Gauff, Eubanks pull off big mixed upset (photos)

NEW YORK – There are always surprises in mixed doubles – especially at the US Open, it seems.

Remember when Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock, 19 and 18 at the time, ran the table and won the title in 2011?

They upset Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber in the second round on the way.

On Friday, in the first round of this year’s event, 22-year-old Christopher Eubanks and junior sensation Cori Gauff upset the No. 3 seeds, Henri Kontinen and Hao-Ching Chan.

Gauff, the defending US Open junior champ and reigning French Open junior champion, is still just 14.

They did it in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. And they certainly didn’t do it in traditional doubles fashion, more often than not staying back at the baseline.

But Gauff, so much younger than the rest, was as poised as any of them. Kontinen is 28, and reached the Wimbledon final last year with Heather Watson. Chan, 24, reached the US Open mixed final last year with Michael Venus.

Here’s what it looked like.

Another American wild-card team, Taylor Townsend and Donald Young, didn’t fare as well. They were defeated by Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands 6-1, 7-5 in their first match.

On the last of a series of tough weather days, Townsend had just finished a long, tough match against No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko in singles, losing 6-4 in the third set, before returning to court for mixed.

Gauff

Good crop of African-American players

Young and Townsend, despite an age difference, have been friends since childhood. Townsend is even coached by Young’s father, Donald. Sr. This is the fifth time they’ve teamed up for mixed at the US Open, they reached the semifinals in 2014.

Along with Eubanks and Gauff, they form part of an encouraging group of African-American players who are taking part.

Michael Mmoh will play, with Amanda Anisimova, on Friday against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray (another tough ask).

And Frances Tiafoe (beaten in the second round of singles Thursday by fellow Next-Gener Alex de Minaur of Australia), will team up with young Whitney Osuigwe against No. 2 seeds Oliver Marach of Austria and American Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Nicole Melichar.

“Dynamic Jew-O” eliminated

New Yorkers Jamie Loeb and Noah Rubin, the self-titled “Dynamic Jew-O”, had a tough one against No. 1 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

They recovered well after being bageled (pardon the pun, okay?) in the first set. But they ultimately went down 6-0, 6-4.

Here are a VERY young Oudin and Sock, after they won their title.

Oudin turns 27 in a few weeks, Sock turns 26. Oudin is already retired and is around doing some media work at the tournament.

Sock, who lost in the second round of singles to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia (the country, not the state), continues to scuffle this season after a great finish to 2017 and a leap into the top 10.

He is the No. 3 seed in the men’s doubles with Mike Sock.

Photos: Venus keeps dubs skills sharp

PARIS – Her sister has some singles duties to attend to on Saturday in the late afternoon/early evening.

But Venus Williams, eliminated from the singles in the first round, could still keep her doubles skills honed in her absence.

Williams was on a practice court at the neighbouring Club Jean Bouin, along with hitting partner Jermaine Jenkins.

Her partner was her assistant of two years, Zebe Haupt, who played as a junior in his native Australia.

A little impromptu mixed doubles, to keep things sharp.

Here’s what it looked like. (We’d have shot video, but only television rights holders are allowed to shoot, as of the start of the main draw last Sunday).

Serena vs. Goerges

Little sister has to deal with No. 11 seed Julia Goerges of Germany in her third-round singles.

Surprisingly, the two have not met in nearly seven years, since the Rogers Cup in 2011. They also played here in Paris, in the second round of the 2010 French Open (Williams won both; the clay matchup went 6-1, 6-1).

The winner will play …. get this … Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. 

U.S. Miami Open “sweep” first since 1985

The last time there was an American sweep at the Miami Open, it wasn’t even the Miami Open.

It was the first-ever edition of the tournament, then called the Lipton International Players Championship, and played north up Interstate 95 at the Laver resort in Delray Beach Fla.

That was 33 years ago, back in 1985. 

Now, a caveat: the 2018 Miami Open champions’ roster wasn’t 100 per cent American.

John Isner won the men’s singles, Sloane Stephens the women’s singles. The Bryan brothers won the men’s doubles. And Coco Vandeweghe teamed up with the one outlier, Aussie Ashleigh Barty, to take the women’s doubles.

Back in 1985, the Americans did even better. All the singles finalists were American, as well as three of the four women’s doubles finalists.

And, there was a bonus trophy.

In 1985, the Lipton was part of the “Grand Prix Tour”. It wasn’t even the ATP Tour yet, although the ATP itself, as a players’ association, was formed in 1973.

The women’s event was part of the “Virginia Slims World Championship Series” which didn’t run on the regular calendar year, but March to March. Back then, it was the WITA (Women’s International Tennis Association).

That was back when cigarette sponsorship was something that helped women’s tennis to become what it is today – probably saved it – not the evil thing it is now.

Total prize money for all five events was $1.8 million.

This year, the singles champions took home $1.34 million – each.

Two weeks, full fields, best-of-five

From the Miami Open website:

1985: Field at Laver’s International Tennis Resort includes 128 men and women in singles, 64 doubles teams for men and women, and mixed doubles. Tournament format is the same as the four Grand Slams. It is the first time in 56 years that a new, two-week tournament is launched. Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte capture singles titles before ABC-TV cameras. Navratilova-Evert women’s final is first sellout. Attendance for two weeks: 125,817, exceeding any golf or tennis event ever held in Florida.

Men’s singles

United States Tim Mayotte defeated United States Scott Davis 4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4

The win by Mayotte was the the first of 12 titles, and the biggest of his career, no doubt.

Women’s singles

United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Chris Evert-Lloyd 6–2, 6–4

Evert was Lloyd then, still married to first husband John Lloyd.

It was the 101st title of Navratilova’s career. And it was the 63rd meeting between the two, out of 80. 

 

Evert had just broken a streak of 13 consecutive Navratilova victories at the Virginia Slims of Florida (ironically, held at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne that year). Navratilova put that right, and went 11-6 for the last part of their rivalry.

Men’s doubles

United States Paul Annacone / South Africa Christo van Rensburg defeated United States Sherwood Stewart / Australia Kim Warwick 7–5, 7–5, 6–4

It was only the second title of Annacone’s stellar doubles career. He went on to win 14 – including his only major, the Australian Open, at the end of that season.

Note that the final was best-of-five sets.

Women’s doubles

United States Gigi Fernández / United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Kathy Jordan / Czechoslovakia Hana Mandlíková 7-6 (4), 6–2

It was the first title of Fernández’s career. She was still just 20, and would go on to win 69, including 17 majors (all but one of them in the 1990s).

For Navratilova, it was the 202nd career combined title. 

And that wasn’t all.

The 1985 Lipton Championships also featured … mixed doubles.

Wouldn’t it be the greatest if they brought it back – particularly at Indian Wells, where the schedule after Monday seems bereft and where a lot of players willingly stick around to practice before they head to Miami?

Mixed doubles

Switzerland Heinz Günthardt / United States Martina Navratilova defeated United States Mike Bauer / France Catherine Tanvier 6–2, 6–2

So Navratilova pulled off the triple: singles, women’s doubles and mixed.

There’s almost a 100 per cent chance that no one will ever pull this off at a joint WTA/ATP Tour event. Ever again.

(Information from Wikipedia)

Dumped by partner, Dabrowski’s revenge is sweet

MELBOURNE, Australia – Gabriela Dabrowski and Rohan Bopanna won the French Open mixed doubles title together last spring, only to lose a couple of tight ones in the quarters of Wimbledon and the US Open later in the summer.

Still, the 25-year-old Canadian didn’t expect to find out she’d been replaced by reading a story in an Indian news outlet online at the start of the season.

But that’s what Dabrowski says happened. 

She let her racket do the talking as she exacted the best sort of revenge Sunday at the Australian Open.

The 25-year-old Canadian and new partner Mate Pavic of Croatia pulled out a 2-6, 6-4, 11-9 victory over Bopanna and his new partner, Timea Babos of Hungary and won the Australian Open mixed doubles title.

Dabrowski
Looks like Bopanna backed the wrong filly, as he chose Timea Babos over Dabrowski – and they were beaten by her and partner Mate Pavic in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

It was revenge best served cold on the only day of the tournament when the temperature and humidity were enough to finally close the roof of Rod Laver Arena.

Major No. 2 for the Canadian

 

“Well, a couple weeks ago in Brisbane I read an article where it said that Bopanna was playing with Babos, and I hadn’t spoken to him yet about playing. I had a lot of other things going on, so I was kind of just procrastinating the decision, I suppose, to find a partner for mixed doubles,” said Dabrowski, who barely let go of the championship trophy through the trophy ceremony through to the media interviews. 

“Then after I read that article – well, it said he was playing with Timea. So straightaway, within a day, I messaged some people and Mate was one of those people and he responded almost immediately. Yeah, that’s how that happened.”

Dabrowski had contacted Jamie Murray, but he was already committed to Latisha Chan of Taipei. She also got in touch with Henri Kontinen, but he didn’t get the message before Pavic had agreed. 

Tough (doubles) world out there

DabrowskiThe doubles universe is a tough one. The stories of partners dumping partners if they feel a better offer has come along affects all but the top teams.

A year ago, Dabrowski thought she was all set to play the 2017 season with Maria José Martínez Sánchez of Spain. Until she wasn’t. Martínez Sánchez decided to go with Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. She began the season with Michaella Krajicek, but then the Dutch player got sick and left the Tour for awhile.

Luckily, Dabrowski randomly found Xu at Indian Wells, when she was looking for a partner for the Miami Open and the players’ two coaches happened to be sitting together at a lunch table.

They ended up winning Miami.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Which doesn’t make the process any easier to take.

Dabrowski

The story implies the two had discussed it, which Dabrowski said was not the case. 

“(I was surprised) only because we hadn’t spoken about it. I wasn’t about to go find another partner without talking to him first. But this is the business, and this is the industry that we are in, and you kind of just have to have a tough skin. Having played predominantly doubles for the last few years, I’m kind of used to hearing stories like that, which is really unfortunate, I feel,” Dabrowski said.

“But at the same time, you know, clearly he made a good decision with her. They played so well all week. They’re both playing really well. So that’s the way it happens sometimes.”

Slow start, championship finish

Dabrowski admitted she was nervous in the first set because of the awkwardness of the situation. But she managed to put that to one side and focus on executing her shots the way she’d been working on them during the preseason and in practice.

The inside-out forehand return winner that clinched the title was exactly such a shot. She predicted where the serve would go, committed to what she wanted to do – and the return went exactly where she wanted it.

Knowing Bopanna from having played all those tight matches with him, Dabrowski also knew that his forehand can fail him in the late stages of matches. And that’s pretty much what happened in the end.

“I think we made a few good strategic plays on important points, which got us the break on Babos’ sserve in the second set. Then I think Mate served really, really well and had some clutch volleys. I think that pretty much carried us through to the end, she said. “I’m super happy. Australia has always been one of my favorite places in the whole world.  It feels really special to be able to do well and play well and win here.”

This is the second mixed doubles Grand Slam for Dabrowski. She and partner Yifan Xu also made a quarter-final run in women’s doubles that came oh, so close to turning into something amazing but fell just short against No. 2 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

But the fortnight caps a great trip Down Under for Dabrowski. She and Xu won the tuneup event in Sydney the week before the Australian Open.

Dabrowski was scheduled to head off to St. Petersburg, Russia Sunday night for the WTA Tour event there. She’ll rejoin Xu; the pair are the No. 1 seeds in the doubles draw.

And after that, it’s Fed Cup in Romania, from what Tennis.Life is told, although Dabrowski couldn’t confirm it Sunday.

Singapore will be Hingis’s swan song

According to several Swiss media outlets, Martina Hingis will retire at the end of this week’s WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.

The 37-year-old, who is Phase 3 of a career that began in the mid 1990s as a young teenager, had hinted after the US Open that this might be her last season.

It appears the Spanish media outlet Marca was the first to break the news, earlier today, although there were no comments from Hingis herself.

According to 20 Minuten, it’s official.

When Singapore is done, so is the Swiss Miss.

“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.

Hingis has six Grand Slam mixed doubles titles over the last three seasons. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

It didn’t last long. She returned in 2006, but retired again in 2007, after a positive test for cocaine she said she was innocent of, but didn’t have the will to fight in the appeals process.

She had gotten back into the top 10 in singles, no mean feat.

In 2010, she actually played the Wimbledon “seniors” event with Anna Kournikova – an unfair fight, if ever there was one.

But by the summer of 2013 – still only 32, Hingis was back – purely as a doubles specialist.

Hingis and Kournikova teamed up at the Wimbledon “ladies’ invitational” in 2010, generally a competition reserved for much older, long-retired players. It wasn’t a fair fight. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

A few months later, in Miami, Hingis teamed up with Germany’s Sabine Lisicki to win the big Premier 5 event. She also was helping to coach Lisicki at the time.

According to the WTA Tour website, Hingis has 43 singles titles, 64 more in doubles, and seven Grand Slam titles in mixed – six of them in the last three season.

Men’s and mixed champions crowned

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. 

doubles
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.

doubles
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.

Doubles Kyrgios – a different Kyrgios

If you’re not a big fan of the volatile Aussie Nick Kyrgios, but you’re keeping an open mind and you’re willing to see another side to him beyond some of his less-endearing on-court moments, here’s a suggestion:

Watch him play doubles.

The 21-year-old is a different guy on the doubles court. He’s much more relaxed, he smiles a whole lot more, and perhaps he lets more of his real personality shine through. He also takes it very seriously.

Kyrgios and Jack Sock are into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open doubles after a pair of straight-set wins against two very accomplished doubles tandems. They defeated Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the first round, and upset No. 5 seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 6-4, 6-4 Tuesday.

Kyrgios
Kyrgios and Sock hug it out after beating Rojer and Teacu in the first round of doubles at the Madrid Open. (Screenshot: TennisTV)

These two, good mates, have often tried in the past to team up on the doubles court. For a few years, Sock and Canadian Vasek Pospisil were a steady duo (they won Wimbledon in 2014 in their first tournament together).

After that, one circumstance after another prevented it. Only once has it happened. But they had to retire after the first set of their second-round match in Toronto last summer against Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.

But they practice together often – to the reported mild dismay of Australian Open captain and Kyrgios advisor Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt, as serious as a heart attack during practice when he played, thinks they don’t work hard enough because they joke around too much.

Court comedians

He’s not totally wrong. Check out this footage of the pair entertaining the crowd thoroughly at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in 2015.

The thing about these two is that the kids LOVE them. And that’s the demographic that will make the game grow during the next era, the one without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Teenaged boys follow them around as though they’re a pair of pied pipers. In the video above, all the boys from Tennis Canada’s high-performance junior program were on hand and watched most of the practice. Félix Auger-Aliassime (then 14, in the red shirt on the left) is probably the best 16-year-old in the world right now. He won the boys’ title at the US Open last summer.

Kyrgios plans to play doubles at the French Open with fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson. He also hopes to play mixed doubles with his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.

Here he is at Wimbledon playing mixed with Madison Keys.

And here he is playing mixed with Genie Bouchard at the US Open last summer. It was just a couple of hours after that match that Bouchard had her fall in the women’s locker room. 

Different guy, huh?

Next up for Sock and Kyrgios are either No. 4 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo or the alternate American pair of Brian Baker and Nick Monroe.