Doubles Take returns for 2020 with a look at the latest team action on the ATP and WTA tours.
First, some major news on the Australian Open front: Robert Farah, half of the top doubles team in the men’s game with Juan Sebastian Cabal, won’t be competing in Melbourne this year. The 2018 finalist with Cabal dropped out citing “personal reasons.” It soon came to light that the Columbian has tested positive for the banned substance boldenone in an October drug test.
On Tuesday, doubles No. 1 Robert Farah announced that he tested positive for the banned substance boldenone—he believes the result was due to Colombian meat—and singles No. 78 Nicolas Jarry was suspended for a doping violation during the Davis Cup Finals: https://t.co/dlKcQWu8Ng— TENNIS (@Tennis) January 14, 2020
Farah released a statement, stating: “This substance is frequently found in Colombian meat and can distort the results of doping tests. This is certainly the reason that provoked this positive result. We are investigating and want to show that I have never used products that go against clean play and ethics. I am calm and confident of the results of this process.”
Here's the roundup of on-court news:
Any time two of the greatest singles players in recent memory decide to team up and play doubles, all eyes are going to be on them however long they remain in the draw. That was definitely the case last week as Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki partnered in Auckland, New Zealand.
The duo, who had never played together before, managed to make their way to the final, where they’d face the all-American duo of Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.
Playing confidently the whole match, Townsend and Muhammad took the final in straight sets. For Townsend, the victory was the first of her career, while Muhammad claimed her fifth doubles crown.
SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT
It wasn’t so long ago that the 2019 Davis Cup was wrapping up, with Spain being crowned the champions. Shortly before that, Team World continued its dominance of the Laver Cup, winning the title for the third straight time.
Kicking off the new year was the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup, another team event featuring multiple international teams competing across Australia in best-of-three ties. Perhaps it’s due to the top two singles players in the world, but the final came down to the Novak Djokovic-led Serbia against Spain and Rafael Nadal.
After splitting the first two singles rubbers, it went down to the doubles to decide it all, with Djokovic and Viktor Troicki taking on Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez. Given their experience in the discipline, the Spaniards were the favorite going in. However, Serbia had intentions to prove that wrong—which they did in the end.
Serbia denied Spain its second team title in a row after the Davis Cup a few weeks ago, and managed to capture its first top-flight team victory since its own Davis Cup win back in 2010.
A DREAM DEBUT
The regular tournament kickoff for the ATP Tour took place in Doha. While many top doubles players were in Australia for the ATP Cup, the field was still stacked with duos such as Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares, and Henri Kontinen and Franko Skugor atop the draw.
At the end of the week, though, it was Rohan Bopanna and Wesley Koolhof, the third seeds, who stood triumphant. The duo, making their team debut, knocked off Luke Bambridge and Santiago Gonzalez in the final. Afterward, they had a special message to deliver.
Bopanna picked up his 19th career doubles title and Koolhof his fifth.
BACK ON TRACK
After winning two Grand Slam titles in 2018, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova hit some stumbles last year, primarily around health-related woes. Right off the bat in 2020, though, the Czechs have shown they’re ready to make a move back toward the top of the rankings.
Seeded second at the Shenzhen Open, Krejcikova and Siniakova advanced to the final without losing a set, then beat Yingying Duan and Saisai Zheng in the final to clinch their fifth title overall together.
PICKING UP WHERE THEY LEFT OFF
A couple of years ago in Indian Wells, Barbora Strycova and Su-Wei Hsieh teamed up at the very last minute and went on to win the title. Since then, they’ve established themselves as one of the top teams on the WTA Tour.
And their 2020 campaign has gotten off to a perfect start.
The Czech-Taiwanese duo beat Kiki Bertens and Ashleigh Barty in the final, rallying from the brink of defeat to claim their sixth title together.
In on-court news, the Adelaide men’s draw sees Jurgen Melzer partnering up with Edouard Roger-Vasselin, while Oliver Marach—who had a successful second half of 2019 with Melzer—played with Raven Klaasen, but they lost to the second seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo already. Klaasen’s partner of the past two years, Michael Venus, is playing in his home country of New Zealand with Australia’s John Peers this week. They’re the top seeds in Auckland, followed by Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares. The third-seeded team there is Henri Kontinen and Rohan Bopanna, an intriguing pairing given that Kontinen and Peers had consistently been one of the best teams on the ATP tour the past several seasons.
Shifting things around aren’t always due to seeking a fresh start: Sometimes, it’s a matter of necessity, and the Adelaide women’s draw is a sure sign of that. The veteran German Anna-Lena Groenefeld retired at the end of last year, leaving Demi Schuurs without a partner. The Dutch standout is playing for the second week in a row with Kveta Peschke, who’d been competing with Nicole Melichar the past two years, reaching the Wimbledon final in 2018. Melichar is the top seed in Adelaide with Yifan Xu, with Peschke and Schuurs following them. Gabriela Dabrowski—who reached the top four in the world with Xu—is seeded third at the tournament with Darija Jurak. All three of those teams have advanced to the quarterfinals so far.
Over at the WTA stop in Hobart this week, the partnerships are much more stable. There’s been a surprise already, though, as the top seeds Latisha and Hao-Ching Chan dropped their opening match. Perhaps more newsworthy is the return of Sania Mirza to action as the former world No. 1 is playing her first tournament since taking time off to become a mother. Mirza and Nadiia Kichenok are through to the quarterfinals after a hard-fought first-round win.