The life of a professional tennis player can be quite fickle at times: One moment, you’re accomplishing your life’s goals by emerging triumphant at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments and then the next, you’re on a 2-8 skid that lasts for months.
That’s the situation doubles specialists Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies found themselves in. After capturing only their second career title at the French Open this summer as an unseeded team, the German duo crashed back down to earth rather quickly as they went winless during the grass-court season and only picked up two wins leading up to the US Open, with one of them coming on clay in Hamburg.
In New York, though, they got back to their winning ways, with subsequent results solidifying their place among the game’s best. Making their debut at this week’s ATP Finals, the No. 3 seeds beat the only team in this year’s event to actually win the title, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, in their first match—the perfect start for a rookie pairing at a tournament of this magnitude.
Where Krawietz and Mies are now is a far cry from last year around this time.
Toward the end of 2018, in their last event of the season together, the pair was winning the Challenger title in Eckental, Germany. It was their seventh final at that level over the course of the year, and their fifth title together as their results lifted them both into the top 100 of the doubles rankings.
It didn’t take long for that success to carry over into the new year. After the Australian Open, which they played with different partners, Krawietz and Mies captured their first ATP Tour title at the New York Open, where they beat the veterans Santiago Gonzalez and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the championship match.
When it was time for the clay-court season to come around, the Germans caught fire with two Challenger titles under their belt. Despite that, they weren’t considered a serious threat for the Roland Garros crown, especially with the likes of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah—now the top team in the world—dominating leading up to Paris.
In an upset-plagued French Open, though, it was Krawietz and Mies who came through at the end. They accounted for a couple of the shock defeats along the way, knocking off Nicolas Mahut and Jurgen Melzer, the 13th seeds, in the second round, then fourth-seeded Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the third. In an all-unseeded final, the Germans topped the French pairing of Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin in straight sets to claim the biggest victory of their careers.
Then the losing set in. But, perhaps channeling the recent memory of Grand Slam glory, they came close to achieving the near-impossible once again at the US Open. Seeded 12th at the tournament, Krawietz and Mies only dropped one set on their way to the semifinals, where the eighth seeds Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers stopped them.
This time, though, they responded from Grand Slam disappointment rather quickly. After a couple of early losses in Asia, the Germans won their third title of the year in Antwerp, Belgium, defeating fellow ATP Finals participants Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the final. In their last event before London, they advanced to the semifinals at the Paris Masters, losing to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the penultimate round.
Krawietz and Herbert actually have some history together as they teamed up to win the 2009 Wimbledon boys’ doubles title. Now 27, Krawietz’s early playing days as a junior and professional were quite different than Mies’: The 29-year-old went through the U.S. college system, playing at Auburn University in Alabama, where he was an All-American in singles and doubles.
Different paths, but ones that have taken them to great heights together. Now, having endured a rocky road after their initial Grand Slam triumph, Krawietz and Mies appear to have re-established themselves as one of the teams to beat at the ATP Finals—and going forward throughout the rest of their partnership.