Of the 64 teams contesting the women’s doubles event at Wimbledon 2012, 33 comprise teams consisting of single country combinations. If that number seems especially high this year, there’s a simple explanation – two weeks after The Championships conclude, many of those same duos will return to the All England Club to contest the London Olympics.
It was 10th seeds Venus and Serena Williams who were most convincing as they reformed a partnership that has reaped four Wimbledon doubles titles already. The Americans, who have 12 Grand Slam doubles titles in total, are also two-time Olympic doubles gold medallists and, in their first pairing together since 2010, they appeared determined to remind of their dominance as they raced to a 6-0 lead against Vesna Dolonc and Olga Savchuk in just 24 minutes. Their stunned opponents managed a better showing with three games in the second, but as the relaxed Williams sisters each maintained their damaging power and athleticism, the first round match seemed a routine outing in a serious tilt at their fifth title.
Top-ranked Americans Leizel Huber and Lisa Raymond are other highly credentialed contenders. Since teaming up in 2011 the doubles specialists have claimed eight titles – none of them at Wimbledon, but they’ve each been victorious with other partners: Huber on two occasions, winning with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black in 2002 and 2005, Raymond claiming her lone Wimbledon women’s doubles title with Rennae Stubbs all the way back n 2001.
The time between titles hints at the vast experience of both players. Incredibly, Raymond is playing a 19th Wimbledon and 74th Grand Slam doubles event, while Huber is here for the 17th time.
It showed today when the top seeds met Alexander Cadantu and Saisai Zheng in the first round of the 2012 Championships. On an unusually sweltering London day, the Romanian and Chinese pairing pushed the first set to 6-5, but Cadantu was unable to hold serve at a critical time. After Huber and Raymond won that first set 7-5 in 53 minutes they were in no mood for a long afternoon in the sun; they took just 22 minutes to seal the victory with a 6-0 second set.
The Americans now face Casey Dellacqua and Sam Stosur in the second round– which could be an enthralling encounter given that the Australians are another team who’ll team for the Olympics and that Stosur, a former world No.1 in doubles, was runner-up with Raymond at Wimbledon 2008 and with Rennae Stubbs in 2009. Stosur and Dellacqua advanced today with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Sorana Cirstea and Ayumi Morita.
Other teams who will replicate partnerships at the Olympics are also gaining confidence. Among the other doubles winners from today, Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina claimed victoryover Eleni Danillidou and Arantxa Rus in just 53 minutes. Spaniards Nuria Lagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanches, who will represent Spain, defeated the Chinese Taipei pairing of Hao Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan 6-4, 6-4. Czechs Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahloavova Strycova defeated Americans Vania King and Yasmin Schnack 6-4, 6-1. Argentines Gisela Dulko and Paola Suarez, who came out of retirement with an Olympics appearance in mind, outclassed Irina Falconi and Chanelle Scheepers 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
For Kveta Peschke and Katerina Srebotnika, it’s not longer-term Olympic success but defending their title that’s providing added motivation. The Czech and Slovak pairing defeated Sam Stosur and Sabinie Lisicki in the final to claim the 2011 title, and as they demonstrated the best of their deft touch and effective communication in their 6-2, 6-4 win over local players Naomi Broady and Johanna Konta, it was clear that repeat success is very much a possibility.