The French Open, the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, is here. Doubles Take previews the action in the men’s and women’s draws.
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Doubles Preview: Top seeds Pavic and Mektic look to capture their 7th title of the season in Paris
While the men’s side has a heavy favorite, the women’s draw is a slightly more open affair.
Published Jun 01, 2021
At the prior two editions of the French Open, the first-place trophies in doubles have been held firmly in the grasp of Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, and Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic.
However, neither team is going for a three-peat performance this year, with Mies injured and Mladenovic not competing in the doubles draw, meaning the men’s and women’s titles are both up for grabs.
Based on what has already transpired in the first half of 2021, it appears that Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are ready to stake their claim to the crown. The Croatians have stormed their way to a rightfully deserved place atop the men’s draws with six titles. They’ve won at the 250, 500 and 1000 levels this year, with the run including two of the three Masters titles on clay. Mektic and Pavic are the heavy favorites to come away with the men’s crown, but the field is deep with teams that have proven themselves at the Grand Slam level—something the top-ranked pair has yet to do as a duo.
One of those pairings are the second seeds, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. “Colombian Power” broke out in 2019 with victories at the US Open and Wimbledon, which catapulted them to the top of the rankings. This year’s Barcelona champions play some of their best tennis on clay, but somewhat surprisingly, the French Open is the only major where they haven’t reached the final. They face a tricky opener against the Brits, Ken and Neal Skupski, who were off to a strong start this year before Ken was sent to the sidelines with health issues. Neal didn’t miss a beat as he reached consecutive Masters finals with Dan Evans, one of which was Monte Carlo on clay.
Though the next three seeded teams—Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury, Horacio Zeballos/Marcel Granollers and Ivan Dodig/Filip Polasek—have seen the bulk of their success at the majors come on hard courts, they’re also capable of a title-winning run on the clay. Zeballos and Granollers can take heart in the fact that they stopped Mektic and Pavic’s Masters-winning run in the Madrid final.
Among the lower seeds to watch, Krawietz teams up with fellow Slam champion Horia Tecau in the ninth spot; Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Henri Kontinen are seeded 12th; and 2019 finalists Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin are the 13th seeds. Two of the hottest pairs coming into Roland Garros this year are actually unseeded and will be a tough out. They’re Hugo Nys and Tim Puetz, and Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez, both of whom have won two titles during the spring on the clay.
While the men’s side has a heavy favorite, the women’s draw is a slightly more open affair—and it all starts right at the top. With the retirement of Barbora Strycova, Su-Wei Hsieh is playing with two-time major champion Elise Mertens. Given their respective rankings, 3 and 2, they’re clearly the highest-ranked players pairing up. However, familiarity—or lack thereof—is a big concern: They played two tournaments leading up to Paris and went 0-2. Should they get through their first two matches, Hsieh and Mertens could face Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek, the 14th seeds, in the round of 16—a duo that has more of an established level of comfort with each other.
Though there are a number of players in the field that have captured Grand Slams and made finals, only one has triumphed as a team. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the second seeds, captured the title at Roland Garros in 2018, three years after winning the girls’ event together. They’re in an interesting section of the draw, where they could potentially face the surprise pairing of Coco Gauff and Venus Williams.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing teams to watch is Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs, the third seeds. Schuurs has been one of the winningest players on the WTA Tour during the regular season the past few years, but has yet to experience a true breakthrough at the Grand Slam level. Right behind them among the seeds are Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama, who reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year. Arguably the team of 2021 so far with three titles already, the duo saw its momentum stall during the run-up to the French.
One team that appears to be peaking at just the right time is Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi. Having won in Adelaide on hard courts near the start of the year, they capped off their warm-up for Roland Garros with the title in Strasbourg over the weekend. Last year, the pair sneaked through to the French Open final, but seeded seventh in 2021 with momentum on their side, they arrive in Paris as top contenders for the title.