ATP World Tour Season In Review: Doubles In 2018
Best Of 2018: Doubles Year In Review
Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the headlines that shaped 2018 on the doubles circuit.
Tale Of Two Halves: Mike Bryan Enjoys Stellar Season
Heading into their fifth tour-level final of the season at the Mutua Madrid Open, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan had compiled a 26-6 tour-level record and looked set to challenge for the No. 1 position in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings. That soon changed as Bob Bryan was forced to retire from the championship match in the Spanish capital with a right hip injury.
That injury would keep Bob Bryan out of action for the remainder of the season, leaving brother Mike Bryan without a doubles partner. The brothers’ streak of 76 consecutive Grand Slam appearances came to an end at Roland Garros. At the Fever-Tree Championships, Mike Bryan teamed up with countryman Jack Sock, reaching the quarter-finals at The Queen’s Club, before lifting their maiden team title in dramatic fashion at Wimbledon.
Bryan/Sock won three of their four matches from the Round of 16 onwards in five sets, beating Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in the championship match 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. Posting a 1-2 record at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, Bryan and Sock then entered the US Open short on match practice, but once again found their best level in Grand Slam play.
Bryan/Sock dropped just one set at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in the semi-finals against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, en route to their second straight Grand Slam title. The American duo cruised past 2017 year-end No. 1 doubles team Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-1, 6-3 in the championship match to capture the trophy.
Once more, Bryan/Sock struggled to replicate their form at Masters 1000 events, posting a 2-2 record in Shanghai and Paris before making their team debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Americans advanced to the semi-finals at The O2 with two wins from three round-robin clashes and beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares to reach their third final in eight events.
Meeting Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, the team who defeated them in group play for the trophy, Bryan/Sock were once again forced to produce their best tennis in the English capital. They rallied from a set down and saved one championship point at 10/11 in the Match Tie-break before capping their extraordinary season with a 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 victory.
“This is how you want to start a partnership and end one. To win here is just an epic experience,” said Bryan. “To finish a great year off the right way, winning here, against some of the best teams in the world… [I have had] unreal memories with Jack this year. We’re closing the book on our partnership because Bob is coming back. But we’re always going to be great friends and hang out in the off-season. We’re going to spend the off-season together training.”
Marach/Pavic Finish As No. 1 Team
After ending 2017 with a victory over the Bryan brothers, as an alternate pairing at the Nitto ATP Finals, Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic continued where they left off at the start of 2018. The Austrian-Croatian duo did not drop a set en route to the title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, beating Murray/Soares in the final to earn their second team trophy.
Marach/Pavic didn’t take long to double that total, defeating Max Mirnyi and Philipp Oswald the following week in Auckland before claiming their maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Marach/Pavic required final-set tie-breaks in both their quarter-final and semi-final clashes, before beating Cabal/Farah 6-4, 6-4 in the final to triumph in Melbourne.
Taking their 2018 winning streak to 17-0, Marach/Pavic reached the championship match at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament. In the final, the pair’s unbeaten run was ended by Herbert/Mahut in a Match Tie-break. From there, the Australian Open champions posted consistent results throughout the following four months. Marach/Pavic reached the quarter-finals or better in each of their next nine events, winning their fourth trophy of the season at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open and finishing runner-up , with runner-up finishes at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and Roland Garros.
Leading the ATP Doubles Race To London, Marach and Pavic also reached finals in Hamburg and Beijing before clinching the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking. Marach (Austria) and Pavic (Croatia) are the first players from their respective countries to end a season at No. 1 in any of the ATP Rankings categories (singles, doubles, team).
Nestor, Mirnyi Retire
The 2018 season saw two of the greatest doubles players of all time finally hang up their racquets. Daniel Nestor, with 91 tour-level doubles titles and 10 stints at the top of the ATP Doubles Rankings, will forever be remembered on the ATP World Tour by partners and rivals for his incredible success and commitment to the sport.
With more than 15 years inside the Top 10 and almost 24 consecutive years, from April 1994 until April 2018, inside the Top 100 in doubles, Nestor continued to write his name in the history books throughout his career. On 11 January 2016, the Canadian became the first player in ATP World Tour history to record 1,000 doubles match wins. The only players who have captured more tour-level doubles titles than Nestor are the Bryan brothers — Mike with 121 and Bob with 116 — who have remained a pair throughout their careers. Nestor’s 91 title runs were achieved with 11 different partners.
Nestor’s most successful partnership came alongside Mark Knowles. The pair claimed 40 tour-level doubles championships together. And while the team created countless great memories, their first Grand Slam win at the 2002 Australian Open and their second at the 2004 US Open, six years after losing two match points in the final at Flushing Meadows, stick out.
“Daniel had an incredible career,” said Knowles. “He achieved everything that there is to achieve on the doubles court. He should be celebrated for his incredible success and dedication to the sport.”
Nestor earned his 1,062nd and final tour-level victory at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open before retiring in September, shortly after making his 30th straight appearance in front of home fans at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
Max Mirnyi will be remembered just as fondly for his illustrious career. ‘The Beast’, after 22 years as a professional and reaching No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings, announced his retirement in November.
“I have come to a decision that the 2018 season was my last year competing professionally,” Mirnyi said. “It was a very difficult choice for me to make as tennis has been my life ever since I can remember myself. I was fortunate to achieve far beyond what a little boy from Minsk, Belarus, could have dreamed of.”
Mirnyi climbed to the top of the ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time on 9 June 2003, and he would spend 57 weeks atop the doubles mountain, good enough for 15th all-time. The Belarusian won 52 tour-level doubles titles (52-46), and Mirnyi recently finished his 20th consecutive doubles campaign inside the Top 100.
The six-time men’s doubles Grand Slam winner and 2012 mixed doubles Olympic gold medalist (w/ Victoria Azarenka) qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals 10 times, lifting the trophy in 2006 with Jonas Bjorkman and in 2011 with Daniel Nestor. ‘The Beast’ most recently appeared at the prestigious season finale in 2016, at 39 years old, alongside Treat Huey. Mirnyi also captured 16 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 doubles titles, including the 2003 Miami crown with Roger Federer.
Cabal/Farah Reach The Next Level
This season proved to be a breakthrough year for Cabal/Farah. The Colombian duo, who first joined forces at the Futures level in 2004 and made their tour-level main draw debut in 2011 at Wimbledon, notched 39 wins from 62 tour-level encounters to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.
Read More: Built To Last: Bryans, Cabal/Farah, Rojer/Tecau Take The Long Road To Success
Starting the season with a maiden Grand Slam final appearance as a team at the Australian Open, Cabal and Farah did not drop a set in Melbourne before falling in the championship match to Marach and Pavic. The Colombians continued to impress, reaching their second final of the season in Buenos Aires before lifting their biggest team title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in May. In the Italian capital, Cabal and Farah battled through three Match Tie-breaks in four matches, beating Pablo Carreno Busta and Joao Sousa to capture their maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
Another Masters 1000 final appearance soon followed in Cincinnati (l. to Murray/Soares) before three consecutive semi-final runs at the US Open, China Open and Rolex Shanghai Masters. After reaching the last four at the Nitto ATP Finals, Cabal and Farah’s season ended with a tight 3-6, 7-5, 5-10 loss to Roland Garros titlists Herbert/Mahut.
Herbert/Mahut Continue To Find Success
After consistent success in their previous three ATP World Tour campaigns, Herbert/Mahut only combined at 12 tour-level events in 2018. But that did not stop the Frenchmen from lifting titles and making history in the process.
Herbert/Mahut became the first team to overcome Marach/Pavic to clinch the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament title in February and, three months later, faced the duo once again in the Roland Garros championship match. Bidding to capture their third Grand Slam crown, Herbert/Mahut dropped just one set en route to the final. The French pairing edged Marach/Pavic in a second-set tie-break and became just the third all-French team to lift the Roland Garros doubles title in the Open Era. Herbert/Mahut ended their season with a fourth consecutive appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, reaching their first final at the season-ending event.