Santina vs. History: Co-No.1s Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza lead the field in the Roland Garros women's doubles draw, which was released on Sunday. The reigning Wimbledon, US Open, and Australian Open champions arrive in Paris hoping to become the first team to clinch a Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam since the Williams Sisters at this very tournament in 2010. Riding a 41-match winning streak through the Qatar Total Open, Hingis and Mirza suffered a minor slump at Indian Wells and Miami, and broke their three-month title drought at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in a match tie-break, the pair captured their first trophy on red clay, after finishing second to French Connection Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Mutua Madrid Open.
Santina wouldn't have to play the French stars - or the recently reunited Williamses - until the final, with No.3 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan, No.6 seeds and Australian Open finalists Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, and No.7 seeds Makarova and Vesnina falling into their half of the draw. Opening against Daria Kasatkina - one half of the team that ended their winning streak in Doha - and Alexandra Panova, Hingis and Mirza will likely be relieved by their draw, one that gives them time to play into form in time for a projected Melbourne rematch against Hlavackova and Hradecka in the last eight.
The Swiss Miss already won a Calendar Year Grand Slam in doubles, back in 1998 with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Jana Novotna; if she and Mirza can maintain the kind of consistency that took them through the clay court season, the team to beat will be heavy favorites to cement their legendary status in Paris.
Hometown Glory: Garcia and Mladenovic were the story of the spring, winning three titles, 15 straight matches and, most impressively, two wins over Hingis and Mirza in finals. Kicking off their campaign at the start of the year to prepare for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the French youngsters had already reached two finals in Sydney and Dubai before the tour turned to clay. Defeating reigning French Open champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova to win their first title at the Volvo Car Open, they backed up their green clay succes with titles in Stuttgart and Madrid, only for their streak to end at the hands of Hlavackova and Hradecka in the quarterfinals of Rome.
Despite their surge, Garcia and Mladenovic are seeded outside the Top 4 at No.5, and are projected to play Mattek-Sands and Safarova by the quarterfinals. The latter looked strong in their first tournament of the season, winning the Miami Open to help Mattek-Sands clinch the Sunshine Double, but only played one match on red clay, losing in the opening round of Rome to Slovenian doubles specialists Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik in straight sets.
Garcia had previously admitted to the struggle of living up to national expectations, but a triumphant Fed Cup weekend at home may have freed up the pair, who both reached the semifinals at the Internationaux de Strasbourg - Garcia ultimately won the title over Lucic-Baroni. The duo play their first round against Annika Beck and Yanina Wickmayer, with No.12 seeds Lara Arruabarrena and 2012 champion Sara Errani the highest-ranked team in their section. All but unstoppable once they've gotten on a roll, Garcia and Mladenovic could have the greatest chance to end Hingis and Mirza's hopes of a Santina Slam, but whether or not they can shine under the spotlight will be crucial to shifting the narrative in their favor.
Sister, Sister: Four teams of sisters make up the French Open draw, none more high-profile than Venus Williams and her sister, World No.1 Serena. For all the talk about their historic singles success, their stunning 13-0 record in Grand Slam doubles finals - and three Olympic gold medals - is an equally impressive aspect of their combined resume. Playing their first major tournament since 2014, Venus and Serena lost their only warm-up match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia (also to Klepac and Srebotnik), and won their last Grand Slam tournament at the 2012 Wimbledon championships - a pre-cursor to their most recent Olympic gold in London.
The Americans nonetheless have a history of blitzing even the most intimidating of doubles draws, and thus cannot be discounted in a quarter that includes both Garcia and Mladenovic, and Mattek-Sands and Safarova. Opening against dynamic duo Jelena Ostapenko and Yulia Putintseva, the top singles seed's decision to play doubles could either help or hinder her in her march towards tying Steffi Graf's 22 Grand Slam titles, but the younger Williams has played some of her best singles when she's winning with her sister.
The Chans have been dangerous foes in the last 12 months, and were the last team to defeat Hingis and Mirza before the start of their epic winning streak. Winning back-to-back titles at home in Kaohsiung and Doha, their best result of the clay court season was a run to the quarterfinals in Madrid, where they failed to convert two match points against Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva - who are seeded No.15 and could play No.4 seeds Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova in the third round.
Landing in a tough section of the draw that features clay courters and No.13 seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja, Makarova and Vesnina and the powerhouse pair of No.10 seeds Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova, the sisters will have to hit the ground running from their first round against Ukrainians Kateryna Bondarenko and Olga Savchuk.
Olympic Watch: With the Olympic cut-off fast approaching, Roland Garros is the last chance players and teams can earn points towards an Olympic-eligible ranking. More than half of the 64 teams in the draw are mono-country, including five of the Top 8 seeds. Makarova and Vesnina reunited just in time once the former was physically able to balance singles with doubles, and the former French and US Open champions celebrated their four-year anniversary by reaching the semifinals of Madrid and the final in Rome. Currently ranked No.9 in doubles, Vesnina could guarantee her addition to the Olumpic team with a strong result over the next two weeks, and will play their first round against former doubles No.1 Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai. Other all-Russian teams in the draw include Kasatkina and Panova, and Margarita Gasparyan and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Andrea Petkovic began the season playing with eventual Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, but the former 2014 semifinalist at Roland Garros will pair instead with Sabine Lisicki in Paris. They could be the second round opponents of No.9 seeds and top Chinese team, Xu Yi-Fan and Zheng Saisai, who reached the final four at the Australian Open back in January. Petkovic's countrywoman Laura Siegemund burst into the tennis consciousness at the start of the clay court season when she reached the Stuttgart singles final as a qualifier, but the German veteran is an accomplished doubles player with three WTA titles to her name; she has entered the draw with Anna-Lena Friedsam.
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