BOLOGNA & TARANTO, Italy - In a year where the four Grand Slam doubles titles were all won by different teams, it was always going to be hard to pick this one - but for their Australian Open title, being so consistent all year, and most importantly never letting anyone else have a piece of World No.1, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are very deservedly the WTA's Doubles Team Of The Year.
Best friends and fantastic in singles and doubles, Errani and Vinci make the perfect team. And before 2013 even started they had a lot to brag about - 13 WTA doubles titles together, including their first two Grand Slams at the French and US Opens last year, and both had also spent time individually at No.1.
But there was something missing, something so many of the all-time greatest teams have had together - the co-World No.1 doubles ranking. And it finally became reality for Errani and Vinci on April 29, 2013, as Errani joined Vinci at the top spot - it was after a breakthrough first few months of the year as well, where they won three WTA doubles titles, including their third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
They haven't won a title since becoming co-No.1s, but they have maintained very consistent results, highlighted by two more finals (at Rome and Roland Garros) and two more semifinals (at Beijing and the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, qualifying there for the second year in a row).
Errani and Vinci aren't just doubles specialists, either - they are both ranked in the Top 15 in singles too, Errani at No.7 and Vinci at No.14, in fact the only two players in the Top 15 of both singles and doubles. Only one other player is in the Top 20 of both disciplines - that would be Jelena Jankovic.
"I have a lot of fun playing doubles," Errani said. "It also helps my singles game. So I like to play both. Of course sometimes it's tough physically - after your singles maybe you're tired and you have to play doubles again - but I like it. And when you play with your best friend, it's easier to stay there."
And what makes the Italians such a good team? "It's because we are best friends outside the court," Errani said. "It's a very important thing to be good friends with your doubles partner, because then you know each other very well, and that's very important when you're playing together as a team."
Errani and Vinci are actually the only all-Italian duo in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam doubles title together, and they've now done it three times. Can they add to their haul in 2014? Stay tuned...