If you call yourself a fan of professional tennis, you would almost certainly be able to name the last four Grand Slam Champions for both the men and the women. It would be much more difficult to name the last four Grand Slam Champions in men's doubles and women's doubles. It would be almost impossible to name the last four Grand Slam Champions in mixed doubles. It is just one of those things about tennis. All of the events are not equal. Singles is supreme, as it probably should be. However, the Olympics bring a whole new dimension to doubles and mixed doubles. Many of the top singles players in the world choose to play doubles and maybe even mixed doubles because of the fact that they are representing their nation. The United States took advantage of this to make quite a splash in all three disciplines of doubles in London.
First in 2000. Then in 2008. Now in 2012. Whenever the Williams sisters play doubles together, they are the favorites. It does not matter whether or not they are seeded. They are pretty much the No. 1 seed just by being in the draw. With the combination of their serves, power, and feel at the net, there may not be a better doubles team in the history of women's tennis. Their stranglehold on the biggest events in women's tennis continued in London. Coming off their 5th Wimbledon Championship about a month ago, Serena and Venus continued to roll at the 2012 Olympic Games. They were never really challenged throughout the entire tournament, even in the final, which they won over Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-4 6-4. Even though you could say the Williams sisters were expecting to win, the joy on their faces when it was all over was great to see. Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed in the women's doubles draw was the American team of veterans Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber. They have been near the top of women's doubles for a long time, and they played a great tournament, losing in the semifinals to the Czech team and then losing a tough three-set match for the bronze medal.
When talking about men's doubles, it is all about the Bryan Brothers. Bob and Mike Bryan have dominated the sport for so long. Although they can be susceptible to the occasional upset, they are really rock solid and usually rise to the occasion in a big moment. One of the concerns for them coming into these Olympic Games was that many of the top singles players were planning on playing doubles, which could have meant trouble for the doubles specialists. The American favorites got off to a bit of a rocky start, needing three sets to beat a Brazilian team. However, as they progressed through the tournament, the Bryan Brothers started looking a lot better. They caught a break when the Swiss team of Roger Federer and Stan Wawarinka, who they may have met in the quarterfinals, lost in the Round of 16. This Swiss team beat the Bryan Brothers in Beijing. Bob and Mike did not drop a set after their first round match and clinched the gold medal with a 6-4 7-6 victory over Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Now with their first gold medal, the Bryan Brothers have publicly discussed the idea of retiring after the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Of all three doubles disciplines, mixed doubles is definitely the most unpredictable. This is mostly because they play a super-tiebreaker up to 10 points in place of a third set. This causes many more upsets. The two American teams competing were Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan. Serena Williams made bug headlines when she chose not to play mixed doubles. The fact that all four American mixed doubles were doubles specialists was a little unexpected. Most countries chose to team up their two best singles players, a plan that sometimes works but usually does not. The path the American team went in seemed to pay off early, as both teams made it to the quarterfinals pretty easily. The quarterfinal round was when Huber and Bryan found themselves in a tough battle with the German team of Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas. The American team ended up losing in the supertiebreaker, but Raymond and Bryan were able get through to the semfinals. Their opponent, the Belarusian team of Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi, stepped up when they needed to in order to send the American team to the bronze medal match. Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan were able to clinch the bronze medal, giving the USA 3 doubles medals, two of which were gold. It was definitely a great week to be an American doubles player. They sure made the country proud in London.