In a perfect world, doubles pairings split up and re-pair during the off-season, which is a natural ending and new beginning.
But hey – what’s an off-season any more, anyway? A mere blip in time.
And so it goes that after the Australian swing, there already have been some notable changes on the WTA Tour – a couple of them involving Canadians.
The first one is that top Canadian and Grand Slam champion Gabriela Dabrowski is getting back together with her bestie, Luisa Stefani of Brazil. The two will reunite beginning with the Sunshine Swing in the U.S. next month.
Dabrowski, who stayed behind in Melbourne and celebrated Stefani’s mixed doubles victory at the Australian Open, took a pass on the Middle East swing and will start again fresh.
As well, Cana-Kiwi Erin Routliffe and Poland’s Alicja Rosolska, who had some great moments and some … more pedestrian ones as a team, also have gone their separate ways.
They played a few tournaments together in 2023, losing this past week in Doha to eventual champions Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.
Routliffe and Guarachi will Sunshine Together
But in Dubai this week, Rosolska teamed up with Ulrikke Eikkeri, while Routliffe got the band back together with fellow Alabama Crimson Tide alumni Alexa Guarachi – the partner she had her first big break with when they qualified for Wimbledon together in 2018.
Here’s an interview with the happy duo after they did that.
Routliffe and Guarachi will play Indian Wells and Miami together.
Women’s doubles is such a game of musical chairs. This past week in Doha, Guarachi played with … Ulrikke Eikkeri.
So who do you think the draw gods decided to pair up in the first round? OF COURSE.
You can’t make that up. That took place Sunday, and Eikkeri and Rosolska prevailed, all very civilized. Like grownups!
Dabrowski, now 30, has had a terrific career and has come close to finding the perfect partnership over the years. But they’ve most often not often been perfect fits; it took a lot of work on tactics, and chemistry, to make them work.
And then, in the summer of 2021, the Canadian discovered the perfect fit had been there all along, in the person of a great friend off the court in Stefani.
It took no time: the pair reached the final in San Jose. Then they won in Montreal (beating Mertens/Sabalenka, and Kudermetova/Rybakina as easy as you please on the way to the title).
Then they got to the final in Cincinnati, beating Krejcikova/Siniakova, and Aoyama/Shibahara, and Azarenka/Pegula before losing to Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai.
The duo went 16-1 together when they met Coco Gauff and Caty McNally in the 2021 US Open semifinals. And in the first-set tiebreak, disaster struck as Stefani went down with a painful knee injury that took her off the court for more than a year with surgery and rehab.
The pair, despite the late start, would have qualified for the WTA Finals, too.
Instead, Dabrowski’s countrywoman Sharon Fichman moved into that spot with Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos.
By the start of 2022, Dabrowski and Olmos teamed up. And they qualified for the WTA Finals together.
By September, Stefani was ready to return and Dabrowski joined her in Chennai for her comeback. They won the WTA 250 tournament there without breaking a sweat.
The dilemma was real. Logistically, with Stefani playing on a protected ranking of about No. 100, she and Dabrowski would be unseeded at tournaments to start, and might not even be able to get into some of the biggest ones. Meanwhile, Dabrowski and Olmos were at the top of their games.
So Dabrowski stayed with Olmos.
Meanwhile, Stefani – playing with various partners – has done nothing but win. She won the WTA 1000 in Guadalajara with Storm Hunter. She won a WTA 125 in Uruguay with countrywoman Ingrid Gamarra Martins. She won Adelaide with American lefty Taylor Townsend. She won the WTA 500 in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago with Zhang Shuai.
And she won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Rafael Matos.
Dabrowski and Olmos were 2-2 this season before the Canadian took a break to recharge and re-assess.
This week in Dubai, Stefani is playing with Anna Danilina (who got to the WTA Finals last year with … Haddad Maia).
Shuai is playing with … Olmos; the two will also play Indian Wells and Miami together.
(Yes, it’s a full-time job to keep track).
It all couldn’t have been easy. But it feels like there’s a happy ending in store, doesn’t it?
Except the draw gods will eventually have Dabrowski and Stefani meet Olmos and Shuai in the desert. You KNOW it.
The “Twinsies” Will Take Miami
Here’s another little doubles tidbit that will make some of the diehards chuckle a little.
It’s often been pointed out that Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia and Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic bear a more than passing resemblance to each other.
It’s not as evident live and up close, but we can still see how people point it out.
Well … the twinsies are teaming up for doubles at the Miami Open.
We’re Hearing About … a Reunion
The great news a couple of weeks ago was that new mom Barbora Strycova, who announced both her retirement and pregnancy in the spring of 2021 (son Vincent is now nearly a year and a half old) was making noises about a return this summer.
Strycova, who wlll turn 37 next month, last played at the 2021 Australian Open.
Even better news: we’re hearing that she’s coming back with another popular player, one with whom she has had a ton of success – including the Doha-Dubai double just three years ago this week, Rome, Madrid and Wimbledon in 2019.
That would be Hsieh Su-Wei, who turned 37 last month.
We have no details about when, exactly, this will occur (guessing on the grass). And no sense of whether it’s a short-term comeback or something more lasting.
But these two have a pretty big cult following that will welcome any return, any time, under any conditions.
Hsieh literally just … fell off the map after making the WTA Finals in doubles with Elise Mertens in 2021.
She’s been travelling. She’s been practicing at times, from the look of her Instagram. She’s been … skiing.
But just a few days after Strycova sneak-peaked her intentions, it seems Hsieh has done the same, with Strycova’s virtual approval.
Oh – and one more thing – Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Kirsten Flipkens also will be a thing on the Sunshine Swing.
Flipkens had been playing with Laura Siegemund.
But now that Vera Zvonareva is back, she and Siegemund are reuniting as of Miami.
It’s ALL happening.
2 thoughts on “Dabrowski-Stefani reunite … and more doubles news”
Oh, Stephanie, you knew all along, didn’t you?
The Gaby-Luisa connection was so magical we couldn’t live that much longer without it.
I’m pretty sure Luisa will be the one who will gently take Gaby to the promised #1 spot (and she will stay there, just because she deserves it).
This is likely the best news of the year (in tennis).
Hopefully, they both will know how to handle the pressure to perform at the previous level. I, for one, am pretty content with the magical friendship back in place.
If you watched the interview with her, you can hear her feelings about that, because I asked her exactly that.
As she acknowledges, there are a couple of teams ahead, right at the top, that are probably just too tough.
You just have to do your thing, and let the chips fall where they may.
If you focus too much on that number, in tennis, you’re usually cooked.
It has to be about process, not outcome.
Tennis is a meritocracy in that sense; that number is a concrete, literal illustration of who “deserves” it!
But it’ll be great if she does.
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