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Doubles Take: Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic cement reunion with Roland Garros title
Also lifting the trophy in Paris was Jean-Julian Rojer, who became the oldest men's doubles winner in the Open Era, partnering Marcelo Arévalo.
Published Jun 08, 2022
WATCH: In mixed doubles, Wesley Koolhof and Ena Shibahara teamed up to take the title in their first outing as a pair.
Doubles Take says au revoir to Paris, and hello to the start of the grass-court season.
Even though only three teams with single digits next to their names on the draw made it to the men’s doubles quarterfinals at the French Open, you’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher final eight at a major in recent memory.
Unseeded teams Lloyd Glasspool/Harri Heliovaara and Rafael Matos/David Vega Hernandez have established themselves as up-and-comers the past two years. Another unseeded duo, Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, entered Roland Garros fresh off a title-winning run in Lyon. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, the sixth seeds, have arguably been the MVPs of 2022, though 12th seeds Marcelo Arévalo and Jean-Julien Rojer would have been hard-pressed to accept that with a couple of titles of their own under their belts. Throw in top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury; Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, the fourth seeds who are always a threat on clay; and Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop, the 16th-seeded veterans, and it became anyone’s ballgame on who was going to come away with the top prize.
A couple of classic semifinal matches went the way of Dodig/Krajicek and Arévalo/Rojer. Both duos had some major similarities, with each featuring a multiple Slam winner (Dodig, Rojer) and first-time Grand Slam finalist (Krajicek/Arévalo). After winning the first set in a tiebreak, Dodig and Krajicek had match points in the second, but couldn’t convert, with the second breaker of the match going to Arévalo and Rojer. In the decider, the only break of the set went to the El Salvadorean-Dutch duo early, and they rode it out from there, winning 6-3.
With the win, Arévalo and Rojer managed to make a bit of history. Rojer is now the oldest men’s doubles winner at a Slam in the Open Era, while Arévalo became the first Central American to triumph at one of the sport’s most prestigious events.
Over the course of the past couple of seasons, ATP veteran Wesley Koolhof and the WTA’s Ena Shibahara have firmly established themselves among the best in the business on their respective tours.
Playing together for the first time in Paris, the Dutch-Japanese duo showed just what can happen when two people at the top of their game join forces. Seeded second, Koolhof and Shibahara ran through a gauntlet of well-established doubles players—many of whom had a Grand Slam title or two (or more) to their credit—without dropping a set in their first four matches.
In the final, they faced the surprise of the draw, Ulrikke Eikeri and Joran Vliegen. The Norwegian-Belgian pair had been in survival mode all tournament, going the distance in three of their first four matches. They pushed Koolhof and Shibahara to a tiebreak in the first set, but lost it 7-5, and after that the second seeds were in fine form as they raced through the second. It’s the first Grand Slam title for each of the victors as they continue to set high marks for themselves.
FLYING HIGH, ONCE AGAIN
Back in 2016, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic established themselves as national icons as they became the first all-French duo to triumph in women’s doubles at Roland Garros in 45 years. In the years since, they’ve individually experienced many of the highs and lows tennis has to offer and had played together only a handful of times since 2017.
There must be something about playing on home soil, though…
Needing a wild card to get into the women’s draw, the unseeded duo more than lived up to their status as dangerous floaters. With the upset bug hitting the tournament hard, Garcia and Mladenovic didn’t face a seeded team until the quarterfinals, where they beat Indian Wells champs Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang in straight sets. In the semis, the Frenchwomen rallied for a three-set win over Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko, the 14th seeds. That put them in the final against the eighth-seeded Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, who looked particularly comfortable on the dirt, as evidenced by their singles runs, too.
Gauff and Pegula ran through the first set, but over the next two, Garcia and Mladenovic were the steadier duo, taking them 6-3, 6-2. The win was Garcia’s first in doubles since that ’16 Paris run, while Mladenovic claimed her first top prize since the 2020 French Open, which was her third at Roland Garros and second with Timea Babos.
Both tours are hitting pause on the clay this week and turning their attention to the grass. With the stretch so short before Wimbledon, many of the top teams are in action. At the joint event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are the top seeds on the men’s side, followed by Neal Skupski and hometown favorite Wesley Koolhof. Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer were slated to play, but withdrew, perhaps understandably so after their title-winning run in Paris. At the WTA event, Veronika Kudermetova and and new world No. 1 Elise Mertens headline the draw, followed by another Dutch standout Demi Schuurs, and her partner, American Desirae Krawczyk. The tournament is being held for the first time since 2019, canceled since then due to the pandemic.
At the ATP event in Stuttgart, top seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus are already through to the quarterfinals, along with a team that’s sure to bring pretty of trick shots and underarm serves, Alexander Bublik and Nick Kyrgios. The other WTA tournament is in Nottingham, England, where Shuai Zhang and Beatriz Haddad Maia are the top seeds, followed by Ena Shibahara and Asia Muhammad. Shibahara’s former partner, Shuko Aoyama, and Hao-Ching Chan, the third seeds, are already in the quarterfinals.