After weeks of clay-court tennis, the end point of all that preparation for the top doubles players on the WTA and ATP tours is here. At the French Open this year, defending champions, new pairings and unheralded duos will be vying for the second Grand Slam of the season.
Here’s a look at both the men’s and women’s events..
Last year’s doubles draw featured perhaps the most unlikely runners-up seen on the WTA tour all season. Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomaya of Japan beat five seeded teams on their way to the championship match, but fell in straight sets to Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who captured their first major title.
The 2013 girls’ champions added the Wimbledon title a few weeks later, and have spent the bulk of the past year as the world’s top-ranked team. They’re seeded first in Paris this year, but will be entering the tournament without any momentum: their only final of the year came in Indian Wells, on hard courts, a couple of months ago. Right off the bat, they face a test against Nadiia Kichenok and the veteran Abigail Spears. If they get through that, they’ll have to navigate a tricky path to the quarterfinals, where they could meet their Wimbledon final opponents from a year ago, Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke.
The top half of the draw is fraught with peril: Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu—fresh off a title in Nuremburg—Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs, and Hao-Ching Chan and Latisha Chan are there. The Taiwanese sisters have had a successful reunion so far this year.
On the bottom half of the draw, 2018 Australian Open champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic lead the way as the second seeds. They’re drawn to face Shuai Zhang and Samantha Stosur—their Melbourne successors—in the quarterfinals. The road to the elite eight for those teams includes possible match-ups against Rome winners Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty, as well as Darija Jurak and Raluca Olaru.
The remaining section of the draw includes the three seeds, Barbora Strycova and Su-Wei Hsieh, and “Sunshine Double” winners Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka, seeded sixth. One team to watch is Hozumi and Ninomaya, who return as the 12th-seeded pair, but without the element of surprise that worked so well to their advantage a year ago.
Last year in Paris, the home crowd had plenty to cheer about, as Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert completed the third leg of their career Grand Slam. The Frenchmen capped that achievement off with the title in Melbourne, but any hopes of a calendar-year Slam together have gone by the wayside, as Herbert wanted to focus on his singles results.
Mahut, instead, is partnering with Jurgen Melzer, who choose to prolong his professional career by focusing on doubles. They’re the 13th seeds and are in what could arguably be considered the toughest section of the draw. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, the fourth seeds, will be coming in with confidence, having ended their year-long title drought. Horacio Zeballos and Maximo Gonzalez, the ninth seeds, have been consistent on clay all year with multiple titles, together and apart. And the sixth seeds, Michael Venus and Raven Klaasen, are fresh off the final in Rome.
Surprisingly on the men’s side, neither of the top two seeds—Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, and Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares—could be considered a true favorite for the title. Instead, that designation best lies with Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, the No. 3 seeds, who claimed two of the biggest triumphs on the clay in 2019 in Barcelona and Rome. For “Colombian Power” to make a serious run at Roland Garros, they’ll have to go through Ivan Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, and Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor—seeded teams that have won on the dirt this spring.
The tournament—which also sees Grand Slam champions Bob and Mike Bryan and Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer back in action—appears to be more wide open than in recent years. Unseeded duos, like Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, and Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, are more than capable of pulling off major upsets.
Could one of them make a run to the final? The top pairs will have to be on alert from the first ball to ensure no major breakthroughs come on their watch.