VAVEL USA Special: Olympic mixed doubles dream teams
Gold medalists Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus (left) and silver medalists Laura Robson and Andy Murray of Great Britain pose with their medals during the mixed doubles medal ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/

VAVEL USA Special: Olympic mixed doubles dream teams

In honor of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games getting underway in less than two months' time, the writers of VAVEL USA have created a list of mixed doubles dream teams that they would not only like to see vie for gold in Rio this summer, but possibly in future Olympic Games as well.

max-gao
Max Gao

With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games less than two months away, there has been much talk about possible teams in the highly-anticipated mixed doubles competition. As per Olympic regulations, any nation is allowed to send a maximum of two teams to compete in the 16-team draw, as long as the players qualify for the singles and/or doubles competition. Ever since its reintroduction to Olympic competition at the last Olympic Games, mixed doubles is often as highly anticipated as the singles and doubles competitions, and has the possibility of joining together the forces of each nation’s finest, making for some rather intriguing match-ups.

Together, the VAVEL USA Tennis team have created an abundance of mixed doubles dream teams that they’d like to see hit the court at this year’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games and in some cases, at future Olympic Games as well.

Switzerland: Roger Federer and Martina Hingis

Written by Jake Best

As the 2016 Olympics quickly approach, many eyes will be focused on Swiss tennis players, mainly world number three Roger Federer. The Swiss number one has long pointed to the Olympic Games in Rio as a focus, as the 17-time Grand Slam champion has never claimed a gold medal in singles. There is no doubt that Federer longs to bring home to gold for his native homeland. In addition, it is reported that Federer hopes to bring home multiple gold medals from the 2016 Games in Rio.

Martina Hingis and Roger Federer high-five during a kids' day event ahead of the 2015 Brisbane International. | Photo: AFP
Martina Hingis and Roger Federer high-five during a kids' day event ahead of the 2015 Brisbane International. | Photo: AFP

In addition to singles, the Swiss superstar has reportedly decided to play mixed doubles with another Swiss tennis icon, Martina Hingis. Hingis, at 35 years old, is currently ranked number one in the world in doubles. After a highly successful singles career herself, she returned from retirement to enjoy incredible success in doubles. She could pair well with Federer for the mixed doubles event in Rio. A match featuring Hingis and Federer on the same side of the net would be extremely exciting for tennis fans not only in Switzerland but also worldwide. 

For both Swiss champions, many wonder if these games could be their very last Olympics. Federer will turn 35 years old in August, joining Hingis. It is very improbable that both Federer and Hingis would be competing in Tokyo in 2020 at 39 years old.

Talk about longevity: Roger Federer and Martina Hingis teamed up in 2001 to capture the Hopman Cup title, and are reported to join forces once again fifteen years later. | Photo: AFP
Talk about longevity: Roger Federer and Martina Hingis teamed up in 2001 to capture the Hopman Cup title and are reported to join forces once again fifteen years later in Rio. | Photo: AFP
 

With both Swiss superstars playing at an incredible level today, this seems like the perfect chance to pair up in hopes of bringing a gold medal home. This Swiss dream team would bring a lot of excitement, experience, and overall talent to the court. 

While Federer still lacks a gold medal in singles, he won the gold with fellow-Swiss star Stan Wawrinka in Beijing in 2008, and he took the silver medal in singles in 2012 in London. Hingis has never claimed an Olympic medal; however, the pairing of these two Swiss stars could very well put Switzerland in a great position for a gold medal.

Spain: Garbiñe Muguruza and Rafael Nadal

Written by Thomas Cluck

Though Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza have never officially competed in mixed doubles together, the two’s contrasting singles games along with their past doubles achievements make them one of the most dangerous teams going into Rio. First off, Nadal and Muguruza possess the classic righty-lefty pairing that can be so critical in doubles success as seen in the Bryan brothers. Nadal’s high-spinning, left-handed strokes contrasted with Muguruza's flat powerful right-handed strokes will prove to wreak havoc on the hard courts in Rio, with the two being able to cover any angles hit at them.

Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza during a charity event ahead of the 2016 Mutua Madrid Open. | Photo: Mutua Madrid Open
Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza during a charity event ahead of the 2016 Mutua Madrid Open. | Photo: Mutua Madrid Open

Also, Nadal and Muguruza both have achieved a great deal in doubles, with Nadal winning the 2012 BNP Paribas Open with fellow Spaniard Marc Lopez and the 2015 Qatar Exxon Mobil Open with good friend Juan Monaco. For Muguruza, the 22-year-old has enjoyed much success with another fellow Spaniard in Carla Suárez Navarro, winning the 2014 Bank of the West Classic in Stanford and making the final in 2014 and 2015 at their home tournament in Madrid.

While Nadal and Muguruza certainly have all the skills to be a legitimate mixed doubles medal contender, the biggest question going into Rio will be Nadal’s health. The 14-time major champion was forced to withdraw after two matches at Roland Garros and has also pulled out of the Aegon Championships ahead of Wimbledon with inflammation to the left tendon sheath in the wrist, a potentially serious injury. If Nadal is healthy, the Spanish duo is definitely atop the favourites list and expect Nadal and Muguruza to make a big surge towards a gold medal.

United States: Serena or Venus Williams and Mike or Bob Bryan

Written by Max Gao

Serena and Venus Williams wave to the crowd after receiving their gold medals during the women's doubles prize ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics.
Serena and Venus Williams wave to the crowd after receiving their gold medals during the women's doubles prize ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. | Photos: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
 

Serena and Venus Williams have both long held the title of Olympic gold medallist close to their hearts, with the elder Williams sweeping the women’s singles and doubles competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the younger sweeping both competitions at the last Olympic Games, the 2012 London Olympics. In London, the sisters captured their third Olympic gold medal together, a day after compatriots Bob and Mike Bryan captured the men’s doubles gold medal.

Bob and Mike Bryan pose with their gold medals after the men's doubles prize ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics.
Bob and Mike Bryan pose with their gold medals after the men's doubles prize ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
 

As of right now, the Williams sisters are the only sister act to ever win Olympic tennis gold, as are the Bryan brothers, who became the only brothers to ever taste Olympic glory less than four years ago in London. So, why not combine the best of both worlds to create a mix-and-match dream team of reigning Olympic doubles champions, and why not? Not only would it be entertaining, but the combined doubles prowess of two of these four incredible athletes would make a very formidable doubles team.

Serbia: Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic

Written by Brooks Giardina

Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic could possibly compete as a mixed doubles team and would represent Serbia in this summer’s Olympic Games.

Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic joke around in-between points during the 2014 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic joke around in-between points during the 2014 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac

Ivanovic has rarely taken the doubles court, but the feisty Serb is known for her brilliant swing volleys and crosscourt ground strokes, which will be effective if she plays alongside Djokovic. The world number one also is a stranger to the doubles court, but just as Ivanovic, Djokovic’s singles game could be utilized into their doubles action, considering they made it all the way to the final of the 2013 Hopman Cup as a first-time pairing.

All in all, the team of Ivanovic and Djokovic will make for an enticing string of shot making from  both players when they battle through blood, sweat, and tears for their nation of Serbia.

Belarus: Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi

Written by Max Gao

In 2012, history was made after mixed doubles was officially reintroduced into the Olympics, and became one of five events for the sport of tennis. Remarkably, against all odds, the all-Belarusian pairing of Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi impressively burst onto the scene; the all-Belarusian pairing unexpectedly went on a tear the mixed doubles draw, en route to claiming the gold medal in mixed doubles, defeating home favourites Laura Robson and Andy Murray 10-8 in an intriguing match tiebreak. Though the pair had only played together once prior to the London 2012 Olympics, it is clear that there was a winning formula when two former Grand Slam champions joined forces and united as one.

Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka celebrate after winning the gold medal in mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics.
Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka celebrate after winning the gold medal in mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics. | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
 

Azarenka, a former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion in singles, also has impressive credentials as a doubles player. In 2011, the Belarusian paired up with Russia’s Maria Kirilenko to reach the final of the women's doubles competition, where they would fall in three sets to the red-hot pairing of Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta. A former world number seven in doubles, Azarenka certainly knows what it takes to be a successful doubles player and her unexpected run to Olympic glory in 2012 will certainly give her a major confidence boost, should she team up with Mirnyi once more.

Mirnyi, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran on the ATP World Tour, having been a former world number one and six-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, though he has yet to taste the same success thus far in 2016. With that being said, Mirnyi certainly has the credentials of what it takes to be a world-class doubles player and it goes without saying that he is still a legitimate contender for a medal in Rio at the age of 38.

Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka celebrate after winning the gold medal in mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics. | Photo:
Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka celebrate after winning the gold medal in mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics. | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
 

Should they decide to team up for the second Olympic Games in a row, the prowess of this all-Belarusian team could prove to be the one to beat in Rio as they make a surge for a second Olympic gold medal.

Romania: Simona Halep and Horia Tecău

Written by Ramona Toderas

Simona Halep and Horia Tecău are another top contender team for the Olympic gold medal. “Simoria,” as the Romanian fans nicknamed them, formed by the best ranked Romanian players, number five in women’s singles, Simona Halep, and number six in men’s doubles Horia Tecău, addressed their desire to play mixed doubles last year at the U.S. Open where they won two matches against top-seeded teams before Simona Halep had to take the decision of retiring as it was interfering with her singles matches. Still, the two were confident that they were on the right path and because the missing piece was time spent together training, they entered French Open looking forward to getting into contact with the competition.

Hopes were high, but not everything went smooth sailing for the two. The competition made things impossible to train as both had early matches in singles, in the case of Halep, and doubles, in the case of Tecău before their mixed doubles match. Basically, they didn’t even have time to speak with each other before the match. “We didn’t have the same amount of preparation time as in New York. I felt that from the beginning. In a team, it’s important to communicate so everyone can know what the other is going to do. But we can play better than we played today, we can build the game better, to cover more ground, just so Simona can know more what I do, and so can I understand more of what is Simona playing,” Horia Tecău said to the Romanian press after their loss.

Horia Tecau and Simona Halep at the 2015 U.S. Open. | Photo via Halep's Twitter
Horia Tecau and Simona Halep at the 2015 U.S. Open. | Photo via Halep's Twitter

The two could also play mixed doubles at Wimbledon but it is not confirmed yet, so the question remains: can the Romanian duo make an impressive run and get their hands on a medal? It is a tough question to answer as there are so many other teams looking strong and with a lot more experience than the Romanians got to have until now. There is one thing that could go in their favour though, and that is the surface. Tecău’s serve will be more efficient on hard court as would be Simona’s, also Tecău could move better at the net and will thus help Halep tremendously on her serve. It will be interesting to see how much the two can compensate for each other's weaknesses and build their on-court relation in order to accomplish their dream of winning the gold medal together.

India: Sania Mirza and Leander Paes

Written by Pathik Gamana

Sania Mirza and Leander Paes are an Indian duo, who mainly plays on the doubles circuit. They have both reached number one. The pair of Mirza and Paes has won a combined 11 Grand Slam titles, including 12 titles in mixed doubles events.

Sania Mirza and Leander Paes talk in-between points. | Photo: AFP
Sania Mirza and Leander Paes talk in-between points at the 2006 Asian Games. | Photo: AFP
 

At the London Olympics in 2012, the Indian pair reached the quarterfinals on grass, losing out to eventual champions Azarenka/Mirnyi and with the Rio Olympics being played on hard courts (their favourite surface); they will be determined to win a medal, although Paes has a bronze medal from the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Both are leaders on the court, with Paes the most vocal of the pair. They have played together before at the London 2012 Olympics and Asian Games going on to win a gold medal, so they have a good understanding of each other and are both vastly experienced.

Czech Republic: Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych

Written by Max Gao

During the last Olympic year, Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych joined forces to form team Czech Republic at the 2012 Hopman Cup, a warm-up event ahead of the year's first Grand Slam, where they went undefeated in round robin play en route to winning the championship.

Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych kiss the winners' trophy after winning the 2012 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych kiss the winners' trophy after winning the 2012 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac

Though Kvitova and Berdych don’t play doubles too often, both are outstanding team players and know when to perform when under pressure. The Czechs have dominated both the Fed Cup and Davis Cup in recent years, with Kvitova leading the Czech women to four titles in the last five years, and Berdych leading the Czech men to back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

Together, the heavy and hard-hitting Czechs could make a very formidable doubles team; both have exceptional serves and one could say they are equally comfortable in the forecourt when given the chance to intercept.

Canada: Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil or Milos Raonic

Written by Pete Borkowski

Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic react after a point during the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic react after a point during the 2014 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
 

Canada is one country that does not have a clear-cut team to send Rio to play mixed doubles. It appears that the Great White North’s lone doubles specialist, Daniel Nestor, will not be making the trip, meaning they will have to rely on their singles players to team up. This means that Eugenie Bouchard, likely the only female Canadian tennis player heading to Rio, will be competing in the mixed doubles. Her partner will either be the Canadian men’s singles number one, Milos Raonic, or the nation’s number two doubles player, Vasek Pospisil.

Pospisil seems to be the obvious choice for the Canadians, as he plays more doubles than Raonic and Bouchard combined. As a member of team PospiSock (with Jack Sock), Pospisil is a major champion and a top 20 player in the world, having reached a Masters 1000 final as recently as May. Raonic has only played one tournament in doubles this year and has only played 11 doubles matches over the last two and a half years. Especially considering that Raonic is more likely to make a run in singles, Pospisil is the likely candidate.

Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil talk in-between serves during the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil talk in-between serves during the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Will Russell/Getty Images AsiaPac
 

The good news for the Canadians is that they will not be sending a first-time partnership to Rio in mixed doubles. Bouchard has had her turn with both Raonic and Pospisil as partners at the Hopman Cup. While some countries will have their mixed doubles teammates playing together for the first time, the Canadians will have some level of chemistry before the tournament. Based on their previous experience together, Bouchard and Raonic appear to be the stronger pair, as they went 2-1 in their doubles rubbers at the 2014 Hopman Cup. Pospisil and Bouchard went 0-3.

The biggest challenge facing the Canadians is the lack of experience. Pospisil is the only regular doubles player available, with Bouchard having only played six doubles tournaments since her breakout season in 2014, including none this season. Even Pospisil prioritizes singles. They will be hoping that their singles abilities will transfer into the doubles.

Latvia: Jeļena Ostapenko and Ernests Gulbis

Written by John Lupo

Jelena Ostapenko and Ernests Gulbis match up well because they have similar personalities. He is very fiery and outspoken and she is somewhat moody and temperamental on-court. He has a big game with his serve and ground strokes, she has excellent movement and court awareness. They do things well that the other doesn’t, critical to a good, complete mixed doubles team.

Jelena Ostapenko (left) and Ernests Gulbis hit backhands at the 2016 Internazionali BNL d'Italia. | Photos: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images Europe; Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe
Jelena Ostapenko (left) and Ernests Gulbis hit backhands at the 2016 Internazionali BNL d'Italia. | Photos: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images Europe; Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe

How they would fare in Rio [or any other Olympic Games] is anyone’s guess. They would be unseeded, so they’re at the mercy of the draw. Additionally, they have never played together, so it might take them a little while to get acclimated with each other’s games. Regardless, the Latvians would be an entertaining team to watch.

Italy: Roberta Vinci or Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini

Written by Pan Mich

Fabio Fognini and Flavia Pennetta celebrate after winning a mixed doubles rubber at the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Fabio Fognini and Flavia Pennetta celebrate after winning a mixed doubles rubber at the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac

Italy will be one of the most interesting countries in these year’s Olympic Games in tennis. With many players to select from, there are many choices about a mixed doubles team. Personally, yours truly has formed the probable pairing on the court of Flavia Pennetta, who has retired but is still in the rankings and has left a window of opportunity to compete in the Olympics, and her new husband Fabio Fognini. It will definitely be a “hot” team that would not only compete in awesome matches, but will also be a great “treat” to those who will love to see how a couple’s chemistry will get expressed on-court. In addition, another awesome double team would be Roberta Vinci, the U.S. Open runner-up and current member of the world’s top 10, and Fognini again. The contrast of styles really intrigues this columnist and yours truly thinks it will attract many fans, who will come out to support the Italians in full force.

Australia: Daria Gavrilova and Nick Kyrgios

Written by Max Gao

Though Nick Kyrgios has already confirmed his withdrawal from this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the fiery Aussie, and Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova could be a force to be reckoned with at the next Olympics, if all goes according to plan.

Daria Gavrilova and Nick Kyrgios pose with the winner's trophy after winning the 2016 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
Daria Gavrilova and Nick Kyrgios pose with the winners' trophy after winning the 2016 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images AsiaPac
 

The pair electrified their home crowd at this year’s Hopman Cup, producing some outstanding, as well as outrageous mixed doubles magic that you have to see to believe. Both are more suited and committed to singles, but there is no question that they certainly have the talent and the capabilities to transfer their success in singles to the doubles court.

With the amount of energy that they were able to feed off one another in Perth, at the Hopman Cup, this could undoubtedly be a team that can contend for a medal in the next Olympic Games.

Poland: Agnieszka Radwanska and Jerzy Janowicz

Written by Pete Borkowski

As of now, Poland’s top singles players will be representing their country in mixed doubles: Agnieszka Radwanska and Jerzy Janowicz. This could change as Janowicz has been out for several months with an injury and it is unknown when he will return to the tour. This could mean that the Poles will need to find a different man to step up for the mixed doubles in Rio. In reality, this is not too much of a problem for the Poles, who have a lot more depth in men’s doubles than singles.

Jerzy Janowicz and Agnieszka Radwanska kiss the winner's trophy after winning the 2015 Hopman Cup.
Jerzy Janowicz and Agnieszka Radwanska kiss the winners' trophy after winning the 2015 Hopman Cup. | Photo: Will Russell/Getty Images AsiaPac
 

Assuming Janowicz plays, the Poles will be sending a strong team to Rio. While neither singles world number two Radwanska or Janowicz are particularly successful doubles players, or even play doubles regularly, they have a good history of playing doubles together. They teamed up to win the 2015 Hopman Cup, going 3-1 in their doubles rubbers. And in that one rubber they lost, they had already clinched a spot in the final and won the first set before retiring. Had they not retired, they would likely have gone 4-0. 

Janowicz and Radwanska have a history and chemistry, which is more than can be said for lots of the teams playing mixed doubles in Rio. Should they both be healthy and take to the court, they could be a serious threat. Between Janowicz’s power and Radwanska’s defense, they are an all-around threat. It would not be surprising to see 6'8 Janowicz attacking the net with Radwanska patrolling the baseline. Again, it all depends on health, but this team could be a big threat.

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