Best Of 2017: Doubles Storylines Abound
Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the headlines that shaped 2017 on the doubles circuit
Year-Long Tussle For Top Team
It came down to the final week of the season. The battle for year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings was intense from start to finish in 2017, as two teams created plenty of drama on the doubles court. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo edged Henri Kontinen and John Peers for the top honour during the Nitto ATP Finals, ending a year-long tussle for No. 1. Both teams began their respective reigns in the Top 2 on April 3 and neither would depart from their perches for the rest of the season.
Kubot and Melo concluded 2017 with a dominant 49-18 mark together, including a grass-court sweep in 's-Hertogenbosch, Halle and Wimbledon, as well as ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in Miami, Madrid and Paris. They edged Kontinen and Peers 9-7 in a marathon fifth set in the Wimbledon semi-finals, before edging Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 13-11 in the title match.
But while the Polish-Brazilian duo emerged on top, their chief rivals had the last laugh at The O2 in London. Kontinen and Peers successfully defended their Nitto ATP Finals crown with a final victory over Kubot and Melo, extending their lead in the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry to 4-1. The Finnish-Aussie tandem were a perfect five-for-five in tour-level finals this year, also triumphing at the Australian Open, Shanghai Rolex Masters and ATP World Tour 500 events in Washington and Beijing.
Parity Steals The Show In Race
Four different Grand Slam winners, five different ATP World Tour Masters 1000 champions and separate teams lifting the year-end No. 1 trophy and Nitto ATP Finals crown. Needless to say, it was a year of parity on the biggest stages on the ATP World Tour doubles circuit.
While Kubot/Melo and Kontinen/Peers quickly separated themselves from the pack, other teams earned signature wins throughout the year. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut enjoyed an impressive run through the heart of the season, en route to punching their ticket at The O2 for a third straight year. The Frenchmen celebrated a 12-match win streak at the Masters 1000 level, reeling off consecutive titles in Rome, Montreal and Cincinnati. They have now won six of the nine Masters 1000 titles together.
Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram (Indian Wells) and Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas (Monte-Carlo) also prevailed at the elite level. Cuevas was a force in 2017, winning four doubles titles and singles crowns on both the ATP World Tour (Sao Paulo) and ATP Challenger Tour (Montevideo). On the doubles court, he was victorious at all three ATP World Tour levels with different partners, also prevailing in Rio de Janeiro with Pablo Carreno Busta and in Kitzbuhel with Guillermo Duran.
The parity on the doubles circuit was even more evident at the Grand Slam level, with Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus completing a dream run to the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals after lifting their maiden Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros. The longtime friends ran through a gauntlet on the terre battue of Paris, winning all six matches in deciding sets. And they would take advantage of their first appearance at the season finale in London, reaching the semis as the eighth seeds behind a 3-0 round robin campaign.
Meanwhile, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau made their third appearance in four years at The O2, behind a title run at the US Open. It was their second Grand Slam crown together, having previously prevailed on the lawns of Wimbledon in 2015. They were a dominant force at Flushing Meadows, defeating four straight seeded opponents and dropping just two sets all fortnight. Posting a 4-0 mark in tour-level finals this year, they also won in Dubai, Geneva and Winston-Salem.
Trio Trades No. 1 Torch
Three players from three different teams traded the No. 1 torch in the individual Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, with Marcelo Melo taking the year-end honour for the second time. The mantle exchanged hands on four occasions in 2017, with Nicolas Mahut handing it off to Henri Kontinen in early April, before Melo wrestled it away in July. Kontinen would once again surge to the top spot a month later, but the Brazilian snatched it for good at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Melo, also the year-end No. 1 in 2015, is the 10th player in the Open Era to conclude a season at the summit on multiple occasions. Kontinen, meanwhile, made history in becoming the first Finn to reach World No. 1 and the 50th player overall, since the establishment of the team rankings in March 1976.
Mike Bryan, Nestor Tied For All-Time Wins Lead
Despite failing to win a Grand Slam or ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title for the first time since 2004, the Bryan brothers continued to add milestones to their legendary resumes. Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for a record 15th straight year - and 16th overall - behind titles in Atlanta and Eastbourne and a runner-up finish at the Australian Open.
But it was Mike alone who seized arguably the biggest accomplishment of the year. The 39-year-old became the all-time winningest player in doubles history on 5 September. A quarter-final win at the US Open momentarily moved him ahead of Daniel Nestor with 1052 victories.
Mike still stands at No. 1 on the all-time list, but he now has some company at the summit, with the American and the Canadian currently tied with 1056 wins apiece. Bob is in third place with 1042 victories.
Nestor announced that 2018 will be his final season on the ATP World Tour, as he looks to compete in a 30th Rogers Cup in August.
Open Era Doubles Match Wins List
Doubles Match Wins
Mirnyi and Zimonjic Join Elite Company
Doubles legends Max Mirnyi and Nenad Zimonjic etched their names in the record books with milestone victories of their own. On 26 July in Hamburg, Zimonjic notched his 700th career win, becoming just the 10th player to do so. A longtime ambassador of doubles, the Serbian continues to grow the game as he builds his own legacy. In February, he won his first title since 2014, prevailing in Sofia.
“It’s nice to play in Hamburg again, for the first time since 2012, and to achieve the 700th match win in a country of such rich tennis tradition,” Zimonjic told ATPWorldTour.com. “It means a lot to join this ‘Club’, it’s a lot of wins and I want to thank all my partners over the years.”
Meanwhile, Mirnyi became a member of an even more exclusive club on 26 September in Shenzhen, when 'The Beast' celebrated match win No. 750. The 40-year-old became just the fifth player to win 750 matches, joining the Bryans, Nestor and Todd Woodbridge. One month later in Moscow, he would hit another milestone in claiming his 50th title
“I am thrilled that I have come to this stage of my career," said Mirnyi. "It is something that I couldn't have imagined at the beginning of the road."
- Qureshi Goes Five-For-Five: Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi won five titles with five different partners, teaming up with Marcin Matkowski on the hard courts of Auckland, Florin Mergea on the clay of Barcelona, Robert Lindstedt and Rajeev Ram on the grass of Antalya and Newport and finally with Jonathan Erlich at the Chengdu Open. The former World No. 8 also reached the final in Stockholm with Jean-Julien Rojer.
Qureshi's biggest impact has come off the court, however, having started the 'Stop War Start Tennis' initiative in Africa. He hopes that the introduction of tennis will lead to a better life for those in need. Learn More
- Zverev's Double Dip: Alexander Zverev became the only player to win singles and doubles crowns in the same week, when he teamed up with brother Mischa Zverev at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. It was the younger Zverev's first doubles title, joining Brisbane champions Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson, as well as Japanese duo Ben Mclachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama as other notable first-time winners. The unseeded Japanese team prevailed on home soil in Tokyo with stunning upsets of top seeds Rojer/Tecau and second seeds Murray/Soares.
- Match Tie-break Marathon: Aussies Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith won a 42-point Match Tie-break in their Newport opener - the longest of the year on the ATP World Tour. They defeated Taiwanese tandem Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Hsien-Yin Peng 4-6, 6-4, 22/20, needing 10 match points while saving five.