INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA
- Victoria Azarenka isn't the only player with a winning streak on the line at the BNP Paribas Open, as Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond have an 11-match, three-tournament streak going in doubles.
Huber and Raymond have been victorious at consecutive Premier-level events in Paris, Doha and Dubai and are 31-3
going back to the start of last year's US Open. On top of that, Raymond is a six-time champion here, with Eastbourne being the only other event where she has won that many titles.
All that being said, the top-seeded Americans are looking to buck a trend, as none of Huber's 51 career doubles titles have come here, and she has failed to go beyond the quarterfinals in her nine appearances. Also, Raymond has lost her Indian Wells opener four straight years.
The last team to beat Huber and Raymond was Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, who did so in the Australian Open quarters. In just their third event together, they won here last year as an unseeded duo and since then have continued to prove to be one of the WTA's most dangerous forces. This year they won't be able to sneak up on anyone, though, as they are the No.2 seeds.
Third-seeded Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka collected their seventh career title and second this season at their most recent outing in Memphis and are off to a 12-1 start in 2012. Having just as good a year are fifth-seeded Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, whose 13-2 start has consisted of a runner-up showing at the Australian Open and consecutive titles the last two weeks in Monterrey and Acapulco. However, they will have their hands full in the first round against Nina Bratchikova and Kveta Peschke. Peschke was ranked No.1 in the world in doubles as recently as last September and won here in 2010 alongside usual partner Katarina Srebotnik, but Srebotnik has been out of action since the Australian Open with a right hip injury.
The fan favorites in Indians Wells may not even be a seeded duo, as singles World No.1 Azarenka and No.3 Petra Kvitova are teaming up for the first time. Despite their inexperience together, they should not be taken lightly, in that among Azarenka's six career doubles titles is a victory here in 2009 with Vera Zvonareva. The last time two of the world's Top 3 singles players joined forces, No.1 Serena Williams and No.2 Venus Williams lost in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2010.
Here are some other teams to keep an eye on:
(4) Maria Kirilenko/Nadia Petrova: The Russians don't play together often but do have two titles and have an eye on this summer's Olympics.
(7) Nuria Llagostera Vives/Arantxa Parra Santonja: The Spaniards have three titles as a duo.
(8) Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Vania King: They have two titles together and King is a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion.
Svetlana Kuznetsova/Vera Zvonareva: The Russians only have one career title together, but it was a big one - this year's Australian Open.
Casey Dellacqua/Samantha Stosur: Stosur spent 61 weeks as doubles World No.1 and was victorious at Indian Wells with Raymond in 2006 and 2007.
(WC) Gisela Dulko/Paola Suárez: The Argentines are looking to play in the Olympics following Suárez's recent return to the WTA. Suárez is a two-time champion here and spent 87 weeks as doubles World No.1.