In part 1 of the preview of the American competitors in tennis at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we went over the 8 singles players (4 men and 4 women) that are participating. We went into a short summary of some of the accomplishments in their careers, as well as their chances of making deep runs and winning medals in this year’s tournament. We also went through some of the difficulties that the singles players will face in success at Rio, including some of the top players in each draw.
Though the two games have essentially the same rules, doubles strategy and execution end up making it pretty much a completely different game than doubles. More of a powerful serve-and-volley game, as opposed to more running and baseline play, certain players are able to excel at doubles that might not make it as far in the singles brackets, and vice-versa.
In doubles, Americans still have 4 players on both the men’s and women’s draws, accounting for 2 doubles partnerships out of each draw’s 32 spots. Some of the American doubles teams have history playing together in their professional careers, while the others have high amounts of success in doubles, but with different partners that will be representing their own countries.
Here’s a look at both the men and women representing the USA in Rio.
Two of the more decorated individual players in women’s singles, and sisters, Serena Williams and Venus Williams will play as a doubles squad together. Having recently taken the title at 2016 Wimbledon, they have won 14 Grand Slam titles together as a pair.
The Williams sisters are looking for their third consecutive Gold medal, after winning in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London. They also took gold in 2000 in Sydney. Rio should not phase either player, because they have so much experience playing on the stage, with a high amount of success.
They have won 22 International tournaments overall as doubles partners, which would be great if they were playing together all the time. However, both have had such success in singles that they actually do not play doubles together all that much, making their titles look even more impressive, because they do not compete all that often.
Like Serena in singles, it would be silly to think of the Williams sisters as anything other than favorites to take a medal in these Olympic Games.
The other pair of women who will represent the USA are Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe. These two are doubles specialists on tour. Both of them have some quality wins in singles, and would have possibly been able to compete in the singles Olympic bracket if there weren’t already so many great American women competing.
Most of the time in their individual doubles careers, they play with other partners, having found loads of wins on tour. Mattek-Sands won 2 Grand Slam titles, the Australian Open and French Open, with her normal partner, Czech player Lucie Šafářová. Mattek-Sands has made it to at least the quarterfinals in the other two Majors as well.
Though this isn’t the Mixed Doubles tournament, it is important to know that she has also win the Mixed Doubles title at the Australian and French Open as well as reaching at least the semifinals in the other two majors
At 31, she has had a pretty long career so far, and is ranked 12 in their world. She has won 19 pro tournaments in Women’s doubles, and has a really flashy and eccentric, but effective, style of play.
Vandeweghe is ranked #34 in singles, which probably would have put her into the singles bracket in just about any other country. She is ranked #24 in the world in doubles though, making her a prime partner for Mattek-Sands. Vandeweghe has one of the strongest serves on tour, with the third most aces on tour in 2014. The first serve is the most important shot in doubles, which gives her a leg up.
She has only won a single professional final in doubles, at just 24 years old, but it was with Mattek-Sands at the BNP Paribas Open this past March, seemingly getting used to one another as a doubles pair.
They are the second-rated doubles American team, but since both are so talented, and have indeed played together at least a little bit professionally, this pair will be tough to knock out at the tournament. They should have an outside chance at being on the podium at the end, depending on the bracket and some favorable match-ups of course.
Some of the quality competitors that will also be competing for titles in Rio consist of other doubles pairs who have won Majors together. Some of the best pairs are Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic from France, who recently won the French Open in June, Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan from Chinese Taipei, who have reached a pair of Grand Slam Finals, and the Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova who have two Grand Slam championships as a pair since 2013.
Some of the other top-ranked doubles players in the world will be participating with other players who they usually don’t play with, but still will create some really quality teams. The top-ranked doubles pair in the world of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza of Switzerland and India, respectively, will be playing with other players from their countries.
The first doubles partnership that will be representing the USA on the men’s doubles side will be doubles specialists and twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, possibly the most decorated doubles pair the USA has seen. They have competed in 29 finals at Grand Slam’s, winning a stunning 16, with at least 2 championships at each of the 4 tournaments. They have won a total of 111 world titles together overall, and have been ranked as high as #1 for 439 weeks in their careers.
The twins are 38 years, old, which is very old for professional tennis players, and haven’t actually won a Grand Slam tournament since 2014, but they have been competitive in plenty of Majors since then. They also won the 2012 Olympic doubles tournament in London, so this tournament will be nothing new.
Brazil’s tennis center is a hard court surface, which is the best surface for the Bryan brothers. They have won 11 of their 16 majors at the US and Australian Opens, which are hard, fast courts. They play a style of doubles in which they excel at serving and volleying, necessary skills for the fast-paced game.
With the chemistry of being brothers and having competed together for such a long time, knowing how to win big matches, even though they haven’t won anything major for a few years, they should have a great chance to be standing on the medal podium at the end of the tournament.
The other doubles pair representing the USA is Jack Sock and Steve Johnson. Though not usually partners in their professional careers, both have had significant success in their doubles careers, at 23 and 26 years old, respectively. Both players are competing in the singles tournament as well, but they have had a lot of their career wins in doubles.
Sock and his Canadian partner Vasek Pospisil have won 4 international tournaments as a doubles pair, including the 2014 Wimbledon tournament at just 21 years old over the Bryan brothers. He has also won 2 other tournaments with James Blake and Nicholas Monroe as partners. In mixed doubles, he also won 2014 Wimbledon with Melanie Oudin.
Sock has one of the stronger serves on tour, consistently reaching over 130 mph, and getting as high as 140+ on his first serves. In singles, he rarely comes to the net, but in his doubles game, he has shown great ability to hit consistent winners from the net, with great reflexes. These skills make Sock a real asset on a doubles team.
Johnson has one of the best careers ever in college tennis, winning loads of titles for USC, as highlighted in part 1 of this article. He and his usual partner, fellow American Sam Querrey, have competed in 3 tournament finals, winning their first at the Geneva Open in May, 2016.
His best finish in the doubles draw of a Grand Slam tournament was getting to the semifinals of the US Open in 2015, so he has never gotten the amount of success that Sock has obtained in those competitions, but he has shown he is a reliable partner.
Johnson plays a similar style of tennis as Sock, an athletic game with a high-powered serve, and can get to the net when necessary to put away pointes with his volley, although that is not his preference in singles.
Together, the pair will have a lot to iron out to have a chance at success in the Olympic doubles tournament, especially if they are expending a lot of energy in their singles matches. But, should they figure out how to play together well, the pair should prove to be a solid team. They shouldn’t be considered a favorite to win a medal, but they likely will be able to win a few matches and make things difficult for the top pairs.
As good as the American players are, there will be plenty of tough competition for them to deal with to try and make an impact in the Olympic doubles tournament.
Though there are less of the normal doubles partners than on the women’s side, Nicholas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert from France are professional partners who have compiled some great wins since 2015, including reaching the 2015 Australian Open Final, and winning championships at the latest Wimbledon and US Open tournaments.
Another tough pair, that will have the home court advantage, as they are Brazilian, are Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. Each of the two has won doubles titles at majors with other partners, and are each ranked in the top 10 in the world doubles rankings.
Many of the top singles players in the world will be competing, who don’t usually play doubles on tour, but are too skilled to be looked over. Great Britain’s Andy Murray, who is ranked #2 in the world in singles, will be playing with his brother Jamie Murray, who has excelled in doubles, winning the 2016 Australian Open in doubles. Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer from Switzerland will be an interesting doubles pair as well. They are both top-10 singles players in the world, with a bunch of tournament wins in singles, but have also won a gold medal in doubles at the Olympics, at the 2008 Beijing tournament.
Pretty much every top-ranked player on both the women’s and men’s sides of the draw will be participating, which should make for a very interesting and fun tournament.
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