PARIS, France – With singles already underway at Roland Garros, the doubles competition begins in earnest on Wednesday as 64 teams take to the terre battue to battle for the French Open crown.
Here’s a quick rundown on all the top teams, the ones to watch, and the unseeded duos most likely to make their mark on the red clay.
THE TOP 4 SEEDS:
Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Lucie Safarova: Mattek-Sands and Safarova, ranked World No.1 and No.2 in doubles, respectively, started the season with a Grand Slam title in Melbourne, and are keen to add a second to their ever-growing collection. The pair picked up their only clay title of 2017 in Charleston, taking down Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova in the final.
The top seeds haven’t been handed an easy draw in Paris – they could get the dangerous No.14 seeds, Svetlana Kuznetsova and crowd favorite Kristina Mladenovic, in the round of 16. Should they progress, No.17 seeds Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova and Prague champions No.11 seeds Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Kveta Peschke are potential quarterfinal opponents.
Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina: By their standards, the No.2 seeds Makarova and Vesnina have had a low key clay season, reaching the final in Rome after posting a first-round loss in Madrid. Though they’ve yet to get going on the red stuff, the pair already have a title under their belts at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and a semifinal appearance in Indian Wells.
In Paris, the Olympic champions could face a number of tricky floaters; the No.6 seeds Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova loom in their quarter of the draw. They could also face No.12 seeds Chan Hao Ching and Barbora Krejcikova or No.15 seeds Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Chan Yung-Jan & Martina Hingis: Though seeded No.3, Hingis and Chan are widely considered the favorites to take home the Roland Garros crown after their dominant tear through the clay season.
Hingis and Hingis and Chan paired up at the start of the Middle East Swing and have quickly become the team to beat, winning two of the season's three Premier Mandatory titles at the BNP Paribas Open and Mutua Madrid Open, claiming the Rome title and reaching the semifinals at the Miami Open.
Looming as potential quarterfinals opponents are No.5 seeds Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova – in a potential rematch of their Madrid final – and surprise Miami champions No.9 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan.
Sania Mirza & Yaroslava Shvedova: Mirza and Shvedova partnered earlier in the clay season at Madrid, and despite the titles eluding them the pair are building on momentum. Together they reached the quarterfinals in the Spanish capital and backed it up with semifinals in Rome.
The No.4 seeds’ section of the draw is littered with potential landmines; awaiting in the round of 16 could be the unseeded but red-hot Aussie duo of Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty. It won’t get any easier after that, as they could then get Stuttgart champions Raquel Atawo and Jelena Ostapenko or veterans Abigail Spears and Katarina Srebotnik.
TEAMS TO WATCH:
Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan: The No.9 seeded team of Dabrowski and Xu loom in Chan and Hingis’ quarter of the draw, and they’re primed to spring another upset. The pair capped off a fairytale run in Miami to take home the title in their first tournament together, and are fresh from a quarterfinal run in Strasbourg.
Svetlana Kuznetsova & Kristina Mladenovic: The No.14 seeded Kuznetsova and Mladenovic both have special ties to Roland Garros; Kuznetsova reached the final in singles twice – winning the title in 2009, her second Grand Slam crown – while Frenchwoman Mladenovic won her home Grand Slam last year in doubles with then-partner Caroline Garcia.
The pair teamed up to reach back-to-back quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Miami, but haven’t yet found their rhythm on the terre battue. Still, Mladenovic’s penchant for bringing out her best tennis in front of her home crowd and both players’ prowess on clay makes for a dangerous combination.
Raquel Atawo & Jelena Ostapenko: Ostapenko teamed up with Atawo at the start of the clay season in Charleston, and the results came immediately. The pair reached the semifinals – knocking out heavyweights Sania Mirza and Andrea Hlavackova in the quarterfinals – and Ostapenko even reached the final in singles. In Stuttgart, the pair dropped just one set en route to the title. Seeded No.10 in Paris, the pair could run into Mirza once again, as they’re drawn into the Indian’s quarter.
UNSEEDED & LOOMING:
Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua: The Aussie duo has been quietly making their mark on the doubles circuit during the season and they come into the French Open in fine form, and with the momentum of winning at the Internationaux de Strasbourg just a few days ago.
They teamed up earlier in the year for a title at Kuala Lumpur, as well, and back in 2013 the pair reached three Grand Slam doubles finals – they could pose big problems for any seeds they run into in Paris.