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bandabou
Jan 25th, 2004, 10:34 PM
A Mixed Bag

It was just a year ago that Martina Navratilova completed the Grand Circle of Slams, winning the Mixed Doubles title at the Australian Open to give her singles, doubles and mixed titles at all four majors. This unsurprisingly prompted a debate about how important this feat is.

The key question, of course, is how significant mixed doubles is? We know how big the career slam is in singles and in doubles: Very big. In the Open Era, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams are the only women with both; no man has accomplished both.

But mixed doubles? Who still plays that?

Not many people, that's who. If we look at the 32 men in this year's mixed doubles draw, the only ones who made the singles draw were Guccione (as a wildcard, and he's a wildcard in mixed also), Bjorkman, and Sargsian. The women contributed rather more (more than two-thirds of the women in the mixed draw are in the singles main draw), but the only Top Fifteen player is Elena Dementieva; only five others are Top 30 in singles. In other words, mixed is the realm of doubles specialists, and not even all of those.

Has that affected the list of mixed Slam winners? You bet it has! Let's look at the mixed winners over the past ten years, and what they had done at the time of their mixed Slams (young players of course continue to play mixed, then quit as they grew more successful. We aren't interested in players' career accomplishments, rather their accomplishments during the years they played mixed). We're just going to look at singles titles plus doubles Slams. If a "results" line says "current," that means this was the figure at the time and is still correct.

Here is the list, in alphabetical order, staring with the Slams of 1994:

Player: David Adams
Mixed Slams: AO 1999, RG 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Mahesh Bhupathi
Mixed Slams: RG 1997, USO 1999, Wim 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing in singles; 3 doubles Slams (1 doubles Slam since)

Player: Cara Black
Mixed Slams: RG 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Wayne Black
Mixed Slams: RG 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Manon Bollegraf
Mixed Slams: AO 1997, USO 1997
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Kristie Boogert
Mixed Slams: RG 1994
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Bob Bryan
Mixed Slams: USO 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Mike Bryan
Mixed Slams: USO 2002, RG 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Tomas Carbonell
Mixed Slams: RG 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Mariaan de Swardt
Mixed Slams: AO 1999, RG 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Ellis Ferreira
Mixed Slams: AO 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Javier Frana
Mixed Slams: RG 1996
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 3 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Leos Friedl
Mixed Slams: Wim 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Patrick Galbraith
Mixed Slams: USO 1994, USO 1996
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Justin Gimelstob
Mixed Slams: AO 1998, RG 1998
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Daniela Hantuchova
Mixed Slams: Wim 2001, AO 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (1 singles title since)

Player: Rika Hiraki
Mixed Slams: RG 1997
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Donald Johnson
Mixed Slams: Wim 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (1 doubles Slam since)

Player: Rick Leach
Mixed Slams: AO 1995, AO 1997, USO 1997
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (1 doubles Slam since)

Player: Elena Likhovtseva
Mixed Slams: Wim 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Matt Lucena
Mixed Slams: USO 1995
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Meredith McGrath
Mixed Slams: USO 1995
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 3 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Max Mirnyi
Mixed Slams: Wim 1998, USO 1998
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (1 singles title, 2 doubles Slams since)

Player: Corina Morariu
Mixed Slams: AO 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Martina Navratilova
Mixed Slams: Wim 1995, AO 2003, Wim 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 167 singles titles, 18 singles Slams, 31 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Larisa Neiland
Mixed Slams: AO 1994, RG 1995, AO 1996
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 2 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Piet Norval
Mixed Slams: RG 1999
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Andrei Olhovskiy
Mixed Slams: AO 1994
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: (damaged file, but we didn't find anything)

Player: Menno Oosting
Mixed Slams: RG 1994
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Leander Paes
Mixed Slams: Wim 1999, AO 2003, Wim 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 3 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Jared Palmer
Mixed Slams: AO 2000, USO 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 1 doubles Slam (1 doubles Slam since)

Player: Kimberly Po
Mixed Slams: Wim 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Lisa Raymond
Mixed Slams: USO 1996, Wim 1999, USO 2002, RG 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 4 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 3 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Elena Reinach
Mixed Slams: USO 1994
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: (records incomplete; no Slams)

Player: Virginia Ruano Pascual
Mixed Slams: RG 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, earned first doubles Slam at RG 2001.(1 singles title, 3 doubles Slams since)

Player: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Mixed Slams: USO 2000
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 27 singles titles, 4 singles Slams, 6 doubles Slams (2 singles titles since)

Player: Katarina Srebotnik
Mixed Slams: RG 1999, USO 2003
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (current)

Player: Jonathan Stark
Mixed Slams: Wim 1995
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 1 singles title, 0 singles Slams, 1 doubles Slam (1 title since)

Player: Rennae Stubbs
Mixed Slams: AO 2000, USO 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, won third doubles Slam at USO 2001 (current)

Player: Ai Sugiyama
Mixed Slams: USO 1999
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 3 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (3 singles titles, 3 doubles Slams since)

Player: Cyril Suk
Mixed Slams: Wim 1996, Wim 1997
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (1 doubles Slam since)

Player: Helena Sukova
Mixed Slams: Wim 1994, Wim 1996, Wim 1997
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 10 singles titles, 0 singles slams, 9 doubles Slams

Player: Patricia Tarabini
Mixed Slams: RG 1996
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (current)

Player: Kevin Ullyett
Mixed Slams: AO 2002
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 0 singles titles, 1 doubles Slam (current)

Player: Serena Williams
Mixed Slams: Wim 1998, USO 1998
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: Nothing (quite a bit since, of course)

Player: Venus Williams
Mixed Slams: AO 1998, RG 1998
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 0 doubles Slams (quite a bit since, of course)

Player: Todd Woodbridge
Mixed Slams: Wim 1994, USO 2001
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 2 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 12 doubles Slams (3 doubles Slams since)

Player: Mark Woodforde
Mixed Slams: RG 1995, AO 1996
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 4 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 6 doubles Slams (6 doubles Slams since)

Player: Natasha Zvereva
Mixed Slams: AO 1995
Results at time of last Mixed Slam: 3 singles titles, 0 singles Slams, 12 doubles Slams (1 singles title, 6 doubles Slams since)

The list is fascinating in several ways. First, there are 50 names here, in a period when only 80 slots are available for Slam winners. Repeat winners are few and weak: Only one player, Lisa Raymond, has as many as four mixed Slams; Bhupathi, Leach, Navratilova, Paes, and Sukova are the only others with three (note that every one of those five, in this time period, was primarily or exclusively a doubles specialist). The men, by comparison, had 32 different doubles Slam winners in this time, with seven different men winning at least four doubles Slams (Woodbridge, 13; Woodforde, 9; Bjorkman, Eltingh, Haarhuis, 6 each; Bhupathi, Kafelnikov, 4 each). The women had only doubles 22 Slam winners, and nine with four or more Slams each (Hingis, Zvereva, 9 each; Gigi Fernandez, 8; Novotna, 7; Venus Williams, Serena Williams, 6; Ruano Pascual, Sanchez-Vicario, Suarez, 4 each). Even in singles, where there are fewer Slam titles available, the top players had more Slam titles than the mixed winners: On the men's side, Pete Sampras won 11 Slams and Andre Agassi seven; on the women's side, Steffi Graf won eight Slams, Serena Williams six, Martina Hingis five, and Venus Williams four. There are no really dominant mixed doubles players; there aren't many who even qualify as strong.

But the key point is the career records. Seventeen of our players -- over one third -- had no career results at the time of their mixed Slams. 11 still have nothing; quite a few of them retired with nothing. 25 of the 50 had not won any singles titles at the time of their Slam; 29 had not won a doubles Slam. Only two -- Navratilova and Sanchez-Vicario -- have won mixed Slams since winning a singles Slam. Of the women, aside from Navratilova and Sanchez-Vicario, only the Williams Sisters and Sukova and perhaps Hantuchova and Sugiyama and Zvereva could be considered top singles players (giving them all possible benefit of the doubt); on the men's side, the best is arguably Mirnyi. It's a dismal picture.

The author loves mixed doubles; it's the most complex and strategic of all the tennis disciplines. It would be wonderful if it were upgraded to an actual circuit, played year-round, with real prize money to attract the top players. But can we take it serious as of now? Sadly, no; it's really just a bunch of weak pickup teams.

From Bob Larsonīs newsletter.