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US Open Doubles Take: A Grand Slam for the ages
Doubles Take looks back at championship-winning runs and previews the week ahead.
Published Sep 13, 2021
When Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai won the title in Cincinnati before the start of the US Open, it was definitely a bit of a surprise. After all, it was their first victory together in more than two years, since their run to the Australian Open crown in 2019.
That Cincinnati win helped the duo secure a seeding for the US Open and from the start of the tournament, they played like heavy favorites. Stosur and Zhang didn’t drop a set on the way to the final, knocking off 2021’s WTA title leaders Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama, the third seeds, among other teams. In the championship round, they faced the American teenage sensations Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, who reached the first major final of their burgeoning careers. Stosur and Zhang took the first set before “Team McCoco” leveled the match, with both teams winning by 6-3 scorelines.
Gauff and McNally, former US Open girls’ doubles champions, had never lost a final together as pros, but the streak couldn’t continue against their more experienced opponents as Stosur and Zhang won another 6-3 set to clinch the title. It’s their second major title together and marks a significant milestone for Stosur: The Australian has won a US Open title in some discipline in three different decades.
A LONG TIME COMING
Way back in 2001, Rajeev Ram—one of the best American juniors at the time—made his debut in the men’s doubles draw at the US Open by way of wild card. He continued to earn wild cards into the doubles for the next several years before gaining a foothold, then firmly establishing himself, on the ATP Tour.
In 2014, Ram finally made it past the third round at his home Slam, as he went on to reach the semifinals with countryman Scott Lipsky. However, he fell back into a rut over the next few years, which ended with another run to the semis in 2020, this time with Joe Salisbury, as they attempted to win their second major of the season.
This year, Ram and Salisbury went a step further, reaching the final of a hard-court major for the second time in 2021. They barely got there, though, as they were forced to escape third-set tiebreaks in the third round and quarterfinals. In the final, the American-English duo faced a reunited and rejuvenated Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, the 2016 US Open champions who’d also been through a series of battles to reach their first championship match since February.
Soares, the defending champion (partnering Mate Pavic) and Murray got off to a strong start, winning the first set 6-3. However, Ram and Salisbury would not be denied as they cruised through the next two sets by 6-2 scores to clinch their second men’s major win together, after their Australian Open triumph last year. It took 21 years, but Ram finally got it done: a lesson in perseverance if there ever was one. The win also added to the major title haul for both players in 2021 after their mixed doubles victories over the course of the season.
THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
Speaking of mixed doubles…
In the Open Era of tennis, only four times before this year’s US Open had a player won three mixed titles in one campaign, and the last time it was done in consecutive majors was back in 1985, when Martina Navratilova pulled off the feat.
The ranks of the three-time winners have grown by one as Desirae Krawczyk has added her name to the list of mixed-doubles legends. The American, who won the French Open and Wimbledon, with the Englishmen Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski, respectively, conquered New York with Salisbury as the pair beat Marcelo Arevalo and Giuliana Olmos in straight sets in the final. Salisbury became the first man to win both doubles events in New York in more than a decade. Krawczyk fell just short of joining him as a two-time champ as she fell in the semifinals of women’s doubles.
Still, both of them close out the year with three Slams apiece under their belts, with Krawczyk making history, too.
The men don’t have any tour events this week as Davis Cup play gets back underway, while the WTA has two stops on the calendar. The Luxembourg Open returns after last year’s cancellation, with Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka as the top seeds: The Czechs will be going for their third title of the season. The second seeds are Sania Mirza and her partner, Zhang Shuai, who will be going for her third title in a row after Cincinnati and the US Open with Sam Stosur. And after an absence of more than a decade, the Slovenian Open returns, with Andreja Klepac and Tamara Zidansek, the top seeds, already through to the quarterfinals.