SoCal League Tennis

Australian Open Mixed Doubles – Hot Coco

Those who follow the sport recognize Coco Vandeweghe as a talented singles player. A glance at her career highlights support the claim. The 2014 Rosmalen grass court triumph, as a qualifier at the Netherlands’ event, and the 2008 US Open Junior Girls’ title, top her achievement list. Last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinal three-set loss to Maria Sharapova was another performance that put the Rancho Santa Fe resident in the spotlight.

With so much notice being accorded her singles play, it may be easy to overlook just how good a doubles player Vandeweghe has become. Teaming with Horia Tecau of Romania, she was “hot” (Yes, it’s a play on words given the usual weather conditions in Melbourne.) helping the duo practically escape with the Mixed Doubles trophy. In the final, Bruno Soares of Brazil and Elena Vesnina of Russia earned a 6-4, 4-6, 10-5 victory.

Horia-Tecau-and-Coco-Vandeweghe-Photo-ausopen

In only her second appearance in a mixed draw at a major, she ended up joining forces with Tecau, who had reached out to her coach, Craig Kardon. He was looking for a partner who had a “big game”, and Vandeweghe’s serve and forehand certainly qualify. He stands six foot four inches tall and with the twenty-four-year old Vandeweghe, he found an ideal match with her six foot one inch frame.

Statistically, the losers were the winners. They combined for six more aces; nine more winners and one less unforced error than Soares and Vesnina. A point here and a point there, as is so often the case was all that separated the teams.

Coming up 6-3, 6-4 short against Madison Brengle in the first round, Vandeweghe, who is rarely asked a question to which she cannot offer a meaningful and/or pertinent response, got back on track with Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany, her regular doubles partner. At the 2015 US Open, they were 6-7, 7-5, 7-5 semifinalists to Casey Dellacqua of Australian and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan. In Australia, they came up 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 short in the quarterfinals against Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India, who ended up being the winners of the title.

In the semifinals, Tecau and Vandeweghe scored a 6-4, 6-4 decision over Treat Huey, who was born in Washington, D.C. and was a University of Virginia star, but plays for the Philippines, and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. The round before, they surprised Bob Bryan and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-3, 6-7, 10-6.

Soares, the personable Brazilian, said after the Mixed Doubles final, “Two finals and two titles. My first men’s doubles with Andy’s brother, Jamie Murray of Great Britain, and my first time with Elena, and we won. It’s a pretty special feeling, a pretty special weekend.”

He added, “It’s the first time a Brazilian guy competes in two Grand Slam finals in the same event. They were talking a lot about that. And winning both makes it even more special.

“But, it’s tough to compare or relate anything to Guga (Gustavo Kuerten, the 1997, ’00 and ’01 Roland Garros winner) . He’s such a hero for us. He’s so above the sport and everything else.”

Vandeweghe’s success mimicked Vania King’s 2009 Roland Garros run. She and pickup partner, Marcelo Melo of Brazil were 5-7, 7-6, 10-7 Mixed Doubles finalists to Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber. In Australia, King, the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion opened the season with flair after being sidelined by a variety of injuries most of last year. She won a singles match and reached the doubles quarterfinals with Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia.

For the effervescent Vandeweghe, the Australian Open will make her even better. Building off her singles disappointment, she upped her game in the women’s doubles and reached another level in the mixed doubles. In short, Coco was hot.

Mark Winters

Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark Thoughts”

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