In just their second tournament as a doubles team, at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka won the title. Two weeks later, the spirited duo completed the rare Sunshine Double in Miami, cementing themselves as the hot new team on the block.
Their biggest title to date, the 2019 US Open, capped a season to remember. While the following year forced every player to change their routine, both Mertens and Sabalenka continued to shine: the Belgian led the WTA with 34 singles wins, while the Belarusian took home three singles titles. And in Ostrava, the two claimed their first doubles trophy off U.S. hard courts.
What makes you such a strong force together?
AS: I think because we’re different personalities. We can handle each other really well. Sometimes when you’re the same, it’s tough to be good together.
EM: We adjust to each other, especially if we are not doing well. We try to improve every time.
How do you balance taking the lead versus listening?
AS: If I say something, she’ll say, “OK, let’s do that.”—or she will say something else. There is no leader. We are together.
EM: It’s almost 50/50. We both have a lot of experience in doubles. And I think she knows what to do.
In just a few words, sum up your teammate on the court.
AS: Fighter. Supportive. Really nice.
EM: Powerful. Relaxed. Going 100 percent.
What is your favorite aspect of playing doubles together?
AS: We have fun all the time. It’s always good energy and a nice atmosphere. I feel much better emotionally.
EM: It’s fun. Our main goal is singles, but as we play a lot of doubles, we give 100% on the court. We want to win.
How did the trophy-celebration jump come about? Do you ever practice it?
AS: Not really! When we won the US Open, we had a glass of champagne. We are usually like, “It’s cool, it’s nice,” and just take pictures.
EM: We did it at the US Open. It’s kind of our thing now, the jump.
Tell us something fans might be surprised to learn about your partner?
AS: I think she’s a really open person and fans know everything about her. I can’t say something is missed. She’s very honest.
EM: She hits harder and harder and harder and then she’s like, “Aryna, calm down!”
Describe Team Mertens-Sabalenka in a hashtag.