BRYAN BROTHERS NOT ENTERED AT US OPEN; MERTENS-SABALENKA BACK FOR MORE
The reigning men’s and women’s US Open doubles champions will attempt to defend their titles at Flushing Meadows, but one powerhouse duo was notably missing from the entry lists.
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who have combined to win an ATP record 16 major team titles, were nowhere to be found when the reduced fields of 32 pairings were released by USTA. Before COVID-19 altered their plans, the Bryans had intended on the 2020 US Open to be their swan song, announcing on Tennis Channel last November that this would be their final year on tour.
Does this mean the two are headed into a quiet retirement? Maybe, or maybe not. When the American twins joined the TENNIS.com podcast at the end of the 2019, the two discussed the importance of sharing their final lap around the world with their fans. With this year’s US Open operating under a bubble environment, it’s entirely possible the idea of saying goodbye in an empty stadium is enough to compel the winningest men’s doubles team in history to stick around for 2021.
Then, there’s perspective. Mike joined Bob in the dad’s club when wife Nadia gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son, Jake, on April 25. On Wednesday, Mike uploaded a series of photos showing the family of three enjoying the great outdoors at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. For Bob, 2019 had marked his triumphant return from a right hip surgery that required an implant. At 42 and with his own unit of five around him, there is a well-established open door full of possibilities that await the lefty beyond tennis.
While the Bryans’ storyline is not in play, there’s still plenty to unpack on the doubles court. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will look to retain their title as the top seeds in the men’s draw. The Colombians currently hold two of the four majors, but missed the Australian Open when Farah was notified in early January of his positive test for the banned substance boldenone. Farah was later cleared of any wrongdoing after a Tennis Anti-Doping Program investigation of his claims that he ingested tainted meat “determined that he bears No Fault or Negligence for the violation.”
Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, who went on to win their first major in Melbourne, are expected to be seeded third. Nicolas Mahut, the 2015 champion alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert, will team up with Jan-Lennard Struff. Jack Sock, who won Wimbledon and the US Open with Mike Bryan in 2018 when Bob was injured, is joining forces with Jackson Withrow at Flushing Meadows for the second year in a row.
On the women's side, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka will reunite in their quest to taste glory again. The pair defeated Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka to triumph in New York and are projected to be seeded second, just behind this year's Australian Open winners Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic.
“I've seen her a couple times from a little distance. I haven't played doubles in like six months, so it's going to be really interesting for me, how I can adapt,” Mertens told Tennis Channel ahead of the Western & Southern Open. “Especially at the net, it will be very different to get those fast reactions and try to close the net. It's only a positive thing that I can compete again. Normally we feel really good on the court together and build each other up, so hopefully we can get a good result here.”
Also of note: 2020 Australian Open singles champion Sofia Kenin entered with Azarenka. The 21-year-old had partnered Bethanie Mattek-Sands for the bulk of her pre-pandemic events after the two captured the Beijing crown in October 2019. The Top 2-ranked doubles players, Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, are not in The Big Apple.
And three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters, who was granted a wild card into the singles draw, also received one in doubles. The Belgian, making her first event appearance in eight years, will play with 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste.