Teaming up for their first full year on the ATP World Tour, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut completed a solid season that saw them win a Grand Slam title. Herbert-Mahut became the first All-French men's doubles champions at the U.S. Open.
This French pair had a rock solid record of 30-12 for the season in the 16 events that they played. Herbert-Mahut finished the season as the sixth ranked doubles team on the ATP World Tour. That is quite an accomplishment for their first full season as a doubles duo. Last year, Mahut played the majority of his ATP level doubles matches with Michael Llodra. Herbert was still toiling more on the Challenger Tour with just ten doubles matches at the ATP level. This pair did finish 2014 with a Challenger title at the Internationaux de Tennis de Vendee tournament. That came after losing their first-ever ATP level match together at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris to Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen.
The peak point of the season for Herbert-Mahut came at the U.S. Open. After a poor showing during the summer hard court swing in Montreal and Cincinnati, the 12th seeds were not considered to be a team to watch in New York. However, early upsets in the opening round to the top seeded Bryan Brothers and second seeds, Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, opened the draw up for everyone. The pair needed a great escape in the second round against Mate Pavic and Michael Venus. Herbert-Mahut survived a third set tiebreak 9-7 to advance.
They would start to take on the look of a team that could win the title after knocking out Wimbledon champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the quarterfinals 7-6 (5), 6-4. Herbert-Mahut would get to the final against the team of Jamie Murray and John Peers who were playing in their second straight Grand Slam Final after losing at Wimbledon. Herbert-Mahut would hold their nerve better as they saved all five break points to become the first all-French U.S. Open men's doubles champions.
Celebrating Their U.S. Open Title/Photo: Reuters
Although they managed to win two matches at Wimbledon, their loss in the third round has to be considered one of their lower points. They came to the All-England Club after bullying their way to a 7-1 mark in the short grass court season. Herbert-Mahut won the AEGON Championships in London and made the final of the TopShelf Open in The Netherlands prior to Wimbledon. That put Herbert-Mahut into Wimbledon as the sixth seeds and a team with a legitimate shot to win the title. The end result was a disappointing four set loss to Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic who they had crushed in the AEGON Championship Final 6-2, 6-2 just over a week prior to Wimbledon.
Two of the four Grand Slams were great showings for Herbert-Mahut. Their start to the season in Melbourne was especially exciting considering that they had only played a handful of matches together before the start of the 2015 season. The pair had fizzled out in Brisbane to start the season, forced to retire in the second set to Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic. That left them headed to the Australian Open unseeded. They would surprise by making a run to the final with wins over the 11th, 8th, 2nd and 4th seeded pairings in the tournament. Herbert-Mahut faced another unseeded pair in Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini for the title. They fell 6-4, 6-4. The U.S. Open championship certainly was the best of the best from the French with both winning their first Grand Slam title. The title in London at the AEGON Championships on grass will also be remembered as a high point as it marked their first title together as a team.
Mahut consoles Herbert after losing in the Australian Open Final/Photo: Tennis Magazine
Where this team really struggled in 2015 was at Masters 1000 level events. Herbert-Mahut did not spend the first half of the season playing these events together with Herbert injured. Mahut teamed with Eduoard Roger-Vasselin at Miami, Monte Carlo and Madrid to poor results at just 2-3. The first Masters level match for Herbert-Mahut came during the summer hard court swing at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. They lost their first match to Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco 10-4 in a super tiebreak. In Cincinnati, they would lose their second round match to Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea 13-11 in a super tiebreak. Both the Shanghai and Paris Masters were disappointing to the duo as well with the pair forced out in Shanghai due to injury and an early exit in Paris to Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Overall, they would go just 2-4 in Masters events where they played together.
Despite the poor Masters showings and a lull at the end of the season, this was a great debut season for this pairing at the ATP level. Winning a Grand Slam title and making another Grand Slam final are worthy of a solid B rating. By finishing the year in the top six, Herbert-Mahut could be poised for greater things in 2016. They will need to find more consistency over the course of the season to challenge the top tier duos on tour, but there is certainly no question that they have the talent to do so.