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WEDNESDAY REWIND: SERIAL DOUBLES CHAMPIONS

Wednesday Rewind: A series looking at the former champions at the WTA Finals. This week, Mark Hodgkinson looks at players who ruled the doubles stage at the year-end championships.

Dominating the singles court wasn't enough to sate Martina Navratilova's desire for competition; she also had to win doubles titles at the WTA's showpiece. In addition to scoring a record eight singles titles at the tournament, she also won a record 11 doubles titles, making a total of 19 tournament victories. You are on safe ground when you say that that figure is never going to be matched; it's doubtful whether another player will even make it into the teens.

One of Navratilova's doubles titles came alongside Billie Jean King in 1980; all the rest were won in partnership with Pam Shriver. It was in late 1980 that Shriver took an unexpected call from Navratilova asking whether she wanted to play doubles together (Shriver would say she was "stunned" as well as pleasantly surprised), and the following year they started what became a five-year undefeated run, winning the tournament every season from 1981 to 1985. They were also the champions for four consecutive years, from 1986 to 1989, but you can't put those two runs together and form a nine-year stretch, as the tournament was played twice in 1986, because of changes to the calendar, and the Navratilova-Shriver partnership were only successful at one of those two. It was in 1991 that they won the title for a tenth time. "Some players focus on singles competition and tend not to put as much heart or effort into doubles play, but Martina was intense whether playing singles or doubles," Shriver has recalled. "Her intensity during matches was incredible."

But there are some feats that Navratilova didn't achieve in this competition, but others did. Winning the title three years in succession is remarkable enough, but Lindsay Davenport did so with three different partners, with Mary Joe Fernandez in 1996, with Jana Novotna in 1997 and with Natasha Zvereva in 1998. The only other player to have won the title with three different partners is Lisa Raymond, who was victorious with Rennae Stubbs in 2001, with Sam Stosur in 2005 and 2006, and who combined with Liezel Huber in 2011 to take the title. It's also worth mentioning other partnerships who won the title twice - Gigi Fernandez abd Zvereva were the champions in 1993 and 1994, Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova were the winners in 1999 and 2000, and Cara Black and Huber lifted the trophy in 2007 and 2008.

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Mark Hodgkinson is the author of 'Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players' (Bloomsbury, May 2015).




 

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