Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina capped off another successful year after claiming their third Grand Slam title together in 2017 before ending the year as the co-world number three. Despite enduring through some rough patches, they were rewarded with three titles and lived up to their status as one of the best pairings on the tour.
Makarova and Vesnina have a 37-11 (.771) win-loss record throughout the year and claimed a total of three titles (a Grand Slam and two Premier 5 titles). Nine of their losses came against teams which are lower-ranked, but that could also be credited to the fact that they were never seeded lower than the third position in all the tournaments they had participated in. It is also worth noting that Makarova and Vesnina only entered tournaments which are of the Premier level and above.
Their season started on a high note, reaching the final at the Brisbane International in their first tournament of the year. They strolled to the final having lost only eight games, but fell short to the top-seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza there, wasting more than 10 break point opportunities as they gifted the number one ranking to the American.
Makarova and Vesnina then won their first title of the year at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships. They received a tricky draw but still beat Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (a pair which went on to qualify for the WTA Finals) in the opening round before sneaking past the interesting partnership of Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko. A straightforward win over Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova followed, and they managed to exact revenge for their Melbourne loss as they beat the Australian Open finalists Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai in the final for the title.
The Russians only lost one final this year - the Internazionali BNL D’Italia championship match. Nonetheless, it was generally a good tournament for them as they clinched their first wins on clay courts this year in Rome, before claiming a confidence-boosting victory over the in-form Hlavackova and Timea Babos. However, they just fell short of the second seeds Chan Yung-jan and Martina Hingis in the final, losing 5-7, 6-7 in a tight match. Chan and Hingis went on to be the top-ranked pairing at the end of the year.
Makarova and Vesnina claimed their third Grand Slam triumph together at the Wimbledon Championships, and their run was quite incredible having beaten three pairings which went on to qualify for Singapore. They strolled to the quarterfinals without losing a single set before defeating the all-Australian pairing of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua in the toughest match of their Wimbledon campaign. Another excellent win over Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke followed before they finally got one step closer to the Career Grand Slam after outclassing Chan Hao-ching and Monica Niculescu in the final without losing a game, triumphing with a historic double bagel (6-0, 6-0) scoreline in the Championship match.
Their winning streak extended with a second consecutive title run at the Rogers Cup, where they successfully defended their title. The Russians had a relatively clear path to the title as they only needed to beat one seeded pairing along the way. They also lost just 18 games in the process, having won 10 straight matches. After their triumph in Toronto, they were unable to produce any consistent results.
They often missed golden opportunities to go deep into the draw and also to claim the number one ranking for the first time in their careers. The Russians had a pretty clear path to the final at the Australian Open, but unexpectedly fell 5-7, 6-7 in a tight match against Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai in the quarterfinals. Hlavackova and Peng went on to reach the final and lost to Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova.
Although the Russians reached the quarterfinals at the Miami Open and the last four at the BNP Paribas Open, it was considered a disappointing showing during the North American hardcourt swing as they were given favorable draws at both tournaments. They were upset by eventual finalists Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova in Indian Wells before crashing out at Key Biscayne to the surprise winners Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-fan. Had Makarova and Vesnina won the title in Miami, they would have been the co-world number ones then.
They had a lengthy break from doubles before they reunited at the Mutua Madrid Open. However, their clay court season got off to a poor start having lost in the opening round there, falling to the wildcards Arantxa Parra Santonja and Silvia Soler-Espinosa in three sets. Though they reached the final in Rome, Makarova and Vesnina failed to take their chances at the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open. The Russian pairing eased to the quarterfinals but was totally outclassed by Hradecka and Siniakova once more.
Apart from Wimbledon, Makarova and Vesnina had underperformed at the Slams this year. Being the top seeds at a Major for the first time in their careers, they yet again owned a golden opportunity to go deep into the draw at the US Open. However, fatigue from their respective singles matches seemed to have proved costly as they shockingly fell to 14th seeds Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
The end of the season was definitely disappointing for Makarova and Vesnina, who did not reach a final throughout the Asian Swing. Singles competition once again affected their doubles play as they were forced to retire in the quarterfinals of the Wuhan Open before being ousted in the last four in Beijing by Hlavackova and Babos. They were also the defending champions entering the year-ending WTA Finals held in Singapore and were given a favorable draw to defend their title.
Though they got past their opening round easily with a 6-1 6-1 win over Dabrowski and Xu, the Russians were on the receiving end of a huge upset by the inspired Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson, falling in straight sets to end their season. Nonetheless, they still kept their place in the top-three in the year-end rankings.
Season Grade: B-
Although they were able to add another Major to their trophy cabinet, Makarova and Vesnina were too inconsistent at points in time and failed to earn the only accolade they are missing in their portfolios: the number one ranking. Nonetheless, it has been an eventful year for the Russians.