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Doubles Take: Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal make power moves
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic is joining the doubles action this week and is off to a winning start with Filip Krajinovic in Paris.
Published Nov 03, 2021
Breakthrough performers and established veterans make an impact on the ATP and WTA tours. Doubles Take looks at the action as the 2021 season gets ready to hit the home stretch.
The first-half MVPs on the ATP Tour for 2021 were definitely Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, while Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram have made a strong charge over the second half. Surely, with both of those teams in the draw at the 500-level Vienna Open, one of them would come away with the title, right?
Not so fast, said 2019’s top team.
Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal, who won two Grand Slam titles only two years ago, showed they’re still a force to be reckoned with. Playing their first final in six months, the fourth-seeded “Colombian Power” beat Ram and Salisbury in straight sets. The win was Cabal and Farah’s third title of the year, all at the 500 level.
BACK ON TOP
Reuniting at the beginning of 2021 after more than a year apart, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares experienced immediate success, winning a warm-up tournament in Australia. However, they went months without another final, with Soares sidelined for a spell, too. They managed to end that drought at the US Open, where they advanced to the championship match.
The rest of the post-New York hard-court stretch wasn’t that kind to them as Murray and Soares dropped their next two opening-round matches. Turning to the St. Petersburg Open in Russia last week, the Scottish-Brazilian pair righted the ship. The top seeds only went the distance once in four matches, eventually beating Andrey Golubev and Hugo Nys in straight sets in the final. The victory marked Murray and Soares’ 12th triumph together.
FIRST TIME’S THE CHARM
What could be better than finally winning a title—and doing it in front of your home crowd?
Surely, Irina Bara would be hard pressed to come up with an answer.
The Romanian claimed the inaugural edition of the Transylvania Open with partner Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia, as they topped Aleksandra Krunic and Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, the second seeds, in the final. It was the first career championship match for Bara, while Gorgodze was playing in her second tour-level final after a runner-up showing in Palermo two years ago. The champions actually came into Cluj-Napoca, Romania, with some momentum on their side, having won a 125-level event in Germany last month.
IMPRESSIVE IN ITALY
At the other new stop on the WTA calendar, the Courmayeur Ladies Open in Italy, the top two-seeded teams—Lucie Hradecka/Marie Bouzkova and Nadiia Kichenok/Raluca Olaru—had both been experiencing a solid year, so far, by any measure.
A collision course between those two was derailed near instantly as both duos lost in the opening round.
Forced to do some battling of their own, the unseeded team of Xinyu Wang and Saisai Zheng managed to reach the final against the third seeds, Eri Hozumi and Zhang Shuai. Zhang had been on a bit of a tear over the past couple of months, with this her fourth final since August. Meanwhile, it had been two years since Wang or Zheng had won a title. Perhaps sensing this was this their time, the Chinese duo picked up their first win together, topping the third seeds in a match tiebreak for the title.
The men have descended upon the French capital this week for the Paris Masters, the last 1000-level event of the season for them. Once again, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic sit atop the draw as they try again to halt their title drought. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury are the second seeds, followed by hometown favorites Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. And making an appearance in the doubles draw is none other than Novak Djokovic, playing with Filip Krajinovic. The Serbs won their opening round against Aussies Luke Saville and Alex De Minaur.
There aren’t any regular tournaments on the WTA Tour above the 125 level this week, but there is a big event going on: the international team competition now known as the Billie Jean King Cup. There’s a new format to the event, with four divisions each containing three teams playing in a round-robin, best-of-three format. Doubles standouts such as the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova and Lucie Hradecka, Belgium’s Elise Mertens and CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S. will look to boost their team’s chances.