Previews, predictions, and podcasts…the three P’s many tennis fans undergo in the final days leading up to the start of a new major. As I write this Roland Garros doubles preview, another “P” word comes to mind when thinking of the current state of both doubles tours… parity.
On the women’s side, 21 different teams have combined to win 22 total WTA events this year. Thus far, the only pairing to win two titles together is Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva, who claimed trophies in Lyon and Miami. Veronika Kudermetova, Jessica Pegula, and Katerina Siniakova have each won two titles with different partners.
The men’s side has seen a different degree of parity. While 22 different teams have combined to win a total of 32 tournaments, more teams have stood out from the pack. Most notably, Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski have won a tour-leading four titles together and currently lead the ATP Finals doubles race by more than 1,000 points.
Will this parity trend continue at this year’s French Open and into the second half of the year? Check out seven doubles storylines below as we ramp up for an action-packed two weeks of doubles on the dirt.
Top Women Aim to Restore Order
Top seeds and defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova enter their first tournament together since Indian Wells while Krejcikova has been sidelined with an injury. After claiming back-to-back trophies at the 2021 WTA Finals and 2022 Australian Open, it appeared no one would be stopping the dominant Czech duo anytime soon. Their absence hasn’t gone unnoticed, with 10 different teams winning the last 10 titles since early March.
No. 2 seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens will also make their first tournament return since March. Kudermetova comes off a title at the Italian Open with fellow Russian Anastasia Pavyluchenkova, but the two haven’t played together since they finished runner-up at the Miami Open. Kudermetova and Mertens open with a tough first-rounder against the dangerous and experienced duo of Petra Martic and Shelby Rogers. Can these top two seeds pick up where they left off and reclaim their spot atop the doubles game?
Veterans Lead Stacked Men’s Field
While the women’s field has seen multiple injuries and team breakups this year, the men’s game has remained consistent at the top with several long-term partnerships still intact. The newly minted No. 1 team of Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury lead a top-heavy field filled with veterans and multi-grand slam champions including No. 2 Mektic/Pavic, No. 3 Herbert/Mahut, No. 5 Cabal/Farah, and No. 10 Murray/Soares.
The rest of the top 10 includes a mix of established teams vying for either their first or second slam including No. 4 Granollers/Zeballos, the red-hot No. 6 Koolhoff/Skupski, No. 7 Puetz/Venus, No. 8 Peers/Polasek and No. 9 Krawietz/Mies.
No Loco for McCoco
Over the last few years, Coco Gauff and Caty McNally (“McCoco”) have become one of the most popular household names in doubles. If you’ve had a chance to see them play in person, chances are you had trouble finding a good seat. Many fans were likely surprised to see the fan favorites enter Roland Garros with different partners this year. McNally joins Shuai Zhang, who bested her and Gauff in the 2021 U.S. Open doubles final, as the No. 4 seed.
Gauff enters as the No. 8 seed alongside partner Jessie Pegula. The American duo won their first title together earlier this year in Doha and also partnered up in Madrid and Rome. Is McCoco taking a hiatus? Or are they simply testing the waters with different partners?
Trending Teams Eye First Major
Since teaming up at the beginning of 2022, No. 6 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski have never looked back. They currently lead the ATP doubles race by more than 1,000 points with four titles on the year and an 80% winning record in 2022 (32-8).
Is this trending, hot-pink duo poised to capture their first major together on the red clay? They kick off their debut Roland Garros campaign against a pair of Koolhof’s fellow countrymen, Griekspoor and Van de Zandschulp, before a potential looming Round of 16 matchup with veterans Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.
On the women’s side, two new 2022 teams are both peaking on the red clay in time for Roland Garros. No. 3 seeds Gaby Dabrowski and Gugu Olmos, who teamed up at the beginning of the year, have won nine out of their last 10 matches with a title at the Madrid Open and runner-up finish in Rome.
Since partnering up at Indian Wells, No. 5 seeds Desire Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs have shown an equal level of impressive consistency. They have won 10 out of their last 12 matches with a title in Stuttgart, a runner-up finish in Madrid, and a semi-finalist appearance in Rome. Both teams are good friends and on a potential quarterfinal collision course in Paris.
French Phenoms Reunite
Parisian fans should have plenty to get excited about in the doubles lineup this year. On the women’s side, 2016 champions Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic reunite as wildcard entrants in hopes to reclaim vintage form. Garcia, a former top 5 player in singles and doubles, is currently ranked 79 in singles and 469 in doubles. Mladenovic, a former World. No. 1 doubles player with four grand slam titles, has fallen outside the top 200 in doubles with a current ranking of 232. Perhaps a few wins in front of a rowdy home crowd is just what they need to reignite their careers.
In the men’s draw, No. 3 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut aim to defend their 2021 Roland Garros title after a dramatic three-set victory over Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev in last year’s final. While French fans will keep their expectations high with Herbert/Mahut, the sentimental home crowd favorites will be the wildcard duo of Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both are singles veterans in their mid-30s playing in the twilight of their career. With a winnable draw in the first round, expect a Davis-cup like atmosphere regardless of their results.
U.S. Strength in Numbers
American women are proudly waving the red, white and blue flag in doubles this year. The U.S. features 16 total players in the draw, which represents 25% of the field and more than any other country. Eight of these include seeded players – No. 4 Caty McNally, No. 5 Desirae Krawczyk, No. 7 Caroline Dolehide, No. 8 Coco Gauff/Jessie Pegula, No. 9 Asia Muhammad, No. 15 Bernarda Pera, and No. 16 Nicole Melichar-Martinez.
DOUBLES ONLY PODCAST: ASIA MUHAMMAD
Currently, more American women are ranked inside the doubles top 50 (nine) than the singles top 50 (seven). This current depth in women’s doubles was on full display last month at the U.S. Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie versus Ukraine, when Kathy Rinaldi had a multitude of viable options from a doubles-heavy squad when deciding who should play the final doubles rubber.
Beyond the major storylines and contenders mentioned above, doubles always brings a compelling cast of dangerous unseeded teams who can shake up any solid doubles draw.
Unseeded Teams to Watch
- Madison Keys/Taylor Townsend. Big forehand meets doubles tactician and serve and volleyer.
- Latisha Chan/Sam Stosur. Both have enjoyed past success with multiple partners.
- Leylah Fernandez/Kirsten Flipkens. Crowd favorite and crafty veteran.
- Ivan Dodig/Austin Krajicek. Coming off a title last week in Lyon.
- Maxime Cressy/Feliciano Lopez. Game style, flair, and long hair.
- Alexander Bublik/Thanasi Kokkinakis. One doubles major finalist and one doubles major champ walk into a bar.
First Round Matches to Watch
- Women: No. 8 Gauff/Pegula vs. Elena Rybakina/Ludmila Samsonova. Four big hitters, clean ball strikers and talented singles players all on the same court.
- Men: No. 11 Simone Bollelli/Fabio Fognini vs. Martin Fucsovic/Frances Tiafoe. Regardless of the result, you’re sure to be entertained.
- Petra Martic/Shelby Rogers defeat No. 2 Veronika Kudermetova/Elise Mertens. The American/Croatian duo have a proven track record of doubles success together and are more than capable of being giant killers. Look for them to pull the early round upset over the rusty No. 2 seeds.
- Ivan Dodig/Austin Krajicek defeat No. 8 John Peers/Filip Polasek. Dodig and Krajicek teamed up last week to win the ATP 250 event in Lyon and will continue riding this momentum to upend the No. 8 seeds.
Leave a Reply