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).
Get there early.