Doubles partners face each other in singles
Normally, when Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova are on the
tennis court together, it’s as a world-beating doubles partnership.
On Tuesday at the S.S. Open, it was friend vs. friend.
The 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champions got the worst
of all conceivable singles draws at Flushing Meadows this year,
forced to play each other in the first round.
Shvedova won 6-4, 6-2. Her reaction afterward said it all.
”It was horrible,” she said.
Seeded fifth this year at the U.S. Open, they aren’t the first
doubles partners forced to play face each other in singles. There
was a time, for instance, when Venus and Serena Williams made a
habit of it, with much more at stake than a trip to the second
But the fact that King and Shvedova have come so far together –
to say nothing of the fact that they’re in that rare group of women
who make 20-30 percent of their prize money playing doubles – made
this matchup all the more poignant – and uncomfortable.
”We’ve laughed together and cried together and had some very
good times together,” King said.
They met as teenagers on the tennis circuit, both traveling with
their fathers and looking for a friendly face and someone to talk
to about life on the road with dad. The bond was formed and not
long after, a very good doubles team developed, as well.
They have four titles together, including Wimbledon and the U.S.
Open two years ago. Last year, they returned to the final at
Flushing Meadows but lost in a third-set tiebreaker.
So far in 2012, Shvedova is grabbing more headlines than her
partner in singles. She’s ranked 45th and made it to the
quarterfinals of the French Open. Then, at Wimbledon, she became
the first woman in 44 years of professional tennis to win a
”golden set” – six straight games without dropping a point.
King, ranked 52nd, said both players always knew this sort of
meeting could come up. They had never played each other as pros,
though they certainly know each other inside and out.
”I know where she’s going to go here, where she’s going to go
there,” King said. ”But can I run that ball down? No, I couldn’t,
because she hit it too fast. Even if you know the person like the
palm of your hand, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”
Both players conceded they couldn’t wait for the meeting on
Court 11 to be over. Beforehand, they made a little side bet.
Winner – not loser – had to buy the drinks the next time they’re
out on the town.
King lost the match, won the bet.
”I said, `Sorry, Vania,”’ Shvedova said of their brief
conversation at the net when it was over. ”She told me it was a
very hard match to play and I told her it was exactly the same for
Both players admitted they nearly cried at the end.
But there’s no more need for tears. On Wednesday, the next time
they walk on the court together, they’ll be a doubles team
”It’s not easy to play against your friend,” King said. ”But
your personality is tested when you’re under pressure like this.
And our friendship gets stronger because of something like