Trouble for Seeds in the US Open Doubles

Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski in action in the US Open Doubles
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Imagine if exactly half of the 32 seeds lost in the first round of a Grand Slam. Half. That would be historic, an event noteworthy enough to draw attention from around the sporting world. It also just happened at the US Open in the men’s doubles, as four of the eight seeded pairs crashed out at the first hurdle in New York. That included the second-seeded pair of Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot, who have won the 2017 Wimbledon title together and were runners-up in New York two years ago.

But in 2020 they proved to be no match for the unheralded Belgian pair of Sander Gille and Jorah Vliegen, who made light work of Melo and Kubot, beating them 6-2 6-4 in less than 90 minutes. They will next face the Antipodean pair of John Peers and Michael Venus, where they will get another chance to defeat a Grand Slam champion in Peers. But Melo and Kubot were just one of several high-profile pairings to stumble in New York.

Filip Polasek and Ivan Dodig arrived at the US Open as the fourth seeds and surely had high hopes of a deep run in New York. They had been in poor form either side of the pandemic-enforced break, losing in the first round in Dubai and Cincinnati, but they reached the quarterfinals at Australian final in January. But the British pair of Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski quickly put paid to those ambitions, claiming a 6-3 7-5 win.

In Dodig and Polasek’s defence, they were dealt a tough hand by the draw, with Murray a former-world #1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, who reached the US Open semifinals last season with Skupski last season. Spain’s Marcel Granollers may well have a similar grievance. The Spaniard turned down a place in the singles draw in order to focus on his doubles campaign. That is understandable, after all he and partner Horacio Zeballos were beaten finalists last year.

Unfortunately for Granollers and Zeballos, the decision did not pay off. The fifth seeds were drawn against Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares, both former-Grand Slam champions, and did manage to take the first set. But that was as good as it got for the 2019 runners-up. Soares and Pavic turned the tables on their opposition, ultimately rallying to claim a 3-6 6-4 6-4 win and a place in the second round, where they will face Jackson Withrow and Jack Sock.

Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald also caused a notable upset. Neither has particular pedigree, with Daniell’s best result a quarterfinal showing at the Australian Open in 2018 whilst Oswald has never been past the third round at a Major. But that did not hold them back against the seventh seeds, Raven Klaasen and Oliver Marach. Playing some nerveless tennis under pressure, Daniell and Oswald pulled out a 6-3 7-6 win to send their more illustrious opponents out of the tournament.

Now, with just four seeded pairs remaining in the draw and a host of Grand Slam champions ‘floating’, including Murray, Soares, Sock and Peers, it seems that this year’s US Open title really is there to be won. The only question now is: who will have the courage and the composure to claim it?

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