They are not the defending champions, clay is not their favourite surface and they did not start the season as the world number one team. But whenever the Mutua Madrid Open draws near, the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike will be on everyone’s radar. They are the hot favourites every year. The US brothers have five trophies since opening their account in 2006. They successfully defended in 2007 on hard court. Not even the change to clay could hold the American team back from victory. The Bryans dominated again in 2010, 2011 and 2013 on the new surface. In 2014 they reached their last title match.
Since then, doubles in the Caja Mágica has been without a dominant team. While it is true that the team of Rohan Bopanna and Florian Mergea have reached the finals in the last two tournaments (champions in 2015, runner-up in 2016), it will be Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau who have 1,000 points to defend on the Madrid clay this time around. The Dutchman and the Romanian had their biggest result of the season at the Mutua Madrid Open, after finishing 2015 as the season’s best team.
But the doubles tour is extremely competitive, and even more so on clay. The plethora of hopefuls has become even greater with the versatile team of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who seem to be particularly adept in ATP Masters 1000s. Last season they played in the championship match in four tournaments in that category (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Paris-Bercy), ending the year just 25 points from being the team of the season.
That accolade went to Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, one of the toughest pairs, who combine the Briton’s skill on fast courts with the Brazilian’s durability on slower surfaces. Despite their qualities, last season they were unable to get through their opener against Henri Kontinen and John Peers, the recent Australian Open champions. The Fin and the Australian’s vast improvement as a team has considerably reduced their odds of victory.
If there is one team whose talent, grit and ambition set them apart as contenders for the trophy, it is the current French Open champions; Marc López and Feliciano López. No Spanish pair has been crowned champion of the country’s capital, and the players from Catalonia and Toledo look certain to contend. As do other home specialists such as Pablo Carreño and Guillermo García López, who always up their game for the biggest tournaments. In the recent Australian Open they reached the semi-finals, and they played in the decider at the US Open.
Marcel Granollers will also be among the favourites having joined forces with another specialist in the discipline, Ivan Dodig. Elsewhere, the surface always brings out the best in the likes of Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah, as well as the duo formed by David Marrero and the Mexican Santiago González.
Since the Italian team formed by Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci stopped sharing the same side of the court, the women’s doubles competition has lacked a dominant force. And this season the trend will continue. Moreover, the defending Mutua Madrid Open champions, French players Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, will not be in the competition having decided to focus on their singles careers this season. This after a successful run together in Charleston, Stuttgart, the French Open and the Mutua Madrid Open. So the women’s doubles will be more open than ever.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands also has her place amongst the favourites. The American was the only one able to win trophies in the first two months of competition with different partners. In Brisbane she shared the title with Sania Mirza (finalist last year with Martina Hingis), while she won her fourth career Grand Slam at the Australian Open beside Lucie Safarova. The American and Czech will be among the favourites for the title.
The list of hopefuls includes several teams from the Armada. The Spanish players have been trying to fill a gap in the home trophy cabinet for several seasons. Carla Suárez and Garbiñe Muguruza have had two runs at the title and they came agonisingly close in both 2014 and 2015. Above all two seasons ago when the super tie-break went in favour of Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova. This season we will also see the name of María José Martínez who has joined forces with the Slovenian Andreja Klepac. They will all be bidding to end the home drought.
While the men’s draw is still looking for someone to take the baton from the Bryan brothers to dominate the Mutua Madrid Open, there has been one constant in the past two years: one of the champions has been Romanian. Last season it was Horia Tecau, who together with Jean-Julien Rojer, saw off Florin Mergea. The Bucharest native, a champion in 2015, bowed out in the final together with Rohan Bopanna last season.
Serena, double agent
Only one female player in the history of the tournament has managed to win both the singles and doubles titles. The younger of the Williams sisters first won the doubles in 2010 together with her sister Venus and two years later she was crowned singles champion, a feat she would repeat in 2013. Serena is the only double agent in the women’s competition.