U.S. Miami Open “sweep” first since 1985

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The last time there was an American sweep at the Miami Open, it wasn’t even the Miami Open.

It was the first-ever edition of the tournament, then called the Lipton International Players Championship, and played north up Interstate 95 at the Laver resort in Delray Beach Fla.

That was 33 years ago, back in 1985. 

Now, a caveat: the 2018 Miami Open champions’ roster wasn’t 100 per cent American.

John Isner won the men’s singles, Sloane Stephens the women’s singles. The Bryan brothers won the men’s doubles. And Coco Vandeweghe teamed up with the one outlier, Aussie Ashleigh Barty, to take the women’s doubles.

Back in 1985, the Americans did even better. All the singles finalists were American, as well as three of the four women’s doubles finalists.

And, there was a bonus trophy.

In 1985, the Lipton was part of the “Grand Prix Tour”. It wasn’t even the ATP Tour yet, although the ATP itself, as a players’ association, was formed in 1973.

The women’s event was part of the “Virginia Slims World Championship Series” which didn’t run on the regular calendar year, but March to March. Back then, it was the WITA (Women’s International Tennis Association).

That was back when cigarette sponsorship was something that helped women’s tennis to become what it is today – probably saved it – not the evil thing it is now.

Total prize money for all five events was $1.8 million.

This year, the singles champions took home $1.34 million – each.

Two weeks, full fields, best-of-five

From the Miami Open website:

1985: Field at Laver’s International Tennis Resort includes 128 men and women in singles, 64 doubles teams for men and women, and mixed doubles. Tournament format is the same as the four Grand Slams. It is the first time in 56 years that a new, two-week tournament is launched. Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte capture singles titles before ABC-TV cameras. Navratilova-Evert women’s final is first sellout. Attendance for two weeks: 125,817, exceeding any golf or tennis event ever held in Florida.

Men’s singles

United States Tim Mayotte defeated United States Scott Davis 4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4

The win by Mayotte was the the first of 12 titles, and the biggest of his career, no doubt.

Women’s singles

United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Chris Evert-Lloyd 6–2, 6–4

Evert was Lloyd then, still married to first husband John Lloyd.

It was the 101st title of Navratilova’s career. And it was the 63rd meeting between the two, out of 80. 

 

Evert had just broken a streak of 13 consecutive Navratilova victories at the Virginia Slims of Florida (ironically, held at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne that year). Navratilova put that right, and went 11-6 for the last part of their rivalry.

Men’s doubles

United States Paul Annacone / South Africa Christo van Rensburg defeated United States Sherwood Stewart / Australia Kim Warwick 7–5, 7–5, 6–4

It was only the second title of Annacone’s stellar doubles career. He went on to win 14 – including his only major, the Australian Open, at the end of that season.

Note that the final was best-of-five sets.

Women’s doubles

United States Gigi Fernández / United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Kathy Jordan / Czechoslovakia Hana Mandlíková 7-6 (4), 6–2

It was the first title of Fernández’s career. She was still just 20, and would go on to win 69, including 17 majors (all but one of them in the 1990s).

For Navratilova, it was the 202nd career combined title. 

And that wasn’t all.

The 1985 Lipton Championships also featured … mixed doubles.

Wouldn’t it be the greatest if they brought it back – particularly at Indian Wells, where the schedule after Monday seems bereft and where a lot of players willingly stick around to practice before they head to Miami?

Mixed doubles

Switzerland Heinz Günthardt / United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Mike Bauer / France Catherine Tanvier 6–2, 6–2

So Navratilova pulled off the triple: singles, women’s doubles and mixed.

There’s almost a 100 per cent chance that no one will ever pull this off at a joint WTA/ATP Tour event. Ever again.

(Information from Wikipedia)

Tearful finale closes Crandon Park

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Much bandwidth was taken up chronicling the final match at Crandon Park, before the Miami Open moves to its new home in the middle of the Hard Rock Stadium parking lot next year.

But John Isner vs. Alexander Zverev was not, in fact, the real finale.

Much of the crowd had left, and the media on hand busy elsewhere. But the last match of an era was the women’s doubles final.

And while it wasn’t much of a match, it ended on a touching, emotional note.

Californian Coco Vandeweghe helped make it an American sweep, as she teamed up with Aussie Ashleigh Barty to defeat the No. 6 seeds, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 6-1, to win the Premier Mandatory title.

Trophies and tears

But there was a delay before the trophy ceremony. Krejcikova was being looked by the tournament physician as she sat on the sidelines, as Vandeweghe was cracking jokes at her partner.

The 22-year-old from Brno had fallen victim to a virus which didn’t help her tennis, to be sure.

But during the trophy ceremony, she shared her emotions on another matter entirely.

Krejcikova had been coached by fellow Bruno native Jana Novotna. The former Wimbledon champion died of cancer last November, and Krejikova paid tribute to her late mentor.

“I apologize – I was batting with some virus since Friday, all yesterday I was lying in my bed. I stepped out today and tried my best, but I couldn’t do my best performance, I’m really sorry,” Krejcikova told the crowd, tears in her eyes. “My coach, Hana, unfortunately not here any more, she passed away last year. I’m happy I had a chance to meet her. She is the (reason why) I am here today. So thank you so much.”

Biggest career moment

Krejcikova put on as happy a face as she could for the group photos. And even if she paced back and forth, balanced from one leg to the other during the speeches, clearly struggling, she hung in there for the entire thing.

She has one career singles final, in Nürnberg, Germany last year. And her first career doubles title came in 2015 in Quebec City, with Mandy Minella.

But the Miami Open final was by far the biggest moment of Krejcikova’s career, a tribute to her late coach if she and Siniakova could have pulled it off. How devastated she must have been to not be able to give a full effort – win or lose.

As it was, Krejcikova and Siniakova had seemed down and out. They played three crazy matches in the three rounds leading up to the final. That included a rather unlikely late-night comeback against the Chan sisters in the quarterfinals.

They also came back from a set down to defeat Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs, 11-9 in the match tiebreak, in the semis.

Krejcikova and Siniakova, who teamed up to win the junior girls’ doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open five years ago, find themselves at No. 4 in the race to the year-end finals in Singapore.

They’re just a few points behind Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and YiFan Xu of China, who stand at No. 3.

(Screenshots from WTATV)

As their doubles gen bows out, Bryans take Miami

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MIAMI, Fla. – Mike and Bob Bryan, the No. 1 doubles team on the ATP Tour for 438 weeks, the year-end No. 1s for 10 consecutive years, have had a major dry spell by their standards.

But somehow, you knew they weren’t done yet.

As the twins turn 40 at the end of this month, they captured their biggest title in nearly two years, winning the Miami Open for the fifth time.

And, combined with their run to the final at Indian Wells, they had their best “Sunshine Double” run since 2013 and 2014, when they won both, back-to-back.

Tied for 15th in the rankings when they hit the U.S. circuit, they will be tied for seventh in the rankings on Monday. And they will be a solid No. 2 in the race for the ATP Tour Finals.

“I’m really proud of the way we’re playing, how we’ve turned it around from a fairly rough last year. We’re building every week. I feel like we’re gaining momentum, and I’m very optimistic going into the clay-court season. And I think we’re playing with a lot of joy now, and it’s showing in our results,” Bob Bryan said after the 4-6, 7-6 (5), [10-4] win over young guns Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Rublev and Khachanov are 41 – combined.

Comeback against the Russian kids

It wasn’t the brothers’ only comeback of the tournament.

They looked down and out against Daniell and Inglot in the first round. They looked done against Klaasen and Venus in the quarterfinals before winning the match 10-8 in the match tiebreak. 

The 2017 season was a tough one for the Bryans, who won the Masters 1000 in Rome in May of 2016, but managed just two small titles in the intervening two years, in Eastbourne on grass and in Atlanta last summer.

Mike Bryan’s marriage to Lucille Williams ended during that period, after less than five years. So there was a lot going on.

From 2013 through 2015, the brothers won 14 Masters 1000 titles, 

They were experimenting with various rackets after being with Prince forever, as Mike Bryan dealt with an ongoing arm issue. Last summer in Washington, D.C., Mike was playing with a Wilson, while Bob continued on with Prince.

Bryans

At the moment, they’re back on the same page, playing with Babolat.

“It’s a big honour and a pleasure to play with the best doubles players in history, and to have a great fight, and I think people enjoyed the match,” Rublev said during the trophy ceremony. “They are the best. That’s it.”

The last of a generation

Here’s a look at the doubles rankings, six years ago this week.

Longevity is a given in men’s doubles, as the top players in recent years have always skewed older than the top singles players even if the singles roster also has gotten more … seasoned.

But of the 10 players atop the rankings, three of the four youngest (Bhupathi, Llodra and Fyrstenberg) already have retired.

The rest play on. But all have seen their rankings tumble. Some are picking up partners week to week, looking to see where they can get into the bigger events.

That’s one huge advantage of playing with your twin. The chances that you’re going to break up are pretty slim.

Here’s an update on the rest – four of whom are also former No. 1s. And put into context, it tells you that even if the Bryans aren’t putting up the numbers they once were, their results are still impressive.

Max Mirnyi (BLR)

Age: 40
Career-high ranking: 1
Career titles: 51
Current ranking: 40
2018 won-loss record: 7-5
2018 partners: Philipp Oswald, Ryan Harrison
Best 2018 result: New York Open title
Miami result: 1st rd

Daniel Nestor (CAN)

Age: 45
Career-high ranking: 1
Career titles: 91
Current ranking: 74
2018 won-loss record: 3-9
2018 partners: Marcelo Demoliner, Steve Johnson, Denis Istomin, Florin Mergea, Neal Skupski, Robert Lindstedt, Jonathan Erlich, Donald Young, Philipp Oswald.
Best result: Auckland QF
Miami result: 1st rd

Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)

Age: 41
Career-high ranking: 1
Career titles: 54
Current ranking: 61
2018 won-loss record: 0-6
2018 partners: Kyle Edmund, Marcel Granollers, Andrey Rublev, Viktor Troicki, Florin Mergea, 
Best result: Seven first-round losses
Miami result: 1st rd

Leander Paes (IND)

Age: 44
Career-high ranking: 1
Career titles: 54
Current ranking: 45
2018 won-loss record: 5-6
2018 partners: Jamie Cerretani, Purav Raja, Joe Salisbury, 
Best result: Dubai final
Miami result: DNP

Rohan Bopanna (IND)

Age: 38
Career-high ranking: 3
Career titles: 17
Current ranking: 20
2018 won-loss record: 7-7
2018 partners: Édouard Roger-Vasselin
Best result: Sydney, Marseille SFs
Miami result: 2nd rd

Marcin Matkowski (POL)

Age: 37
Career-high ranking: 7
Career titles: 17
Current ranking:  47
2018 won-loss record: 5-6
2018 partners: Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 
Best result: Australian Open quarterfinal
Miami result: 1st rd

The Bryan brothers’ last major was the 2014 US Open.

Can they make a run at one this year?  Why not. The expanded Miami draw meant five match wins to take the title. A Grand Slam is just one more round.

Saved by Hawkeye, Dabrowski-Xu make the IW semis

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Sometimes Hawkeye taketh away.

But Tuesday in the women’s doubles quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open, it gave back to Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Yifan Xu.

And, as a result, it took away from Maria José Martinez Sánchez and Andreja Klepac.

The Spanish-Slovenian pair thought it had won the match, 10-8 in the match tiebreak.

They were jubilant, having been down in the match tiebreak and seemingly on their way out of the tournament. They even shook hands with Xu at the net, because Xu also thought it was over even though she and Dabrowski had challenged the call on the final lob.

The replay looked inconclusive – until it zoomed in close.

And still, the ball looked probably in. Until they zoomed in some more, and the official call came.

“The call is overturned”

“OUT”.

And still, Martinez Sánchez and Klepac celebrated. And Xu conceded. But Dabrowski was, well, “Hey, wait a minute …”

The chair umpire had announced that the call was overturned. But no one seemed to hear it, except Dabrowski.

Once he explained it to the players, and they replayed the point, Dabrowski and Xu saved the match point and went on to win the match, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 12-10.

Here’s what it looked like.

It was a pretty crazy ending. No, it was really crazy.

And Martínez Sánchez and Klepac actually took it pretty well, considering.

Dabrowski and Xu were emotional and in a post-match interview on court, Xu explained that she had come into the tournament with a back injury, and hadn’t expected any kind of result.

Tough road to the final four

The first two victories were over very tough teams, even if they were unseeded. Dabrowski and Xu got past Coco Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty in a match tiebreak after dropping the first set 6-1.

In the second round, they defeated Nicole Melichar and Czech veteran Kveta Peschke, 6-4, 7-5.

But now, they’re in the semifinals, where they will face another unseeded team: Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.

Dabrowski and Xu are coming up on a title defence in Miami, where they surprised everyone by taking the title. It remains the biggest of their career so far although Dabrowski has won two Grand Slams in mixed doubles.

Team Bucie back in the game

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Good news Tuesday from former No. 1-ranked doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

She and partner Lucie Safarova are about to get back on the court.

Mattek-Sands, 32, has been out of action since a horrifying knee injury suffered during her second-round singles match at Wimbledon last summer.

She has kept busy, doing television work with ESPN and chronicling her recovery.

But now, eight months later, she and Safarova will return at Indian Wells, per the USTA.

They also will play Miami and Charleston.

And then there were three

During Mattek-Sands’s absence from the courts, longtime Safarova coach Rob Steckley has returned. And so the gleesome threesome, and their entertaining videos, will be extra-added entertainment.

Mattek-Sands could use a protected ranking when she returns. As with Serena Williams, who went off the grid as she had her first child, she was ranked No. 1 when she was injured.

But her actual ranking has only dropped to No. 23 as of right now. So she and Safarova won’t have trouble getting into most tournaments – at least early on.

With Williams also expected to return at Indian Wells, there will be plenty of happy comeback stories.

Halep does the double in Shenzhen

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As an opening act for her 2018 season, world No. 1 Simona Halep couldn’t have asked for better.

The 26-year-old Romanian not only won the singles title at the Shenzhen Open, she also added her first career WTA Tour doubles title.

Halep defeated No. 6 seed Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 to take the singles title.

And then she returned to court with doubles partner Irina-Camelia Begu to take a second title on the day in a 1-6, 6-1, [10-8] comeback effort against the No. 1 seeds, Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova.

(The matches had to be played indoors, with the fans getting a refund, because of inclement weather. The alternative would have been to postpone to Sunday, when the forecast wasn’t that much better, and greatly compromise the ability of some of the participants to get to their event this week).

“After the first set I was not cool at all. I just wanted to win the match and I did everything I could. I want to thank Begu for inviting me to play doubles. It was a pleasure and a great week. It’s the first time in my life that I have won both titles. It’s a great feeling,” Halep said.

Halep’s only other doubles final came at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2016. There, she won the singles title, defeating Angelique Kerber in the final. But she and fellow Romanian Monica Niculescu fell to Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the doubles final.

The rare double, and still No. 1

It was the first time since the Bogota tournament in Feb. 2009 that the two singles finalists also found themselves pitted against each other in the doubles final.

With the singles victory, Halep also retains the No. 1 singles ranking. That also means she will be the No. 1 seed at the Australian Open.

At the beginning of the week, both Garbiñe Muguruza (who was just 40 points behind to start the week) and Caroline Wozniacki both had a shot at taking the top spot away from her.

As it happened, the three all were playing different tournaments.

Muguruza fell in her first match in Brisbane, victim of full body cramp.

Wozniacki had to win both her quarterfinal and semifinal matches at Auckland on Saturday because of the inclement weather. She will play the final a day later than scheduled, on Sunday.

She would have had to win the title, and have Halep go no further than the Shenzhen quarterfinals, to become No. 1.

Still, Wozniacki will move up to No. 2 regardless of Sunday’s result.

The last time the Dane was No. 2 was in October, 2010. After that, she went on a run at No. 1 through the 2012 Australian Open.

(Photos courtesy of the Shenzhen Open)

Bouchard and Stephens to team up for Oz dubs

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The D.C. Dream Team (okay, we’re just having a little fun with this) is getting the band back together.

Genie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens, who shocked the world by reaching the doubles final at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. last summer, will get the band back together for the Australian Open.

The two share an agent, John Tobias. And as of this week, they also share a clothing sponsor, Nike.

Bouchard is not playing doubles this week in Hobart.

Stephens, who is making her 2018 debut, is paired up with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Sydney.

D.C. Dream Run

The first-time team had a great run in D.C. in early August, falling to Renata Voracova and Shuko Aoyama in the final. They upset the No. 3 seeds in the first round. And in the semifinals, they overcame a 1-6 first set to beat the No. 1 seeds, Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu, in the match tiebreak.

It was only Stephens’s second tournament back after missing nearly a year with a foot problem that required surgery. She lost in the first round of the singles to Simona Halep. But the summer ended well, as she won the US Open.

Bouchard had another great run in doubles later in the season, in her final tournament of the year in Luxembourg. The Canadian teamed up with Kirsten Flipkens, and reached the final. 

 

Halep, Siniakova in Shenzhen singles and doubles final

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It’s a rare thing when two players square off in both the singles and doubles finals at a tournament.

But world No. 1 Simona Halep and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic will do that on Saturday at the Shenzhen Open.

Halep defeated her doubles partner, Irina-Camelia Begu, in the semifinals on Friday.

Siniakova, who is the No. 1 seed in the doubles with countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova, dropped 10 aces in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Maria Sharapova.

It’s only the second career doubles final for Halep. Her doubles ranking stands at No. 146. And that is more than respectable for how little she actually plays.

Siniakova

As it happens, the only other time the Romanian did reach a doubles final, she also was going for the double.

Second try at the double

At the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2016, Halep defeated Angelique Kerber to win the singles title. The outstanding Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeated Halep and countrywoman Monica Niculescu in the doubles final.

That was a pretty good run.

Siniakova, who is still just 21, has two doubles titles on her resumé. And, as the defending champion in Shenzhen, her first career WTA Tour title, she has done a great job in defending the points.

Siniakova defeated both Johanna Konta and Halep during that 2017 Shenzhen run.

Siniakova

(Photos courtesy of the Shenzhen Open)

New for ’18: Hlavackova and Chan

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After the retirement of Martina Hingis, WTA No. 1 Yung-Jan Chan was left without a doubles partner.

She will team up with Andrea Sestini Hlavackova.

The new duo will play Brisbane, Sydney and the Australian Open.

Hlavackova won Singapore with Timea Babos in October. Babos will play the Australian Open with Kristina Mladenovic (with whom she made Singapore in 2015).

The big question: who will play the ad side?

Hlavackova played the deuce side both with Babos and with longtime partner Lucie Hradecka.

Chan played it both with Hingis and with sister Hao-Ching.

Kubot and Melo crowned year-end No. 1s

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The parity on the ATP Tour’s double circuit is significant this season, with no one team having a true runaway season.

So as the final tally comes in this week at the ATP Tour Finals, it is the rookie tandem of Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot that will be crowned the year-end No. 1 doubles team.

The Brazilian-Polish pair clinched the No. 1 team ranking with a victory over Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers in its first round-robin match at the ATP Tour Finals Monday.

“This year has been amazing for Lukas and I, the first full year we’re playing together. Finishing as the No. 1 team in the world means a lot to me. I got to No. 1 individually in 2015, but this year we played every tournament together as a team to achieve this honour. I’m very proud as my friends, family and sponsors are here. This is one of the most important points of my life,” Melo said.

In the individual rankings, the two took over the No. 1 and No. 2 spots only this week, when they jumped over Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Melo and Kubot played one tournament together in 2015 and three in 2015.

Musical chairs stops at No. 1

Kubot, 35, was one of those players who hooked up with various partners throughout the year since the ending of a successful partnership with Oliver Marach of Austria in 2010.

Melo, 34, played a long time with countryman Andre Sa and then with another Brazilian, Bruno Soares. After that, it was Dodig. And it was during that period that he first claimed the individual No. 1 ranking.

Alexander Zverev was courtside to see Melo and Kubot clinch the No. 1 spot. Melo also was in Milan last week and acted as a coach for Zverev during his exhibition match against Stefanos Tsitsipas (TennisTV)