Bryan Brothers' Bliss: Q1 Doubles Review
1. Bryan Brothers Are Back
There was not much certainty around Bob Bryan’s comeback from a right hip replacement last August. Nobody had returned to action on the ATP Tour under the same circumstances before.
But Bob and twin Mike Bryan have picked up right where they left off, winning their 117th and 118th tour-level titles as a team, including a victory at the Miami Open presented by Itau, an ATP Masters 1000 event. “A doctor was cutting me open eight months ago and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it back on court,” said Bob. “To win this title is a dream and certainly wasn’t possible eight months ago. This is huge for us.”
The brothers also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, but fell in a tight match against eventual champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. The Americans are in prime position to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for their 15th time as a pair.
2. Frenchmen Flying
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut completed their career Grand Slam with a dream run in Melbourne. Their only other tournament of the year thus far came at the BNP Paribas Open, where the Frenchmen lost in the second round to eventual champions Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos.
Herbert and Mahut currently lead the ATP Doubles Race To London with 2,090 points. They are trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the fifth straight year. Last season, they finished runner-up in London to Mike Bryan and Jack Sock.
3. Mektic/Zeballos’ Magical Run
Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos had only competed together once before the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. But it didn't take long for the Croat-Argentine team to click. After saving two match points against Herbert and Mahut in the second round, Mektic and Zeballos found their best form, eliminating four of the Top 6 seeds en route to the title.
"[It's] a little bit unreal. We're still looking at each other and just repeating, 'Did we just win?'" Mektic said.
Mektic and Zeballos' future as a tandem remains unclear, with Zeballos potentially spending more time with fellow Argentine Maximo Gonzalez. But even if they never team up again, Mektic and Zeballos produced a run fans and opponents won't soon forget.
4. Ram/Salisbury A Breakthrough Pair?
The highest-placed team in the ATP Doubles Race To London that has not competed together before is American Rajeev Ram and Brit Joe Salisbury, currently in fourth. The pair spent a week together in Florida training ahead of the season — which Ram says isn't always an option for new teams — and they've been playing well every since.
Ram says that one of the reasons his team has enjoyed early success is that Salisbury complements him and vice versa. The American touts the 26-year-old Brit's athleticism, and at 35 he says that he brings experience and ball-striking abilities that help them mesh well.
"We've built a decent foundation and now we're just trying to refine our skills a bit more to keep improving," Ram told ATP Tennis Radio. "I think we've had good results but that doesn't mean we're going to be playing great the rest of the season or anything like that. I think we need to keep getting better."
5. Maximo’s March
Few doubles stories have been better than that of Argentine Maximo Gonzalez. At 35, Gonzalez has enjoyed his best season to date.
Gonzalez began 2019 with four ATP Tour doubles titles, with his first triumph coming more than a decade ago at Valencia in 2008 alongside Juan Monaco. But Gonzalez went on a tear in February, winning three titles in three weeks with three different partners. He won Buenos Aires with Zeballos, Rio de Janeiro with Nicolas Jarry and Sao Paulo with Federico Delbonis. The week before Buenos Aires, he made the final in Cordoba with Zeballos, so he went a stretch during which he won 14 of 15 matches.
Gonzalez's play has seen him climb to a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 28.
6. Two-time Nitto ATP Finals Champs Back On Track
Henri Kontinen and John Peers won the Nitto ATP Finals in 2016-17, but they surprisingly failed to qualify for the season finale last year, finishing the ATP Doubles Race To London in 10th place.
But the Finnish-Aussie duo showed signs of its best form immediately this season. Kontinen and Peers made the Australian Open final (l. to Herbert/Mahut) and then captured their 14th tour-level trophy as a duo in Rotterdam. The veterans are currently third in the Race.
7. Veteran teams Battling For Race Position
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo have booked their spots at The O2 together in each of the past two seasons, and they're making an early claim to return once again, currently sitting sixth in the Race. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, who were the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team last year, are in eighth.