Entering Wimbledon last summer, it had been three years since Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova’s last Grand Slam doubles victory. But in double-bagel fashion, the Russian tandem quickly reminded any doubters why they form the best team in the world.
Vesnina, the BNP Paribas Open’s defending singles champion, is now shooting for the tournament’s $1 million bonus, awarded to any player who wins both the singles and doubles titles, when she again teams up with her longtime partner at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Vesnina/Makarova head a women’s doubles field that includes 2018 Australian Open champs Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (who defeated Vesnina and Makarova in the final) and features another reunion of the Chan sisters.
No. 1-ranked doubles player Latisha Chan and 25-time Grand Slam champ Martina Hingis won seven doubles titles together in 2017, including the US Open and the BNP Paribas Open. But Latisha is back this week with her sister, Hao-Ching, who also goes by Angel, after Hingis’ retirement.
Latisha and Angel played two tournaments together when Hingis was unavailable, and remained close during their doubles separation. Before Hingis’ retirement, the sisters planned to reunite in preparation of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, where they would represent Chinese Taipei.
“We [needed] to split to learn something new,” Latish told the New York Times.
Vesnina and Makarova lack only the US Open title for a career Slam in doubles, and are the 2016 Olympic gold medalists and 2016 WTA Finals champions since their partnership began in 2012.
“We know each other for many years,” Vesnina said. “When we first started playing together, we didn’t expect to be that good. But after our first tournament, we just realized our doubles was meant to be. It’s great to have her as a friend and partner.”
Also competing for the $8.6 million check in women’s doubles will be wild cards and first-round opponents Victoria Azarenka/Aryna Sabalenka and Eugenie Bouchard/Sloane Stephens.