Gonzalez & Roger-Vasselin: The Breakout Partnership 20+ Years In The Making

Learn more about the Miami finalists
March 31, 2023
Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin are enjoying a standout first year as a full-time team.
Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour
Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin are enjoying a standout first year as a full-time team. By Andrew Eichenholz

The partnership between Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who will compete in the Miami Open presented by Itau doubles final Saturday, was more than 20 years in the making.

The first time they met was in the second round of the 2001 Roland Garros boys’ singles second round. Gonzalez, who had defeated Marcos Baghdatis in the first round, earned a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“It was okay. I didn’t have a lot of expectations at that time, so I was happy to play because I qualified, I didn’t have a wild card,” Roger-Vasselin said. “I remember I qualified and I passed one round, so for me it was already good.”

They would not meet again until the first round of 2008 US Open qualifying, where Roger-Vasselin triumphed 6-1, 6-2. In doubles, their earliest clashes were in Newport two years later and then in Rome in 2014.

They were colleagues on Tour, but not close friends. So how have Gonzalez and Roger-Vasselin, who are third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, become one of the best teams in the world? In a way it came down to coincidence.

Ahead of last year’s BNP Paribas Open, neither player was going to make the cut for the year’s first ATP Masters 1000 event.

“You’re not going to get in, I’m not going to get in. So we might [as well] play together because we have no other option,” Roger-Vasselin recalled. “This is how we really started to know each other, to play together.”

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They made the final at Indian Wells. The same thing happened later in the year in Cincinnati and they advanced to the semi-finals.

“He’s a great player so his type of playing on court and my type of playing are getting along very well on court. So after good results we [earned] in Indian Wells and Cincinnati, we beat so many good teams,” Gonzalez said. “So we knew we can beat anyone.

“After that, at the end of the year I was playing good also with [Andres] Molteni. But I was talking to Eddie, we played good together, [we said] maybe we can try next year. We started talking a little more and then we decided to give it a try this year. It’s working well so far. Hopefully it’s just the start and we can keep it going.”

The Mexican-French team is a combined 79 years old. Gonzalez is 40 and Roger-Vasselin is 39. They boast 43 tour-level men’s doubles titles between them. How are they still playing so well this deep into their careers?

“That’s a good question!” Gonzalez said. “If you asked me that three or four years ago, I’d be like oh by the time I’m 40, I was thinking I’d be done with tennis. But now the last two years for me, I was playing a very good level, probably my best level from the last 10 or 15 years.”

“We don’t know and we don’t want to know!” Roger-Vasselin joked. “Personally I like that someone is pretty relaxed on the court and off the court. I think it’s good also long term it suits me well to have someone pretty relaxed and that’s what I like. Also obviously we need good results, but it’s something that’s worked well so far.”

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Two years ago, Roger-Vasselin underwent hip resurfacing surgery on his right hip, the same operation Bob Bryan and Andy Murray had. When he decided to go through with it, the Frenchman was struggling to play soccer with his son, who was seven at the time. Now, dad is able to return the favour.

“Yes, badly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s pissed now. Now I’m competing with him, he’s getting better, but I’m giving him no chance for him to beat me,” Roger-Vasselin said, cracking a laugh. “[I am feeling] much better, much better. When I came back I was missing the matches, the rhythm, but still I improved also physically. I didn’t know it was going to take so long to improve, but I can say that I’m feeling much better now compared to last year.”

It also helps that the veterans get along well on and off the court. They enjoy playing golf together.

“Now we know why it works well!” Roger-Vasselin said. “I have to improve because he’s better than me. Usually with my other French guys I’m always better, so now I have to improve my game and this is why I push myself to beat him also on the golf course.”

Both also have two children, and are hoping to bring the Miami trophy home.

“Especially now with my [son], he’s into tennis now. When I told him, ‘Oh maybe I’ll retire in one or two years’ he said, ‘No, no, don’t retire’,” Gonzalez said. “He wants to still be around the tournaments, be around the players. I’m doing it for me and for him a little bit.”

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