When people think about tennis players, their minds tend to go immediately toward singles players, but there’s a lot of interest and money to be made in doubles play. Throughout tennis history, there have been some truly dominant teams, and that includes the current ATP era of tennis where some players found the yin to their yang.
Many players who end up going into doubles are mid-level singles players, and finding a partner you gel with can propel you to a top global ranking. Let’s look at some of those duos who have found unprecedented success, ranking the top five ATP doubles teams in history.
Paul Haarhuis and Jacco Eltingh
Representing the Netherlands, Paul Haarhuis and Jacco Eltingh had moderate success as singles players with Haarhuis having a winning percentage of just over .500 while Eltingh was below that mark. As a duo, though, they were one of the best in tennis history. Together, Haarhuis and Eltingh won 39 titles, including several majors.
Their first grand slam came at the 1994 Australian Open, and later that year they combined to win the US Open. Haarhuis and Eltingh went on to win a total of six grand slams, including a pair of Australian and French Opens, each. “We know each other through and through,” Eltingh said. “That is precisely why it is perhaps easier for us to tell each other the truth. Paul can advise or point out things to do differently.”
Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles
While the other doubles teams on the list are from the same country, Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles are from very different countries. Nestor, a Canadian, had 11 different partners and won 91 doubles titles, but most of his success came from Bahamas native Mark Knowles. Neither man reached the top 50 in the singles rankings but were number one in doubles.
Together, Nestor and Knowles won 40 team titles including three grand slams. Their first major came in the 2002 Australian Open, which was followed up by the 2004 US Open and eventually the 2007 French Open. Interestingly enough, Nestor and Knowles have squared off against other once in a singles competition. The match occurred in 1997 with Nestor coming out on top in four sets.
Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal
The second and final European team on the list is comprised of Spaniards Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal. The duo ranks third all-time in titles with 44, while Sanchez won another six without Casal. As singles competitors, Sanchez and Casal were quite accomplished, with the former reaching number seven in the rankings.
What might come as a surprise is that the two won just a pair of grand slam titles in the 1988 US Open and 1990 French Open. Since their playing days came to an end, the two have opened up a tennis academy that has helped train some of the top players in tennis. “Without the training, you can’t succeed,” Sanchez said. “Rafael Nadal trains 90 percent of the time and plays in tournaments only 10 percent of the time.”
Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde
Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde were tennis celebrities and the duo was known simply as The Woodies throughout much of their careers. Together, they won 61 ATP titles including 11 majors. Wimbledon was where they dominated, with The Woodies winning six of them. In 2010, the team was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame and have their statues sitting at Melbourne Park.
Sadly, unlike the other doubles teams on the list, Woodbridge and Woodforde don’t talk to each other much after their careers. “I guess the Woodies drifted into the background for him and he’s developing his own brand,” Woodforde said. He added that “We don’t have a lot to talk about these days…I would love to be able to play some more of the legends events together, but it’s just at a position…it is where it is right now.”
Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan
You’d think that a bulk of the most successful doubles teams in tennis history would be related, but there’s only one set of brothers, and they’re the most successful by a wide margin. The Americans are identical twins born in 1978 and dominated throughout their careers, spending a record 438 weeks as the top-ranked duo.
The list of accomplishments is amazing, with 119 titles won while playing together, putting them nearly 60 titles ahead of The Woodies. Among those titles are their 16 grand slam wins, including six at the Australian Open. The Bryan brothers are also the only doubles team to hold all four grand slam titles in a calendar year.