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.
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.
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.
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.
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.