Doubles Take previews the last Grand Slam of 2020, the French Open.
It’s cold. It’s wet. Fans are few and far between. The balls are different. Plus, clay-court tennis has rarely been played this late in the year.
The teams vying for Grand Slam glory at the French Open will be dealing with all sorts of conditions on the court, as well as playing in the midst of a global pandemic. Whomever the last teams standing are will surely have earned their victories. Here’s a look at the men’s and women’s draws, with both at the full capacity of 64 duos, unlike the smaller fields at the recently completed US Open. That could give the favorites an opportunity to work their way into the tournament.
Last year, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic won their second major together in Roland Garros, dropping only two sets on their way to victory. Closing out 2019 with a triumph at the WTA Finals, the Hungarian-French duo opened up 2020 with their second Australian Open win in three years. Further Grand Slam glory was denied to the two as they were withdrawn early from this year’s US Open due to COVID-19 restrictions. They reunited in Rome but fell in their opening match—not the optimal preparation for the second seeds. Still, they’re in a favorable half of the draw, and the biggest threat could come in the semifinals against Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the fourth seeds who won the title in 2018.
The top part of the draw is loaded with teams in fine form, led by the number-one seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova. The 2019 Wimbledon champions were dominating in 2020 before the shutdown, then picked up right where they left off by taking the title in Rome, their first time playing together in several months.
The first couple of rounds should give them an opportunity to settle in, but it’ll be a battle from then on. They’re drawn to face the 14th seeds, Istanbul champs Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk in the round of 16, and Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, the seventh seeds who’ve won three titles in the past year, in the quarters.
Last year’s US Open winners Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens are seeded third, but have a tough opener against Irina-Camelia Begu and Raluca Olaru. So far during this late clay-court stretch, Olaru has reached the finals in Rome and Prague with two different partners. Demi Schuurs and Kveta Peschke, who won the Western & Southern Open last month, are the sixth seeds. Schuurs is fresh off the title in Strasbourg with Nicole Melichar, who is playing Roland Garros with the hard-hitting teenager Iga Swiatek.
A couple of other youngsters, Coco Gauff and Caty McNally are seeded at a major for the first time, and as they’ve shown in their brief careers, relish playing on the biggest stages.
If there’s a team that’s ready to breathe a little easier going into a tournament, it’s the top seeds, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. In two of their last three events, they’ve had to face two-time Grand Slam champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau nearly right off the bat, a tough task for anyone, and have come up short. They did have to retire, though, in the most recent match in Hamburg due to an injury only a few days ago.
A quick recovery will be key to their prospects, and should they be ready to go, could find themselves in the quarters without too much trouble. If they were to make it there, though, Cabal and Farah could be facing a dangerous unseeded team like Jan-Lennard Struff and Henri Kontinen or the fifth seeds, Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek. The hottest duo also lurks up there: Michael Venus and John Peers, seeded 14th and coming off the title in Hamburg, their first on clay in their first year playing together.
Aside from Rojer and Tecau, the 12th seeds, the other section of the draw in the top half features 2020’s Grand Slam champions: third-seeded Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, the winners in Melbourne, and US Open victors Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares, the seventh seeds. 2019 French Open runner-ups Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin are there, as well as one of the most dangerous floaters in the draw: Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, the Belgians who won two titles on clay last year.
The second seeds are Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers, who actually have to be considered the favorites for the title. They’ve won three titles on clay this year at three different tiers, including the Masters 1000 event in Rome a couple of weeks ago.
They’re drawn to face Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski, the 13th seeded Brits, in the round of 16 and Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, the defending champions, in the quarterfinals. However, the sixth seeds have had their struggles since their surprise win.
In the other quarter of the bottom half, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are the highest seeded team at four. This section is stacked, though, with former champs Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert there, as well as this year’s US Open finalists Nikola Mektic and Wesley Koolhoff, and Kitzbuhel champs Austin Krajicek and Franko Skugor. Plenty of unseeded teams could make waves, too: Watch out for Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov, and Pablo Cuevas and Feliciano Lopez.