It’s one thing to go on a hot streak and win the last two prestigious titles of the year, like Henri Kontinen and John Peers did at the end of 2016 with their victories at the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals.
But to carry that into the next season and win the first Grand Slam of the year? That’s a feat that might be best described as “Bryan-esque.”
For more than a decade, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan have been the standard-bearers for doubles on the ATP tour, as they possess nearly every record imaginable. With their title in Melbourne, though, the Finnish-Australian duo accomplished a highly impressive Paris-London-Melbourne trifecta over a three-month period. Not even the Bryans have pulled that off.
And to think, the Kontinen-Peers pairing almost didn’t happen.
In 2015, the two had the most successful seasons of their fairly young careers. Peers tasted success at the Grand Slam level with Great Britain’s Jamie Murray, reaching the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Those two also made their first appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Meanwhile, Kontinen teamed up with Croatian Marin Draganja, and won three titles in the first half of 2015. When Draganja was sidelined with an injury, Kontinen played with a variety of partners. His most rewarding experience came with Treat Huey, as they won two titles in a row in the fall.
Despite putting together their best seasons, 2015 ended with uncertainty for Kontinen and Peers. Murray decided he wanted to go in a new direction after having been with Peers since 2013. Kontinen won five titles with Draganja and Huey, but ended the year without a steady partner.
Both were available and decided to team up for 2016, and they found immediate gratification when the new year started by capturing the title in Brisbane.
However, it was months before they won another title—or even advanced to another final. The duo won the clay-court tournament in Munich, and found more success on the German clay after Wimbledon by capturing the crown in Hamburg.
The summer hard-court season was less than memorable for the pair, but Kontinen did win the Winston-Salem tournament with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. After the U.S. Open, Kontinen was a champion yet again without Peers, bringing home the title in St. Petersburg with Dominic Inglot.
Reuniting for the rest of the year, Kontinen and Peers’ start to the Asian swing was rocky, as they lost their first match in Tokyo. But at the Shanghai Masters they caught fire, advancing to their first 1000-level final as a team.
They suffered another first-round loss in their next tournament, but to close out the regular season, Kontinen and Peers stormed to the title at the Paris Masters.
Entering the ATP World Tour Finals as one of the hottest teams in the world, it was evident early on that they would be a force throughout the week, capable of pulling off the seemingly impossible.
Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez can perhaps best speak to that, as they were on the losing end of arguably the best doubles point of the year in their first round-robin match.
Kontinen and Peers went undefeated in London and clinched the year-end championship with a straight-sets win over Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram in the final.
In the end, two players who entered the new year with hopes of establishing a solid partnership were recognized as the best of the best. And that momentum appears to have carried into the 2017 season with their first Grand Slam title.
Often when a player wins the year’s first major, speculation begins about whether the calendar Grand Slam can be achieved. Kontinen and Peers are new to the Slam-winning game, but if their recent tear is any indication, they’ll be in the mix in Paris, London and New York.
That’s not too bad for a young team brought together by circumstance just a short time ago.