The major warm-ups leading to the French Open are heating up. Here’s Doubles Take with a look at the action.
MASTERS OF MADRID
Against Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya, Henri Kontinen hit what might be considered one of the best shots of the Mutua Madrid Open:
In the end, though, he and his partner John Peers fell to the Croatian/Austrian pair in straight sets. The third seeds found themselves in some noteworthy company as no team was able to stop Mektic and Peya from advancing to the final at the year’s fourth ATP Masters 1000 event.
In the championship match, they faced the team that had been dominating at that level all year, Bob and Mike Bryan.
Playing in their fifth final of 2018, Mektic and Peya came away with their first Masters title as the Americans were forced to retire in the first set after Bob Bryan suffered a hip injury. Still, it’s an impressive accomplishment for Mektic and Peya, who were coming off a runner-up finish in Munich the prior week.
They now head to Rome, where they’ll be unseeded for the second week in a row. If the past couple of weeks are any indication, they’ll do just fine.
A RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina have almost done it all on the court, with a Fed Cup championship, a season-ending title, Olympic gold and three of the four Grand Slams. The only major the Russians are missing is the Australian Open, with their most recent attempt thwarted by Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in this year’s final.
In Madrid, Makarova and Vesnina were able to exact some revenge on the pair as they took the final in a match tiebreak.
It’s the first title of the year for Makarova and Vesnina, after runner-up finishes in Melbourne and Indian Wells.
NEWS & NOTES
The ATP No-1 ranking is in play this week: If Mate Pavic advances further in Rome than Lukosz Kubot, he’ll take over the top spot. If 24-year-old Pavic gets there, he’ll become the youngest in No. 1 in more than 20 years, going back to Hall of Famer Todd Woodbridge in 1996.
A LOOK AHEAD
For the second week in a row, both tours are hitting the same tournament site. This time, it’s Rome for another Masters/Premier Mandatory event. On the men’s side, the top eight seeds—led by Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, and Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic—all received first-round byes. Bob and Mike Bryan’s Masters final streak ends with their Madrid run as they were forced to pull out of the tournament.
Play has already kicked off, with one notable result on the men’s side: Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus beat Ryan Harrison and Fernando Verdasco in straight sets. Less than a year ago, Harrison and Venus took home the French Open doubles title.
As is usually the case with an event of this magnitude, players best known for their singles game will pair up to get some extra on-court time in. Aside from Harrison and Verdasco, John Isner and Jack Sock, Steve Johnson and Dominic Thiem, and Alexander and Mischa Zverev are all teaming up.
The women’s doubles draw features perhaps the most intriguing duo of the whole tournament: Madison Keys and Venus Williams. The big-hitting Americans will take on Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the number-six seeds. This will be Venus’ first doubles match without kid sis Serena since 2008.
Makarova and Vesnina, the top seeds, have pulled out of the tournament. The second seeds are Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova, who had a solid run in Madrid last week. Yung-Jan Chan, Hlavackova’s partner at the beginning of the year, teamed up with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but the fifth seeds were upset by Svetlana Kuznetsova and Karolina Pliskova in their opener.
Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias