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.

American Harrison wins in Paris

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ROLAND GARROS – There was going to be an American champion regardless of the outcome of the men’s doubles final Saturday, with Ryan Harrison on one side and Donald Young on the other.

And in a dramatic final, it was Ryan Harrison and lifelong friend Michael Venus of New Zealand who won their first major title. They defeated Young and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3 in a match that featured no breaks of serve until the sixth game of the deciding set.

Here’s what they looked like.

Venus, 29, moved to the U.S. from New Zealand when he was young and despite the difference in age, he and Harrison, 25, grew up playing together.

Harrison’s father Pat, now based out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., remains Venus’s coach. Venus was a groomsman at Harrison’s March wedding to Lauren McHale.

“You always dream of winning a Grand Slam every time you’re playing as a kid. Idolize people you see winning Grand Slams. You picture yourself in those moments, and it kind of hasn’t really sunk in yet. Feels a little surreal,” Harrison said. “(Venus) was like a brother growing up. He taught me how to drive, taught me how to do a lot of things. Didn’t teach me how to talk to girls, one thing he didn’t teach me how to do.

“I can only think of one person that I also want to share this experience with one day, and I think that’s my brother (Christian). Hopefully we can have that opportunity again in the future,” he added.

A win with big implications

The victory and the 2,000 ranking points that come with it rocket the team from No. 54 in the doubles race to the ATP Tour Finals in London in November all the way to … No. 3.

There are two more Grand Slams and therefore two more 2,000-point gets to come this year, though. If they did get bumped out of the top eight, their doubles rankings would have to be in the top 20 for them to make it via the format’s “win a major” wild card.

Harrison and Venus hadn’t spoken about playing together going forward. They didn’t want to jinx anything as they were going through the tournament. But it likely will happen for the rest of the season. 

The American is mainly a singles guy and his focus on that this year has brought him back to the top 50 after years on the Challenger circuit, trying to get back to the career-best ranking he had in 2012.

But he says he’s not one of those guys who failed to give the doubles his full attention when he plays. So if he commits, he’s all in.

Harrison’s singles ranking stands at a career-high No. 42.

His doubles ranking after this effort should check in at No. 30 on Monday.

Two Americans in the French dubs final

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ROLAND GARROS – The French Open has had some funky men’s doubles champions over the years.

But rarely as funky as this year.

Two American men – neither of them named Bryan – have reached the final and will be on opposite sides of the net, guaranteeing arguably the most unexpected American French Open champion ever.

Unseeded Donald Young and partner Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico will square off Saturday against Ryan Harrison and his partner, Michael Venus of New Zealand.

It’s the first time Americans have found themselves on opposite sides of the net in a French Open doubles final since … 1980.

That year, No. 12-seeded Americans Hank Pfister and Victor Amaya upset No. 1 seeds Brian Gottfried (with Raúl Ramirez of Mexico) 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

At stake is a major title both probably didn’t, at this point in their careers, think they had a chance to win. 

Young’s current doubles ranking stands at No. 180. The 27-year-old’s best career ranking was No. 100 nearly two years ago. He had played four Tour events in doubles this year and gone 3-4, with the shocker a win with countryman Sam Querrey over the former No. 1 team of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the first round of the Australian Open the outlier.

His career doubles won-loss record coming in was 33-56.

Harrison, 25, stands at No. 139 in the doubles rankings even as his singles is at a career-best No. 47. His doubles resumé is a little more lustrous than Young’s; Harrison’s career won-loss record will inch over the .500 mark with the effort in Paris and he does have three career doubles titles – one this season.

Harrison and Venus won Estoril last month, an early clay-court event in the leadup to the French Open.

Definitely not doubles specialists

But still …

Both players lost in the first round of singles. But it was well worth their while to hang around another 10 days for the opportunity of their respective careers.

Harrison and Venus took out three quality seeded teams on the way to the final: No. 4 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in the second round, No. 7 Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers in the quarters, and No. 16 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the semis.

Young and Gonzalez surprised No. 14 seeds Daniel Nestor and Fabrice Martin in a tight first-round contest (Nestor has won the French Open doubles four times, and been a finalist three additional times, with other partners during his career).

Their big win was over No. 5 seeds Murray and Soares (again) in the quarters, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6.

Big money at stake

The American who wins will earn more during this fortnight than he has the entire 2017 season. And both Harrison and Young have are having good seasons; both have earned over $300,000 US so far.

The men’s (and women’s) doubles champions will split 540,000 Euros (just over $600,000 US).

The runners-up  split 270,000 Euros. Still a great payday.

When a tennis longshot comes in …

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At the start of this week’s Monte Carlo Masters, Romain Arneodo had earned a total of $210 this season – $156 in singles, and $54 in doubles.

He had barely even played; a few low-level Futures in France and a couple of Davis Cup ties for Monaco. When you don’t have any money, playing professional tennis is impossible.

Despite that, and even though the 24-year-old was outside the top 800 in the world in both singles and doubles, he earned a wild card into the doubles on the “hometown player”-Davis Cup card. His partner, Frenchman Hugo Nys, is based in Monte Carlo.

In a doubles draw full of top singles players and the best doubles teams in the world, you’d expect a quick first-round exit and a small cheque to pick up on the way out. But the longest of long shots has come in.

Despite his lowly ranking, Arneodo’s Davis Cup participation at least merited him a mugshot on his ATP Tour page (ATPTour.com)

Arneodo and Nys are in the doubles semi-finals after navigating their way through some extremely tough teams.

No cakewalk draw

The pair defeated Pablo Carreño Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-3, in the first round. The Spaniards are both ranked in the top 30 in doubles in addition to being fine singles players. And even though they had played just two tournaments together this year, they stand tied for 10th in the ATP Tour doubles race to London. They reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open this year, and the finals of the US Open last summer.

In the second round, Arneodo and Nys upset No. 8 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau 7-5, 7-6 (2). That pair won eight titles together in 2014 alone and took both the Wimbledon and ATP Tour Finals titles in 2015.

The quarter-finals already was an impressive result. But the long shots continued their run Friday. They upset the No. 3 seeds, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, 6-2, 6-7 (3) [10-3] to reach the semis.

Arneodo
Nys, a long way down the French Davis Cup depth chart, is Mr. Anonymous on his own page.

Their next challenge will be the unseeded team of Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas, as they try to pull off the impossible.

What does this dream week mean to them? Well, it’s a life-changer.

For one thing, the more than $33,000 (US) each has earned so far will go a long way towards defraying some of their expenses. It’s as much as Nys had earned in 2016 and 2017 combined. And it’s as much as Arneodo earned in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined.

“I won’t say my life will change, because I’m already playing tennis all year, but we’re going to win a lot of points. So maybe our life is going to change tomorrow,” Nys told Sky Sports in a television interview Friday.

Arneodo

Arneodo, who said he stopped playing the tour a year ago and had planned to go for his coach’s license next week, may be wavering. “Maybe it’s going to change a lot. Maybe I’m going to change my mind, because we’re going to get many points here. So maybe I’ll going to start again playing some tournaments with Hugo,” he said. “I don’t know.”

(H/T to Annie-Jean for the Sky interview)

In terms of rankings, Nys will move from his current career-best ranking of No. 181 to just outside the top 100. For Arneodo, down in the abyss with just 45 points on his resumé, the additional 360 points will mean a jump from No. 851 to … just outside the top 175.

They’ll have a full year’s grace to take advantage of the higher-level tournaments they’ll now have access to, to maximize before they have to defend all those points at next year’s Monte Carlo event. For a player like Arneodo, who had given up the dream (see Tweet above), it’s manna from heaven.

Guillaume Couillard

The Cannes, France-born Arneodo plays for Monaco. Nys, born in scenic Évian-les-Bains, France (right across Lac Léman from Lausanne, Switzerland) lives in Monaco. They share a coach, Guillaume Couillard.

Couillard, a 41-year-old Monégasque and Carlos Moyá lookalike, never reached higher than No. 569 in singles and No. 839 in doubles as a player.

So you know he’s living every moment of this along with them.