Sometimes we wonder if the tennis media ever look at players' records, other than the head-to-heads the Tours provide. Periodically, as the commentators say something particularly egregious, we'll offer a correction. (Note: We aren't saying that we're perfect; we've managed some egregious errors -- and some spectacular typos -- ourselves. But if we kill others' myths, and they kill ours, maybe we'll get somewhere.)
To put it another way: What else is a tennis columnist supposed to do when it rains all day Sunday?
Modern Misconception #1: The Williams Sisters are Unbeatable in Doubles.
Not even close. In 2001, their last year of being ranked in doubles, the Sisters played four doubles events. They won one: The Australian Open. They lost first round at Sydney to Hingis/Seles, withdrew from the Wimbledon Round of Sixteen, and fell to Callens/Rubin at the U. S. Open. Their won/lost percentage was 10-2, 83.3%; that makes them fifth on the Tour, behind Lisa Raymond (86.8%), Anna Kournikova (86.4%), and Martina Hingis and Rennae Stubbs (85.7%). Their winning percentage as a team was third (among teams with three or more events), behind Hingis/Kournikova (90%) and Raymond/Stubbs (85.7%).
In 2002, the Sisters are undefeated. That's in one event: Wimbledon. A Wimbledon played without Martina Hingis or Lindsay Davenport, making it one of the weakest Wimbledons in years. We would note that there is another player who, coming into the U. S. Open, was also undefeated in doubles in 2002, and she has more titles this year -- though she too has been guilty of withdrawals: Martina Hingis won the Australian Open with Kournikova and Hamburg with Schett, and came to the U. S. Open with a record of 15-0 to 6-0 for the Williams Sisters.
This is not to deny that the Sisters are among the most elite players in women's doubles. There are three elite teams in doubles right now: Hingis/Kournikova, Raymond/Stubbs, and Williams/Williams. As a sort of a game, let's list all the tournaments the Williams Sisters have played since the start of 1999, and list the presence of the other two elites (since Hingis has played with many partners, under the column heading "Hingis" we list the partner she did play with), plus the winners of each event (abbreviated names):
Event.........Hingis . Raym/Stubb .Winner
Key: DNP= Did Not Play; AK: Anna Kournikova; JC: Jennifer Capriati; JN: Jana Novotna; MP: Mary Pierce; MS: Monica Seles
Thus there has never been an event in which all three of these teams played in which one of them did not win it. Even when two of the three play, or Hingis plays with someone else, they tend to win (or pull out); of the four cases of "someone else" winning above, San Diego featured only the Sisters, the USO 2000 was won by Halard-Decugis and Sugiyama after both Williams/Williams and Hingis/Pierce pulled out (in the latter case because of injury to Pierce), and Kournikova won Sydney after Hingis pulled out. But since the start of 1999, the sisters have six titles. Hingis has 16, including three Slams and two year-end titles: Australian Open 1999 with Kournikova, Indian Wells 1999 with Kournikova, Miami 1999 with Novotna, Rome 1999 with Kournikova, Eastbourne 1999 with Kournikova, Chase Championships 1999 with Kournikova, Pan Pacific 2000 with Pierce, Roland Garros 2000 with Pierce, Canadian Open 2000 with Tauziat, Filderstadt 2000 with Kournikova, Zurich 2000 with Kournikova, Philadelphia 2000 with Kournikova, Chase Championships 2000 with Kournikova, Moscow 2001 with Kournikova, Australian Open 2002 with Kournikova, Hamburg 2002 with Schett.
Raymond and Stubbs have 24 titles together (as true doubles specialists, who haven't been injured much, they play about twice as much as the Sisters or Hingis), including three Slams and a year-end event: Oklahoma City 1999, New Haven 1999, Zurich 1999, Moscow 1999, Philadelphia 1999, Australian Open 2000, Rome 2000, Madrid 2000, San Diego 2000, Pan Pacific 2001, Scottsdale 2001, Charleston 2001, Eastbourne 2001, Wimbledon 2001, U. S. Open 2001, Munich Championships 2001, Sydney 2002, Pan Pacific 2002, Scottsdale 2002, Indian Wells 2002, Miami 2002, Charleston 2002, Eastbourne 2002, Stanford 2002). Raymond also had a couple of titles in 2001 with Lindsay Davenport.
It could of course be argued that the Williams Sisters have improved; certainly they have improved their singles dramatically. But they never play doubles; chances are that their doubles skills have not increased.
On the numbers, the unbeatable team over the past two years is not Williams/Williams but Hingis/Kournikova; Williams/Williams have losses in two of their last five tournaments. But the career record of Hingis/Kournikova is 11 titles in 17 events -- and in those seventeen events, they have exactly three losses: At the 1999 Roland Garros final, where Hingis was in mourning for her singles loss and they still took the Williams Sisters past 6-6 in the third; at Moscow 2000, where Hingis had just beaten Kournikova in the singles final and Kournikova wasn't there; and at San Diego 2001, where Kournikova was trying to come back from injury and was to go off the Tour for another two months because the injury was not healed. And they reached the final at all three of those events!
Though it remains our opinion that the best doubles team that could currently be assembled is Hingis (nine Slams with six different partners) and Lindsay Davenport (three Slams with three different partners); they haven't played together much, and not for years -- but they also have never lost a match together. And their skills complement perfectly: Hingis's brilliant touch and net play with Davenport's serve and power.