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Double Duty in Championships’ Doubles Field

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

With all eyes on Serena Williams and her possible second, ‘Serena Slam’ — and perhaps even a calendar-year slam — insufficient attention was paid to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova. They, too, were traveling on the same road, but in women’s doubles. They, too, had captured crowns at the Australian and French Open.

But on Wednesday, neither woman played with the spark, drive and strategic alliance necessary to put themselves in the position to possibly win that elusive calendar-year Grand Slam — a feat only one women’s doubles team has accomplished in The Open Era: Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984.

The team of Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna came close to winning the highest of accolades in 1998. They won three of four majors. Hingis captured the Grand Slam alone, having also won the Australian Open, with Mirjana Lucic.

Out on the No. 3 court, Mattek-Sands and Safarova lost to the superior play of No. 5 seeds, Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 6-3 6-2.

The women’s doubles draw lost its No. 3 seeds, but an intriguing field — comprised completely of Top 5 seeds — rounds out the final four.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Photo: Christopher Levy

No. 4 seeds Babos and Mladenovic were the runners-up in 2014, losing Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci — who have since split.

The semifinal lineup, also including top seeds Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza and Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, is thus a robust one as Wimbledon eyes championship weekend.

The men’s doubles draw is a bit more shattered, by comparison.

Gone are three-time champions Bob and Mike Bryan, the top seeds and 2014 runner-ups. The twins lost last year to the surprisingly agile team of Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil. The youngsters were quickly welcomed into the Twitter family stream as #PopSock, drawing attention as the fun team with big smiles. Before last year’s Championships, they had never played side-by-side.

The target on their back was huge this year, as the No. 3 seeded team. In the third round they ran into Jamie Murray (older brother to Andy) and John Peers, seeded No. 13. Battle they did, but it was the Scot/Aussie match-up that landed the last punch after a controversy: 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 3-6, 8-6.

These two have pushed on and now have a coveted berth in the semifinal against Jonathan Erlich and Philipp Petzschner, who first survived the only major doubles qualifying draw.

Despite being a more unheralded partnership, Erlich and Petzschner have pedigree, and a few tricks up their sleeves. Each has won Grand Slams in men’s doubles. Erlich won the Australian Open in 2008 alongside Andy Ram, while Petzschner won Wimbledon in 2010 — with the help of Jurgen Meltzer as an unseeded team. They also won the US Open in 2011. Reaching the quarterfinals dropping just two sets en route, they staked their ground by eliminating the No. 2 seeds and French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in four sets.

The men’s semifinal lineup isn’t quite as prim as the women’s, but healthy nonetheless. One team, Jean-Julien Roger and Horia Tecau, lived up to their seed at No. 4. Plus, look out for a brewing storyline about whether brothers Jamie and Andy Murray can collectively bring home the hardware in their respective disciplines.

No. 9 seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florian Mergea, the team who knocked out the Bryans, will play Rojer and Tecau in one semifinal. Murray and Peers will take on Erlich and Petzschner in the other.

Semifinal matches for men’s doubles are scheduled for Thursday, July 8. The women’s doubles semifinals, the next day.

What kind of prize money are the doubles’ players looking at? Well, as you can imagine, it’s not anywhere near the sums singles players pocket. However, the teams will earn 5% more this year than they did in 2014 for women’s, men’s, and mixed doubles.

The champions in men’s and women’s doubles will split £340,000, or something in the neighborhood of $523,000 USD. It’s a far cry from the £1,880,000 the men’s and women’s singles champions will bank.

Therefore, for the doubles’ duos to bump up their income, many take a stab at the mixed event. There, the winners can split £100,000.

Still remaining in two events include Mladenovic, Babos, Hingis, Mirza, Rojer, Tecau, and Vesnina. The latter, alongside Marcin Matkowski, pulled off an amazing win over No. 16 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova this evening, 6-7(4) 6-4 11-9.

Finally, though the curtain came down on Mattek-Sands and Safarova, a bright light reamined for the American Mattek-Sands. She and Mike Bryan, who won the French Open title just three weeks ago, advanced to the quarterfinals, keeping their hopes alive of a second mixed title.

Which doubles storyline is most exciting? Sound off in the comments!

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About Jane Voigt (89 Articles)
Jane Voigt is a recognized tennis journalist who has covered the pro game for over 12 years. She created and owns DownTheTee.com, and has contributed to TennisGrandstand.com, WorldTennisMagazine,com, TennisWeek.com, Tennis Week Magazine, TennisServer.com, and Tennis.com.

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