Men’s and mixed champions crowned

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NEW YORK – The other, non-singles events at the US Open tend to go under the radar a little. In part, that’s because of scheduling.

But they’re still Grand Slam titles. They count.

The men’s doubles was played Friday at noon – four hours before the start of the two men’s singles semifinals. But despite the smallish crowd, it was a triumphant day for the team of Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania.

The pair, also champions at Wimbledon two years ago, defeated Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-3

It was the same for the mixed doubles title match, played at noon Saturday. Top seeds Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Jamie Murray of Great Britain won a dramatic final over No. 3 seeds Hao-Ching Chan of Taipei and Michael Venus of New Zealand, 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 in the match tiebreak.

Martina Hingis and Jamie Murray teamed up for another mixed doubles title Saturday at the US Open.

Bryans denied again

The men’s doubles event was another disappointment for the home-country Bryan brothers.

The twins, who turn 40 next April, have 16 major titles on their resumé. But they haven’t won one since the 2014 US Open.  

For a long while this fortnight, it felt as though this might be theirs. They beat some terrific teams along the way and won the first set against Lopez and Lopez in the semifinals, before losing 6-4 in the third.

Rojer and Tecau, seeded No. 12, upset the No. 6, No. 4 and the No. 1 seeds seeds to get to the final round. Against Henri Kontinen and John Peers, they were way down before coming back to win 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. “Yesterday’s match … was a semi-miracle, really, because they were playing so much better than we were,” Rojer said.

Statement shirt for Rojer

For Rojer, it was an opportunity to make a statement with his kit, which features the Statue of Liberty.

“I have Lady Liberty on the front of the shirt and a jacket that I wear with the Statue of Liberty on the front and a peace symbol on the back. And, again, it’s for the stuff that goes on, especially in the U.S. I have been here since I’m 12 years (old). It’s where I started playing tennis and gave me my opportunity to play,” said Rojer, who left the small island of Curaçao to train in the U.S., and played college tennis at UCLA.

“I don’t know how much the tennis world gets into it, but I just wanted to, you know, have the conversation going and promoting again, just freedom and justice, liberty for everybody on gender issues, on racial issues which we deal a lot with in this country,” he added.

The victory does wonders for their rankings, which go from No. 27 and No. 28 to No. 9 and No. 10.  From No. 8 in the race to London, the team leaps to No. 3.

Hingis-Murray: 2-for-2

“We had a great run. This scoring format is a lot more random than at Wimbledon, obviously, because you have sudden death, deuce games. It’s easier … to hold onto your serve at Wimbledon, because you can afford to maybe mess up points and stuff. But here you can’t. Every game is first of four,” Jamie Murray said. “For us, it’s like so much fun to go there and play and play in a huge stadium, a lot of people coming out to watch. They are there four hours before the women’s singles final, so they are there because they want to come and watch us play.”

If there’s one characteristic that has marked Hingis’s third career as a doubles and mixed-doubles specialist, it’s been her willingness to drop partners and pick up someone new as soon as there were signs of the honeymoon being over.

It has worked out brilliantly with Murray. And why shouldn’t it. Murray is considered one of the premium doubles players in the world, No. 1 in the world not long ago. And Hingis’ resumé, at 36, shows little signs of being done.

What have you done for me lately?

The 36-year-old hooked up with Sania Mirza at Indian Wells in 2015. And the pair had immediate success. They won there, in Miami and in Charleston in successive tournaments. Then they won Wimbledon, the US Open, Wuhan and Beijing. And then the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. 

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Hingis and Mirza had an amazing run for a year and a half. And then, they were done. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Hingis and Mirza began 2016 winning Brisbane, Sydney and the Australian Open in a row. The French Open, too. But the rate of return wasn’t the same and by the North American summer, Hingis had excused Mirza and hired Coco Vandeweghe.

That didn’t work well enough so by early in 2017, Vandeweghe was gone and Hingis was playing with Taipei’s Yung-Jan Chan.

Can’t really blame her. At 36, the window is closing and it’s all about piling up as many big titles as possible.

So long Leander, hello there, Jamie

It was the same with mixed. Hingis and Indian doubles legend Leander Paes won four mixed-doubles majors together, most recently at the 2016 French Open. But the failed to get past the quarterfinals in the next four Slams and – poof! – Hingis had moved on with Murray. 

In part, that was out of necessity. The mixed doubles cutoff is brutally tight and the 43-year-old Paes’ doubles ranking had fallen, making entry more challenging. That wasn’t an issue at Wimbledon, though, with an expanded 48-team mixed doubles draw.

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Hingis and Paes were overjoyed when they won the 2015 Australian Open doubles title. But all good things must end. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

It has worked out brilliantly. Although you got the sense from what Hingis didn’t say after the win Saturday that she’s giving her future some thought.

This was in answer to a question about whether they will continue to team up.

“I mean, we will if – like, if I play, then definitely we will. That’s what we said. It’s a long way to go till next year. I mean, we waited a little bit after Wimbledon before we actually had a talk. We are just going to do the same thing,” Hingis said. “No, this time around it will definitely be – no, we said yes, if we go to Australia, everyone is healthy and playing, so that’s – that’s not an issue this time, I believe.”

There’s a storyline worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Women’s doubles final Sunday

In the meantime, on Sunday, same old thing.

Hingis and Chan will be going for the women’s doubles title against No. 7 seeds Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.

The match is at noon. The men’s singles final starts at 4 p.m.

Hingis will be aiming for her 25th major title (she has five Grand Slam crowns in singles, 12 in women’s doubles and seven in mixed).

Get there early.

US Open Day 12 – Men’s semis preview

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NEW YORK – On paper, at least, the second men’s semifinal is the defacto final.

But let’s hold off on handing out the big trophy for now. Because Grand Slam semifinal newbies Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain and Kevin Anderson of South Africa have something to say about it.

Carreño Busta, 26 and Anderson, 31, will lead off men’s semifinal day at 4 p.m. EDT. They will be playing by far the biggest match of their careers. And the fascinating thing will be to watch how each handles the occasion.

Both players benefited immensely from the fact that Andy Murray’s late withdrawal led to a somewhat unbalanced draw. 

Anderson defeated a qualifier, then Ernests Gulbis in straight sets and then Borna Coric (who had upset No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the previous round but couldn’t back it up). In the fourth round, he caught a break with Paolo Lorenzi, who had come of a section of the draw that included Jack Sock and Gilles Muller (whom Lorenzi took care of personally). And then, a surprisingy passive Sam Querrey. Most players would take that in a heartbeat.

Carreño Busta’s dream draw

Carreño Busta had an even easier ride, relatively speaking. No less an authority than Roger Federer referred to that (maybe a little bit of shade?) after his loss to Juan Martin del Potro. 

He drew qualifier, qualifier, qualifier and then qualifier to reach the quarters. The last of them was 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who upset No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the early going but, after six matches, had run out of steam. 

In the quarters, he defeated No. 29 seed Diego Schwartzman, who was not 100 per cent physically but had done him a great service in knocking out No. 5 Marin Cilic and No. 16 Lucas Pouille along the way. Most players would take that draw in half a heartbrat.

In his quarterfinal, Anderson was as expressive and aggressive as anyone had ever seen him. At 6-foot-8, he’s one of the big servers out on the ATP Tour, with a great trajectory. But as his career has progressed, he has become more than that.

All that was missing, perhaps, was that aggressiveness and drive.

Anderson the favorite

Anderson leads their head-to-head 2-0. Notably, the two played just a few weeks ago in Montreal, and the South African won in straight sets.

These two are the opening act in the figurative and literal sense. Because ticketholders, as much as they might enjoy discovering these two, will really be waiting for the main event that takes place immediately afterwards.

Del Potro had been 5-16 against Roger Federer going into their quarterfinal. But he had beaten him in some pretty big matches, including the 2009 US Open final and, now, the 2017 US Open quarters.

His record against Nadal is better – 5-8. 

They had not played for nearly three years when they met in the semifinals of the Olympic event in Rio de Janeiro last summer. Del Potro won that one – an emotional effort. He defeated him three consecutive times on North American hard courts back in del Potro’s breakout year in 2009. 

It’s a tough one to call. Nadal’s level has been up and down this US Open. And with all the talk of a potential Nadal-Federer clash here – it has never happened in their careers and who knows, it may never happen – he might prefer this one. 

Del Potro down – but not out

Del Potro seemed down and out against Dominic Thiem in the fourth round, as a virus laid him out and turned his nose Stan Wawrinka red. Somehow, he escaped that one in an incredible comeback. And he rode the wave through the match with a sub-par Federer who nevertheless had his chances.

Two more days of rest, and playing the later match, will help del Potro get to the endurance level that any opponent needs to take on Nadal in a best-of-five set match.

semifinals

Nadal destroyed 19-year-old Andrey Rublev in his own quarterfinal match, losing just five games and expending relatively little energy. But that match didn’t necessarily reflect his level; more than anything, it reflected the inexperience level of his teenaged opponent.

The Argentine’s cheering section was large and in charge in the Federer match, definitely a different dynamic than the 36-year-old Swiss star is accustomed to. Against Nadal, it may be overwhelming. And the fact that the sun will have set and the lights will be on in Arthur Ashe Stadium should turn this one into a great event.

Doubles champions crowned

 The men’s doubles champions were crowned earlier Friday.

No. 12 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania defeated No. 11 seeds Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-3 to win their second major title.

The pair Wimbledon in 2015, and finished a superb season by taking the ATP Tour Finals in London.

It was the first US Open men’s doubles final in the open era (since 1968) to feature two teams seeded No. 10 or higher. 

Their pure doubles aggressiveness was the different in what was a rather routine victory, after both teams had superb tournaments.

Rojer and Tecau had the much tougher road; they defeated the No. 6, No. 4 and No. 1 seeds along the way. Lopez and Lopez defeated the fifth-seeded Bryan brothers in the semifinals, losing their first set in five matches to that point.

Halep to try again for top ranking

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Will Simona Halep be third time lucky on Sunday?

Already this year, the 25-year-old Romanian has had two opportunities to reach the elusive No. 1 singles ranking on the WTA Tour. But she couldn’t get it done.

If she defeats Garbiñe Muguruza in the Cincinnati final, she’ll finally do it.

“It’s the third time. It is either lucky or is just an experience again. So we will see,” Halep said after defeating wild card Sloane Stephens in the semifinal Saturday.

At the French Open, just a few games away from defeating unseeded Jelena Ostapenko in the final and taking over top spot, she faltered. At Wimbledon, she was just two points away against Johanna Konta in the quarterfinals. But she faltered again.

Surprisingly, Halep and Muguruza have not met in more than two years, since Stuttgart, on indoor clay in 2015.

“I want to win it. “So if it’s gonna be just to win a match and to get it, it’s going to be more special and nicer for me. Everyone can get to No. 1 now. The ranking is close. So depends on anyone,” she told the media in Cincinnati. “But I am so close. I really want it. So we will see.”

Fresh slate at the top

If Halep gets it done, it will complete an astonishing – and likely unprecedented  – week in which every single one of the No. 1 rankings in tennis will change hands.

Rafael Nadal is assured to be the new No. 1 on the men’s singles side. Finland’s Henri Kontinen will be No. 1 in men’s doubles. And Lucie Safarova will be the new woman atop the women’s doubles ranking on Monday.

Five possibilities, down to one

Karolina Pliskova, taking over for Angelique Kerber, had been No. 1 for the last month.

It certainly seems as though tennis karma is dictating that Halep join the club.

Nadal (last in 2014) and Kontinen (for many weeks this season) have been No. 1 before. For Safarova (and Halep) it will be the first time.

Halep

At the beginning of the week, there were five WTA Tour players with the potential to end up in the top spot, depending on results in Cincinnati.

But a lot of things had to fall into place. Most of the scenarios involved the current No. 1 Pliskova losing early; Halep was the most likely possibility, if Pliskova didn’t hold onto the spot. She basically had to go two rounds further than Pliskova.

The Czech righthander lost in the in the semis to Muguruza. So for Halep, that now means winning the tournament. 

But if she doesn’t, she will find herself just five points behind Pliskova, in the No. 2 spot. If it doesn’t happen Sunday, it surely will happen at the US Open, right?

Halep has quarterfinalist points to defend (430) in New York. But Pliskova lost to Kerber in the final (1,300 points). And the other contenders will continue to have a say.

Kerber is dropping

Speaking of Kerber, who spent 14 weeks at No. 1 this year, she will fall all the way to No. 6 after the Cincinnati tournament. With those 2,000 points for winning the US Open hanging over her ranking, she may fall further.

This, it seems, is what parity looks like.

But for some reason, neither Halep nor Pliskova is getting the same kind of criticism that other former No. 1s – Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic and Amélie Mauresmo, to name three – received for acceding to the top spot without having a Grand Slam title on their resumé.

Bouchard-Stephens reach DC dubs final

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WASHINGTON – The first-time team makes the final.

Genie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens, who share an agent in John Tobias but have known each other half their lives, teamed up for the first time at the Citi Open and are one match away from the title.

They upset the No. 3 seeds Mariana Duque-Mariño and María Irigoyen in the first round. And in Friday’s semifinal, they toppled the top seeds, Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu, in an improbable 1-6, 7-5, 10-8 victory before a full house on Grandstand 2 court in Washington, D.C.

Earlier in the day, the pair had played their quarterfinal match, postponed by the rain on Thursday evening.

Their opponents, Nigina Abduraimova and Patricia Maria Tig, retired after the first game of the second set because of an arm injury to Tig.

Then the two, and entourage, went off to the practice court while they waited for their opponents to be available for the semifinal.

Highlights only

Here were some of their best moments (we left out most of the awful ones, most of which took place in the first set).

The pair rushed out to a 7-2 lead in the match tiebreak, and very nearly coughed it up before going on to win it 10-8.

Some pics:

They will play No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic in the final, Saturday at 1 p.m.

Double win for Eugenie Bouchard in D.C.

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WASHINGTON – It had been awhile since Genie Bouchard won a tennis match.

More than two months, in fact. But on Thursday, she won two.

The 23-year-old Canadian overcame an early break in the first set against Christina Mchale to win 7-6 (6), 6-0, and advance to the second round of the Citi Open.

Later in the day, in the company of American Sloane Stephens, she posted her second win, a 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 victory over No. 3 seeds Mariana Duque-Mariño of Colombia and María Irigoyen of Argentina.

A very good day, for a player who really needed it.

Here’s what the singles win looked like (with a little video at the end).

“I have to say that I’m happier about the win in doubles, because I don’t play doubles often – although I plan to play more in the future – and I haven’t won too many doubles matches in the past. So it was a big win for me,” Bouchard said.

The Canadian looked sluggish at the beginning of the singles match, not surprising given the heat. The umpire told Bouchard and Mchale at the beginning of the second set that if it went to a third, they would have a 10-minute break beforehand. She didn’t want it to get that far.

“I felt a bit slow. It was really, really hot. I had to think about moving more than normal, for it to be normal. And I was a bit nervous, because I haven’t played a match in the month. In the first round, I think everyone has that – where you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Bouchard said. 

“When I was down 4-2, I realized she was dominating the rallies a little bit. I let my shots go a lot more, and it really turned the match around,” she added. “It was so hot, it hurt your feet. It wasn’t even like I felt my feet were on fire; they actually hurt.”

Winless since May

Bouchard came into the French Open after suffering a nasty sprained ankle the previous week in Nürnberg. The three-set win in the first round against Risa Ozaki was a struggle, and the ankle didn’t pull up well for her second-round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

That went quickly – in the other direction. Bouchard then lost in three sets to Francesca Schiavone on grass in Mallorca, and to Barbora Strycova in three sets at Eastbourne.

At Wimbledon, after winning the first set 6-1, she went down in three to No. 25 seed Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain. 

That was a month ago – a long time to wait to get back on a winning track.

The doubles match was played before packed house on Court 2. It’s a small court, and a lot of the doubles matches at the Citi Open are played there. When the better-known singles players are on the court, it gets pretty packed.

But if Bouchard’s partner Sloane Stephens snarkily remarked on Monday about playing the match on “Court 25”, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Bouchard’s compatriot Bianca Andreescu had to deal with.

Andreescu played on Court 3, normally a practice court, with very little room on the sides and behind the baseline. It’s completely surrounded by chain-link fencing, with no stands for the fans to watch. And it’s right next to a couple of portable toilets.

In comparison, Court 2 was paradise. And it was standing-room only with a long lineup to get in.

Bouchard and Stevens faced two very good doubles players in Duque-Mariño and Irigoyen.

After a slow start, they prevailed 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 to move on to the quarterfinals. On Thursday, they will face Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan and Patricia Maria Tig of Romania. So that’s certainly winnable.

Matchup of former top-10s

In singles, Bouchard will play Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

Petkovic, a former top-10 player who turns 30 the day of the US Open women’s singles final, is really struggling. She finished the 2014 season ranked No. 14, but was down to No. 24 by the end of 2015.

She was ranked No. 56 at the end of last season but this week, has fallen out of the top 100 for the first time she she first broke into it, in June, 2013.

Petkovic has only two wins since early April at the WTA Tour level And one of those came in the first round here against Kurumi Nara of Japan.

But against Bouchard, she’s 4-1. The Canadian’s only victory came in that dream 2014 Wimbledon, where she defeated Petkovic in the third round on her way to the final.

Their last meeting came in Beijing in 2015. That was Bouchard’s first tournament back after suffering a concussion in the women’s locker room at the US Open.

She began feeling symptoms again on the court against Petkovic, and retired early in the second set. She didn’t play again the rest of the year.

Bianca Andreescu has a hard head

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WASHINGTON – Canadian Bianca Andreescu and American Louisa Chirico, first-time partners, are still speaking. No worries.

It’s all part of the game.

During their first-round doubles match at the Citi Open Wednesday, Chirico DRILLED her first-time partner Andreescu (who was at the net) in the head with a first serve.

Seriously flush. Right on. We’ve all had this happen in doubles, right?

It’s more that it’s completely unexpected and kind of a shock than actually painful, because you have your back to your partner and don’t even know exactly when they’ll serve.

Take a look:

Andreescu was fine. And she and Chirico defeated Kaitlyn Christian and Desirae Krawczayk of the U.S. 6-3, 7-6 (5).

The Can-American pair served for it at 5-4, and 6-5 in the second set, but were broken both times – unrelated to the beaning.

Andreescu said later she didn’t even feel it.

She’s from sturdy Canadian-Romanian stock.

The pair will play its quarter-final match on Thursday.

Andreescu, the Canadian, will bring a hockey helmet this time.

What’s next for … Willis and Clarke?

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British journeyman Marcus Willis had a Wimbledon moment for a lifetime in 2016.

He got through a pre-qualifying event, the qualifying tournament at Roehampton, and won a first-round match in the main singles draw.

He then got to face Roger Federer on Centre Court.

It was an exposure opportunity he exploited a little bit. But the now 26-year-old came back to Wimbledon in 2017 only slightly ahead of where he had been when he left it a year before.

Ranked just inside the top 400, Willis had played little. He got married, had a baby, and probably skipped a few gym sessions.

Willis seemed poised to repeat his main draw appearance, after getting through his first two qualifying rounds in singles at Roehampton. But he came up with a bum knee in the final round against Illya Marchenko, and that was that.

A shot in doubles

He already had secured a wild card for the Wimbledon main draw in doubles, with 18-year-old Jay Clarke. Clarke, ranked No. 15 in the ITF junior rankings a year ago on the strength of excellent doubles results, had a heartbreaker in the final round of the singles qualifying.

Up two sets to none against Austrian Sebastian Ofner, he fell in five. Ofner ended up beating Jack Sock in the main draw and losing to Alexander Zverev in the third round.

Here were the two after their losses, downcast in defeat as they talked to the British media.

Willis

It turned out, these two – who basically come from different tennis generations – had a shining moment to come.

Willis and Clarke – underdogs

The pickup team came back from two sets to none down to defeat Jared Donaldson and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-3 in the fifth.

The best moments? Their pure joy from their parents, Cathy and James Willis ((a grade-school teacher and accountant), and Earol Clarke (a retired social worker) and his wife, a teaching assistant. Just the most regular folks you could find. According to this story, the Clarkes don’t even own a car and had to battle to try to get support for the promising youngest son’s training.

Willis

The parents wouldn’t even have known each other before this week. There was hugging and kissing and grins as wide as the English Channel. They even joined the players’ post-victory press conference.

Willis and Clarke upset the No. 2 seeds and defending champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hughes Herbert, 6-3 in the fifth set. They fell to eventual finalists Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the third round.

Willis

What’s next for Willis and Clarke?

Willis’ doubles ranking jumped from No. 708 to No. 256, which will help him get into tournaments. Clarke’s doubles ranking jumped from No. 882 to No. 283.

The singles picture is a little muddier, especially for Willis.

Clarke’s singles ranking moved up 39 spots, to a career-high No. 329. But Willis’s singles ranking dropped 152 spots to No. 532, because of the loss of those points earned in winning a round in the main draw a year ago.

That will get you into lowly Futures events. But not much more than that.

Clarke went right from the dizzying moments at Wimbledon to a lowly Futures event in Gubbio, Italy. He went from grass to read clay.

Willis
Jay Clarke went straight from the grass to the red clay at a low-level Futures in Italy this week. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

 

Clarke is the No. 1 seed, and one of only five non-Italians in the 32-player draw. Two wins later, he’s in the quarterfinals. He and his older brother Curtis lost in the first round of the doubles.

Willis? He had been entered in a pair of $25,000 Futures events in Ireland this week, and next week. But he withdrew from both of them the day of the final round of qualifying in Roehampton.

Instead, he’s a substitute on the New York Empire World Team Tennis squad.

No doubt he’s trying to get his knee right, after running on adrenaline during the Wimbledon doubles. He’s also arguing with people on Twitter. 🙂

There’s a series of three $15,000 Futures events in Great Britain in September. Despite the highs of his Wimbledon efforts the last two years, he’ll have to start all over again.

What’s next for … Hsieh Cheng-Peng?

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Hsieh Cheng-Peng qualified for Wimbledon for the first time this year, a story we chronicled a few weeks ago.

What’s next?

The 25-year-old and American partner Max Schnur weren’t able to take the story further. They had a tough ask in the first round of the main draw.

Hsieh and Schnur were beaten 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (5) by the far more experienced team of Marcin Matkowski and Max Mirnyi.

But, as always, Hsieh maximized the moment.

Here’s what it looked like.

Other than the first-round prize money of about $7,000 US, the Wimbledon debut didn’t change his life. Hsieh earned 25 ranking points for getting through the qualifying and losing in the first round. But his ranking, currently at No. 112, didn’t budge.

In fact, it will drop a few spots next week, as the 80 points Hsieh earned with partner Tsung-Hua Yang by winning a Challenger in Gimcheon, South Korea will drop off. 

Coming to America

 But unlike previous years, Hsieh has come to America.

It’s only the second time in his career; the first time came when he played a pair of late-season Challengers back in 2011.

Hsieh and countryman Peng Hsien-Yin (his regular partner this season) were directly entries into the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport. It was only Hsieh’s fifth ATP Tour appearance (he played Nice and Marseille in France the last two years).

They held six match points against the Aussie team of John-Patrick Smith and Matt Reid in the first round, but fell in dramatic fashion, 4-6, 6-4 … 22-20. So he’s still looking for his first win at the ATP Tour level.

 

Moving on @tennishallofame 22-20 in the 3rd set super breaker after saving 6 MPs 🎾🇺🇸!!

A post shared by Matt Reid (@matty_reidy) on

As it happens, Hsieh’s Wimbledon partner Schnur also had a cliffhanger in his first-round match in Umag, Croatia with fellow American James Cerretani. Schnur and Cerretani lost 7-6 (5), 0-6, 13-11 to the British pair of Aljaz Bedene and Dominic Inglot.

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There are several North American Challengers in the next few weeks: Granby, Binghamton, Lexington, Aptos, Vancouver. So that’s undoubtedly where they’re headed.

Time for best-of-3 in Wimby men’s dubs

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WIMBLEDON – The members of the esteemed Wimbledon Committee live in their own time zone in terms of effecting change at The Championships.

They consider history. Surely they debate extensively. They look at every angle. Eventually, they move forward.

The brilliant way they put a roof on the ancient Centre Court, and how they plan to do the same on No. 1 Court in the same seamless fashion without disrupting play for one second is testament to the fact that they most often do things right.

Other times, they seem needlessly laggard. Optic yellow tennis balls were introduced in 1972; Wimbledon finally put them to use in … 1986. Until a few years ago, they looked askance at giving any media credentials to someone from that … world wide web business.

Until a few years ago, they didn’t have on-court interviews so the full house on Centre Court could at least hear from the two participants in the finals.

But here’s one item they should probably look at sooner than later: the anachronism that is best-of-five sets in gentlemen’s doubles.

It’s an idea that has long passed its expiry date, for many reasons.

Unfair to the women

It’s 9 p.m. Saturday night on the day of the ladies’ singles final. And there were four worthy gentlemen battling it out on Centre court for the doubles title. They had been at it for four hours and 40 minutes. Finally, it was over, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), 3-6, 13-11.

It didn’t get to this point in the men’s doubles final. But it could have. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The winners, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, couldn’t believe it. One rolled in the grass. The other danced the can-can.

By then, they’d already had to stop play at 11-11 to close the roof and turn on the lights.

Thank God for the roof.

Otherwise, they’d have been held over until Sunday. And the women’s doubles final would also have been held over, after the women had been waiting since early afternoon to play.

It tells you what the general mindset here is that throughout the men’s doubles match, there was rarely a mention from the three commentators – including former players John Lloyd and Peter Fleming – of the women’s doubles championship to come, and of how long they had to wait. It was as though it didn’t exist.  

Jack Sock, the 2014 Wimbledon men’s doubles champ, had a bad knee. With the best-of-five set format, he probably opted for mixed with Madison Keys instead. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

After the marathon win came the trophy presentations in the Royal Box with the Duke of Kent.

Kubot and Melo, junior girls champ Claire Liu of the U.S., and the finalists.

By 9:20 p.m., they hadn’t even tossed the coin for the ladies’ doubles final. First serve came at 9:28 p.m.

With an 11 p.m. curfew on the lights at Wimbledon, it was lucky on some levels that champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina dropped a double bagel on No. 9 seeds Angel Chan and Monica Niculescu, a fledgling pair.

As it was, it was nearly 10:30 p.m. when they were done. A competitive match would easily have brushed up against the curfew, putting the Committee in the tenuous position of postponing the dénouement, or risk the wrath of local Wandsworth residents.

Putting aside the details of the long, long Saturday (and the fact that 13-11 in the fifth set, and 6-0 6-0 were worth exactly the same prize money to the champions and runners-up), here are six reasons why best-of-five men’s Grand Slam men’s doubles is a dodo bird.

1) No other Grand Slam does it

While that’s not necessarily reasoning that cuts much ice with Wimbledon, it’s the truth. The French Open has third-set tiebreaks for the doubles. In the mixed, they have match tiebreaks in lieu of third sets. 

Meanwhile, Wimbledon plays everything out. No tiebreaks in deciding sets anywhere – including junior doubles. No match tiebreaks except for the Legends, and that’s probably only because they don’t want half the expert analysts for the various networks to end up in the hospital.

2) It’s a schedule killer

The Wimbledon world is a beautiful place if the weather holds up, as it has done this year.

But there have been a number of occasions in the past where the Committee has had to truncate the first round (and more) of men’s doubles to best-of-three. 

watchPeople tend to forget, because of the Centre Court roof, that a lot of rain might mean tennis there no matter what.

But it delays and compresses the schedule on every other court, in all the other events.

In 2011, Canadian Adil Shamasdin and partner Chris Guccione tried for four days to get their first-round match finished. They finally did, on Saturday, after the format had been cut to best-of-three.

Even last year, entering the rare middle Sunday of play, six men’s doubles teams were already in the third round. But two hadn’t even finished their first-round matches yet. The tournament made the decision very early – far too early, according to some of the doubles players – to cut the first two rounds to best-of-three.

In 2004, the men’s doubles was reduced to best-of-three up to the quarterfinals. The same thing happened in 1997. 

If you enter a tournament and can’t be 100 per cent sure of what the parameters are, that’s not right.

And if so little regard is given to your event that the first thing they do when they get behind schedule is to cut it down, it seems logical that they don’t consider it enough of a priority to be worth playing best-of-five sets.

 3) Grass-court doubles has changed

While the best-of-five set format might give the better teams a better chance to win more often, grass-court tennis is no longer what it once was. That’s most evident in singles, where the serve-and-volley is practically extinct.

In doubles, the teams most often both stay back on first serves on grass, just as they do on the other surfaces. And there are plenty of players who serve and stay back, as well.

It’s still fast. But it’s not nearly the no-rally game that it used to be.

With the rallies extended at least somewhat, there’s less of an element of chance in the best-of-three format than there was a decade ago. Three sets is what they play everywhere else; with half the doubles players also involved in mixed, they certainly get enough tennis. Sometimes too much.

4) The better singles players steer clear

It’s not as though Wimbledon has to worry about pumping up the men’s doubles draw to increase spectators’ entertainment. It’s Wimbledon.

But if a player has any aspirations at all of maximizing in singles, he’ll avoid the best-of-five doubles like the plague – unless it’s a significant part of his livelihood.

Doubles always benefits when the more-known singles players play. It might take pounds sterling out of the doubles specialists’ pockets, but it’s true nonetheless.

Of the more well-known singles players, Fabio Fognini, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco and Mischa Zverev played this year. But they most often play doubles at tournaments. And they all lost early. 

The Nadals, Djokovics and Federers won’t ever play during a Slam. But you would definitely get a better field.

5) Five sets, no tiebreaks, tired legs

If the tournament thinks best-of-five sets in doubles determines the worthiest winners, it’s worth noting that without the final-set tiebreak, the outcomes are cumulative.

By the time Henri Kontinen got to the mixed doubles final Sunday, he was pretty much toast. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Mate Pavic and Oliver Marach won their doubles semifinal Thursday, 17-15 in the fifth set. Then Pavic had to go out and play mixed doubles, which they lost in three.

By the end of that, he was staggering.

By the time the pair got to the men’s doubles final Saturday afternoon, as close as that marathon match was, all that tennis in his legs may have been the difference between winning and losing.

Top men’s doubles seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers won their doubles quarterfinal in five sets Wednesday. Then Kontinen had to go out and play mixed doubles. The next day, they lost their men’s doubles semifinal 9-7 in the fifth. Then Kontinen went out with Heather Watson and won a long three-setter, 7-5 in the third, in the mixed quarterfinals.

You could argue that by the time Kontinen played the mixed final Sunday, he was on fumes.

6) It’s a grass crusher

If there’s anything the grounds committee at Wimbledon has learned the last few years, it’s that hot weather and relentless baseline play have put the living, breathing grass courts under increasing duress.

There were complaints this year as rarely before, even if the tournament brushed them off as mere cosmetic concerns.

But the weather isn’t likely to get more helpful going forward, especially with the tournament a week later than it was in previous years. That means an extra week of the sun potentially bearing down on the lawns before the tournament gets under way.

Would it help, if there were a little less tennis going on during the fortnight? You’d have to think it would. Men’s doubles is 61 matches in total, all of them potential five-setters. Cut that down by half and it can only do the courts good.

If they kept the final best-of-five, that would be fine. But perhaps juggle the schedule a little in that case.

Will it happen? Probably in our lifetime.

But only when the Committee decides.

Team Bucie going for Serena Slam

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ROLAND GARROS  – It’s not singles, so it won’t get the same kind of attention.

But American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic – “Team Bucie” – can do something pretty impressive at Wimbledon in the next few weeks.

They are the current holders of the 2016 US Open, 2017 Australian Open and now the 2017 French Open titles after a 6-2, 6-1 victory over unseeded Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua in the final Sunday.

If the pair can win Wimbledon, Mattek-Sands and Safarova would hold all four Grand Slam doubles titles simultaneously. It’s an accomplishment that came to be known as the “Serena Slam” after Williams did it in singles.

A year ago at this time, Novak Djokovic also held all four majors.

“When you walk out on Philippe Chatrier, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s a great stadium. Perfect day to play tennis today. We were ready. We were ready to go,” Mattek-Sands said after a surprisingly one-sided win over the Aussies, former Wimbledon finalists.

Mattek-Sands also had an excellent singles tournament in Paris. She got through the qualifying. And she played superb tennis in dispatching the returning Petra Kvitova before losing to Samantha Stosur in the third round.

But her thing remains doubles. With the victory, the pair jump over Martina Hingis and Yung-Jan Chan to take a sizeable lead in the doubles race to the WTA Finals in Singapore. And Mattek-Sands (at No. 1) and Safarova (at No. 2) also carve out a sizeable lead in the individual rankings over the next two, Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

A first Wimbledon would complete set

Wimbledon is the one Grand Slam they’ve not yet won so if they pull that off, they would also hold career Slams.

A year ago, they drew each other in the first round of the singles main draw at the All-England Club. Safarova won – barely, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 7-5. But they lost in the first round of the women’s doubles to Daria Gavrilova and Daria Kasatkina. Team Bucie got to the quarter-finals in 2015.

Mattek-Sands reached the doubles semifinal in 2010 with Liezel Huber. Safarova has had some great results in singles at the All-England Club, but never in doubles.

 

 

It’ll be an interesting storyline to follow in a few weeks.