there are more team changes coming on the women’s side than the men to start off the year.
Katrina Adams: I look for Siniakova and Krejickova to pick up where they left off, as long as Krejcikova keeps a heavy doubles schedule with her singles success. However, I really believe that Coco Gauff and Caty McNally will make a splash in 2022, following their US Open finalist performance.
I’m looking for Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury to go deep all year. They are a solid team on both sides of the net and have done damage in the past. They fell short at the ATP Finals, but will look to start the year off strong and be consistent, adding more Grand Slam titles to their resume.– Katrina Adams
Also, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares have teamed up again. Look for these veterans to have a solid year if they can stay healthy.
Van Sias: Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic have a LOT of points to defend. Will they be able to replicate their success, or will their late-season slump continue into 2022? Also, how much attention will Krejcikova give to doubles given her place as a top-five singles player now? Those are definitely among the storylines to keep an eye out for.
Will Boucek: Can anyone crack the Krejcikova/Siniakova code? Or will someone figure them out? They were the best team last year and dominated at the WTA Finals. Or, will Krejcikova focus more on singles at some point?
On the men’s side, I’m hoping for some teams to emerge with added personality and would like to see more singles players play consistently. I feel like people are following and watching the women’s doubles more because of fan favorites like Hseih Su-Wei and McCoco. Where is that on the men’s side now that the Bryans have retired?
Hanlon Walsh: Can a Big Three or Big Four emerge in men’s doubles with many of the same top ranked duos staying together? Imagine if Mektic/Pavic, Ram/Salisbury and Granollers/Zeballos split all of the slams and Master 1000s tournaments among them in 2022. Having a trio like that winning consistently would certainly make doubles more appealing to the fans.
On the women’s side, I’m excited to see if McCoco can snag their first grand slam title together after losing a heartbreaker in last year’s U.S. Open finals. Plus, how will new partnerships like Nicole Melichar and Alexa Guarachi fare together?
3. Which Australian Open doubles teams are most compelling?
Katrina Adams: Ram and Salisbury could leave with the title but you can’t count out the Croation duo, Metkic and Pavic. Siniakova and Krejcikova are a lock but t the American duo, Gauff and McNally, have the goods to take the title.
Van Sias: They had been playing well apart from each other the past couple of years, but now that they’ve teamed up for 2022, Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski look like they’ve found the perfect fit with each other, already winning two titles. John Peers and Filip Polasek started playing together late last year and have shown they made the right decision by pairing up.
It’ll be interesting to see what the new pairing of Alexa Guarachi and Nicole Melichar brings to the table. They’ve both been among the sport’s best lately, earning places at the WTA Finals last year with different partners.
Jennifer Paddock: The top seeds. They’re not there for nothing.
On the women’s side, the Czech team of Krejčíková/Siniaková. Krejčíková is so good. She volleys well, has soft hands and absorbs power, good feel. Her returns are steady. She makes it when she has to—great under pressure, solid serve. Siniaková is the risk taker, the shotmaker.
On the men’s side, Mektić/Pavić. They are countrymen, from Croatia, who clearly combine well. Pavić, at 6’3” is the risk taker. He likes to cross a lot. He’s the lefty, plays the deuce side, puts so much pressure on the first point, he usually fires the ball. Mektić is 5’11” and right-handed, really solid, makes a lot of returns. He’s a good volleyer, doesn’t cross too much, less spectacular but he’s the solid rock.
Will Boucek: Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. Skupski had a sort of breakout year last year and Koolhof has experience winning the 2020 Tour Finals. They’ve already won twice down under, so it will be fun to see how long they can keep the momentum going. They are a very fun team to watch too since neither player relies too heavily on their serve and they both return well. On the women’s side, there are a ton of new partnerships I’m excited about, including Nicole Melichar and Alexa Guarachi.
Hanlon Walsh: On the women’s side, I’m interested to see how No. 6 seeds Gaby Dabrowksi/Giulana Olmos pair up together. Can Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic find their mojo again? Also, what a feisty duo with Sofia Kenin and Yulia Putinsteva teaming up.
Besides the usual suspects in the men’s draw, look for Aussie favorites Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis to put on a great show (regardless of their results). The American duo of Nick Monroe/Frances Tiafoe have put up strong results in the past and always bring the energy.
4. Who are your favorites and dark horse picks to win?
Nicolas Peirera: Excited to see what Desirae Krawczyk accomplishes here. She was supposed to partner with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but will now be playing with fellow American Danielle Collins. I’ll also be watching the Colombian duo of Cabal and Farah closely.
Van Sias: Even though they haven’t gotten much work in this year, I like Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury’s chances. They’ve won the title before, reached the final last year and are at their best on hard courts. As far as a dark horse goes, I’d pick an all-Aussie pair, like—dare I say it?—Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios.
For the women, I’m going with Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama to make a breakthrough. How great of a story would it be, though, if Samantha Stosur—playing singles at the tournament for the last time—won another major there with Zhang Shuai.
Jennifer Paddock: On the women’s side, my favorite is Krejčíková/Siniaková. They combine so well. Krejčíková is all-around high quality, plays simple doubles. Siniaková looks for the chances to finish points. She can turn it on when she needs to. I also like the Japanese duo of Shibahara/Aoyama. The steady one is Shibahara—she plays high percentage balls—and Aoyama is very quick, all over the net, creating havoc for the other team.
My dark horse is Stosur/Zhang—good combo—Stoser has that big kick serve and is an excellent volleyer. Zhang is a good returner/good striker from the back. They read each other’s game very well.
Maybe another dark horse is Mertens/Kudermetova. Mertens is a great returner, rarely misses. She clearly combines well with someone creative like Hsieh, who is not in the tournament this year. But I think Mertens also combines well with Kudermetova, who is aggressive and has a lot of firepower.
On the men’s side, my favorite is Mektić/Pavić.
I also like Ram/Salisbury—they set each other up well. Ram is solid—he holds his service games. Salisbury is all over the net, trying to cut balls off.
My dark horse is Murray/Soares. They are fun to watch. Soares knows doubles, but you don’t really notice him because he is so good. Murray is tall, long-limbed, stretches really well, and he’s a lefty. He’s all over the shop.
Will Boucek: On the men’s side, my favorites are Ram/Salisbury and dark horses are Arevalo/Rojer. For the women, my favorites are Krejcikova/Siniakova and dark horses are Jessica Pegula/Asia Muhammad.
5. Which top players would you like to see pair up in doubles?
Nicolas Peirera: Victoria Azarenka and Bianca Andreescu would be a fun team together. On the men’s side, why not Kyrgios and Djokovic?
Katrina Adams: Ash Barty and anyone would be awesome but as another ‘top’ player, Petra Kvitova or Barbora Krejcikova would be the player to fill the team. Great serves, impressive returns and fearless at the net.
Dennis Shapovolav and Janikn Sinner could be an interesting matchup. Both have huge serves, solid returns and are athletic at the net.
Jennifer Paddock: For the men, the Russian pair of Medvedev and Rublev. Daniil has the feel at the net. He returns well and has so much variety. Andrey can crush the ball, finish the point. They are countrymen, get along well personally, know each other on and off the court from a young age.
For the women, Ash Barty and someone who smacks the ball like Aryna Sabalenka. So power and finesse together. I miss Sabalenka in dubs. I also really liked her with Mertens.
Barty is such a complete player. She has a good understanding of doubles. She knows where to go, which ball to take, knows how to serve and volley, knows where to expect the ball.– Jennifer Paddock
For mixed, Aslan Karatsev, who hammers the ball, especially on the forehand, and Ash Barty, who is always good with anyone. Karatsev doesn’t change his mind. He’s committed to his shots, very focused. Barty can handle the pace. She can outmaneuver big serves. She might return a serve that’s a bomb by chipping it on the net person’s feet or hitting a lob.
I’d also like to see Ash play with Denis Shapovalov. He is crafty, could cover her, and he’s a risk taker/shotmaker. And has that tricky lefty serve.
Will Boucek: I would like to see Siniakova play with Mertens. Mertens is teaming up with Kudermetova, who had a good year last year but doesn’t have the same net game that Hsieh has, so I’m not sure how that will work out. Siniakova’s net game would complement Mertens baseline game, who I think is a slightly better doubles player than Krejcikova. I think they would dominate the women’s tour.
For the men, it would be fun to watch Kyrgios play more doubles since he has so many trick shots and draws a crowd. If he teamed up with someone else who people love watching, like Denis Shapovalov, that would draw a crowd which is a win in my book.
Hanlon Walsh: I would love to see Federer and Hsieh Su-Wei play mixed doubles together. Could you imagine the crowd turnout? Ash Barty and Martina Hingis (if she came out of retirement…again) would be one of the smartest, craftiest teams around. As much as they like to take pictures together, watching John Isner and Diego Schwartzman play together would be entertaining for optics and contrast alone.
6. How can tennis do a better job at bringing doubles into the spotlight?
Nicolas Peirera: Somehow bring more of the well known names into the mix, but that would also require some changes that I do not see coming anytime soon.
Katrina Adams: Promote, promote, promote! Doubles is played the most recreationally around the world. Therefore, if doubles was part of the primetime show, more people would watch because they can actually learn something. I recognize that top players draw attraction to an audience but great doubles played is much more appreciated.
Jennifer Paddock: Put star players in the draw after they’ve lost? But how could you do that? Make the schedule better for singles players, so maybe they will play doubles for practice?
They’ve tried so many things. If you make the doubles money higher, top players will play. They play singles because there is way more money and more recognition. The team events are great. Because if it is 1-all, then having a good doubles team makes a big difference.
Show more doubles on TV, so we can learn their stories, their personalities. Will Boucek and I watched doubles together at Indian Wells and talked about this. Hsieh Su-Wei, for example, is so fun to watch not only because of her creative game, but also because she’s very likable and funny in her interviews, engaging with the crowd. Other players can learn from her.
Will Boucek: This is my soapbox and I’ve answered it several ways previously. In my recent podcast interview with Peter Lebedevs, he mentioned trying to push mixed doubles more. It was the first time I’d heard that idea but it makes a lot of sense. I’d love to see more tournaments have a mixed doubles draw outside of the grand slams.
Hanlon Walsh: Obviously there are many structural changes needed to make doubles more popular – TV air time, incentives for singles players, more doubles matches on stadium courts – you name it. Beyond that, we need more star teams to emerge who are recognizable to the average tennis or sports fan. McCoco has the potential to be the Bryan Brothers equivalent on the WTA if they keep playing together. Who else can step into the doubles spotlight? Let’s see what happens in 2022.
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