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Doubles Season In Review

One storyline of 2009 was a Spanish duo making its case for best team on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

Published November 10, 2009 02:33

Doubles Season In Review
Nuria Llagostera Vives, María José Martínez Sánchez

Another season is in the books on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and it was yet another intriguing one on the doubles court, with three teams separating themselves from the pack, including one that played a significant amount of events for the first time in a long time, luckily for the fans.

Serena and Venus Williams showed at the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, that whenever they are in a doubles draw, they will most likely contend for if not win the trophy. They lost only one set en route to their third title Down Under, including a straight set victory in the final over Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama, who would retire toward the end of 2009.

"If we keep playing, we can keep winning more titles," Venus said in a statement that turned out to be accurate. "We're going to do our best to play the other Slams this year."

World No.1s Cara Black and Liezel Huber won their first two titles of the year in consecutive February Premier events at Paris [Indoors] and Dubai. Also capturing tournaments in consecutive weeks that month was a Spanish team that would get quite familiar with the winner's circle in 2009 - Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez - who were victorious at International events in Bogotá and then Acapulco.

Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual concluded the spring claycourt season by triumphing at Roland Garros for the second straight year.

Read more about the best teams of 2009 in their doubles profiles!

"Last year I said that after the Olympics I would probably retire, but I did not do it, because I love tennis," Ruano Pascual said. "Sometimes when you win, you feel you should stop when you're at the height of your career. It's a very special moment for me today. I always said I might retire, and maybe on a beautiful victory like this. But maybe now I'll keep playing."

Ruano Pascual did keep playing alongside Medina Garrigues, but they did not go beyond the semifinals of an event the rest of the year.

A month later, the Williams sisters concluded the brief grasscourt season by winning Wimbledon for the second consecutive time and fourth overall. They did not lose a set the entire fortnight, including in the final against Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs.

"I'm really excited to have doubles titles. I rack 'em up," said Serena, who also won the singles title by taking out Venus in the final. "Doubles really counts. You can see it out there. The team we played gave it their all, and we gave it our all. We wanted to win. It feels great to win the doubles. You can go home with two titles. And there's nothing like winning a title with your sister."

The sisters rarely play doubles at regular Tour events, but did so at the Premier event in Stanford, which turned out to be their first title at an event that was not a Grand Slam or Olympics in 10 years. Also during the summer hardcourt swing, Black and Huber won their fifth and last event of the year in Cincinnati and Llagostera Vives and Martínez Sánchez triumphed in consecutive weeks in Toronto and New Haven.

The Williams sisters continued their Grand Slam success at the US Open, dropping only one set en route to their second victory at Flushing Meadows and 10th major, which included a rout of Black and Huber in the final.

"I'm really happy to get the title with Serena," Venus said. "It's not possible to get a better partner than Serena. I hope she feels the same about me. Number 10 for us. It was like our decade anniversary for winning here 10 years ago."

When the dust settled before the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships - Doha 2009, Black and Huber, the Williams sisters, Llagostera Vives and Martínez Sánchez and Stosur and Stubbs were the four teams to qualify. Black and Huber ensured that they would finish the season with the No.1 ranking for the third straight year by defeating Stosur and Stubbs in one semi, while Llagostera Vives and Martínez Sánchez stunned the Williamses in the other semi. In the final, the Spaniards knocked off the two-time defending champs in a match tie-break to put an exclamation point on a season that saw them win a Tour-best seven titles. Highlights: Doha Doubles Final

"It's the biggest title ever for us. We've been waiting all year for this title and it came!" Llagostera Vives said. "We have played against them so many times and always lost - very tight matches, but we always lost. Today we didn't want to leave the court without winning!"

Besides the Top 4 teams, who else made noise in 2009? The relatively new pairing of Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won three Premier events - at Sydney, Rome and Beijing. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova teamed up to win Premier events in Charleston and Stuttgart, with Mattek-Sands notching a third in Warsaw alongside fellow American Raquel Kops-Jones and Petrova a third in Moscow alongside Maria Kirilenko. Nathalie Dechy, who retired in July, and Mara Santangelo won three International titles - at Auckland, Monterrey and Strasbourg. Alisa Kleybanova's three titles - at Fès, Budapest and Tokyo - came with three different partners.

What will 2010 hold? Llagostera Vives - currently at a career-high doubles ranking of No.5 - and Martínez Sánchez - a career-high No.6 - will no longer be a new pairing capable of sneaking up on opponents. Surely in any event they play, the Williamses will continue to be a factor. Black and Huber showed a few chinks in their armor this year by not winning a Grand Slam, so they will be motivated to return to dominance. And no doubt there will be new pairings that will take shape that will have tremendous success. In fact, this time last year, Llagostera Vives and Martínez Sánchez only had one career title together, and look where they are now.

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