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Doubling up for a chance at glory

Taylor Townsend and Donald Young in the second round of the mixed doubles competition.
By Elena Scuro
Thursday, September 4, 2014

In the US Open singles main draws, 128 men and 128 women have a chance at the glory of a Grand Slam title in New York. Also simultaneously up for grabs are men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles, which many players would agree are just as glorious.

Of the 128 players in this year’s men’s singles draw, 59 were also entered in the men’s doubles event, and two were also playing mixed doubles. Of the 128 players in this year’s women’s singles draw, 94 were also entered in women’s doubles, and 14 were playing all three events.

The effects of playing numerous matches throughout a two-week tournament can be positive or negative, but despite the risks, Venus Williams (who has seven singles, 13 women’s doubles and two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles to her name) said she would not consider dropping doubles from her schedule here in New York. “When they say your name and they say so-and-so has X number of titles, guess what? Those doubles ones feel real good. For me, the doubles is very serious,” she said.

Sara Errani has five Grand Slam women’s doubles titles to her name and is currently half of the No. 1-ranked doubles team on the WTA Tour. The Italian singles quarterfinalist, seeded 13th this year, said: “Is very difficult to win singles Grand Slam. Is not my goal. My goal is always the same. I always say for me the important is go on the court and try to do my best.”

Flavia Pennetta has won a Grand Slam women’s doubles title and formerly held the No. 1 ranking with now-retired Argentine Gisela Dulko. The No. 11-seeded Italian in singles, who reached the quarterfinals before losing to No. 1 seed Serena Williams, has also reached the final in women’s doubles this year, playing with five-time singles and nine-time women’s doubles Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis. “It's really nice,” Pennetta said. “We have fun in court and outside, so she's one of the best of the whatever. So it's really -- it's nice to play with her.”

Pennetta often had to double up on singles and doubles matches some days, and preparation was key to her success. After a singles win and prior to a doubles match, she said she would “drink a lot. And then we're going to have a lunch now for sure. I'm going to have some pasta and something. And then some treatment before, a good warmup, because to be ready again for be ready again and playing. And then after, I'm going to take like ice massage and treatment again.”

After upsetting No. 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard in singles, No. 17 seed Ekaterina Makarova spoke about how her doubles skills have translated to her solo game. “It’s a little bit fun for me, and I have some chance to practice some returns, some serve,” she said. “Sometimes volleys, you know, because in singles also I need to go more forward sometimes. It's really helping me with the volleys from doubles.”

Makarova has reached the singles semifinals here so far and the final of women’s doubles as the No. 4 seed with her partner and fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.

American Donald Young is one of two men who played in the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles draws and said, after his semifinal loss in mixed doubles, that playing numerous events helps with his overall game. “I think if you’re winning in singles it obviously helps doubles,” he said. “Doubles is such a different dynamic because it’s a different game. You’re playing half the court. Different shots work better than others. But winning in doubles definitely helps singles. Just the confidence aspect.”

When it comes down to it, Venus summed up the importance of entering doubles: “Besides that it helps the singles, it's an important title. That's what I keep saying is it's a title,” she said.