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.
Much murmuring ensued. One media outlet, El Español, even originally reported (the current version of the story on its website does not allude to it) that Nadal had made a special request for a late start, in order to give his ailing knee the maximum amount of time to heal up before the event began.
Or was it Federer who asked to play earlier? A Sunday start would give him an extra day of rest between the round-robin portion and the semis.
Hmmm… Whichever theory you believed probably depended on whom you supported.
Federer was correct. But a communications person for the ATP says there were no special favors, that it was merely an error on the website.
Not at all true. There was no last minute switch due to any player request. The misinformation on website was down to human error.
“It’s the right time for me,” Hingis is quoted as saying. “It’s better to stop at the peak and I can say I had a very good time. The successes I’ve had over the past three years have been great and it’s going to be hard to beat anyway. And my priorities change, too, of course.”
Stellar career, in three acts
Hingis confirmed it herself on Facebook, after she and partner Yung-Jan Chan won their first match in Singapore Thursday night.
No matter what happens in Singapore, where Hingis and Chan are the No. 1 seeds as the doubles portion of the event gets under way, she would retire at No. 1.
She already has nine titles this year with Chan.
Hingis retired from singles in 2002, when she was just 22.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.